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South African Hopes and Fears Twenty Years into Democracy: A Replication of Hadley Cantril’s Pattern of Human Concerns

Author

Listed:
  • Valerie Møller

    () (Rhodes University)

  • Benjamin J. Roberts

    () (Human Sciences Research Council)

Abstract

Abstract Fifty years have elapsed since Cantril (1965) published his work on The Pattern of Human Concerns. His line of inquiry has stood the test of time. In late 2012, the nationally representative South African Social Attitudes Survey replicated Cantril’s 1960s questions and methodology to elicit South Africans’ hopes and aspirations and worries and fears for self and country and their ratings of where self and country stood—past, present and will stand in future. Although Cantril’s ‘ladder-of life’ scale is still regularly used as a measure of subjective well-being, to our knowledge his full line of preliminary questioning has not been fielded again to date. Our study found that South African aspirations for self were mainly material ones for a decent standard of living and the means to achieve this goal. Hopes for the nation concentrated on economic and political progress to consolidate South Africa’s democracy. A large number of personal and national hopes were mirrored in fears that these aspirations might not be met. Cantril’s method also allowed us to review the main concerns and ratings across the diverse groups of citizens that make up the ‘rainbow nation’. There was a substantial degree of consensus on top hopes and fears but levels of standing on the Cantril ladder of life were still graded according to apartheidera inequalities with black South Africans scoring lower than other race groups. Nonetheless, the majority of South Africans rated their present life better than 5 years ago and projected life to get better in future. Such optimism may place considerable pressure on the state to deliver on personal and societal hopes as the country enters its third decade of democracy.

Suggested Citation

  • Valerie Møller & Benjamin J. Roberts, 2017. "South African Hopes and Fears Twenty Years into Democracy: A Replication of Hadley Cantril’s Pattern of Human Concerns," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 39-69, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:130:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1131-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-015-1131-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Amina Ebrahim & Ferdi Botha & Jen Snowball, 2013. "Determinants of life satisfaction among race groups in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(2), pages 168-185, June.
    2. Helga Dickow & Valerie Møller, 2002. "South Africa's `Rainbow People', National Pride and Optimism: A Trend Study," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 59(2), pages 175-202, August.
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