Optimism over SA plummets, researchers say

Optimism about South Africa and its future dropped to a new low of 49% in June, its lowest since 2004, a survey released on Monday shows.

The survey of 2 000 people found that while black South Africans are generally the most positive, this quarter their figure showed its largest drop since 2004, from 73%t to 63%, TNS Research Surveys found.

While white South Africans generally record figures around the mid-40s, only 21% of them were optimistic in June.

The figures for coloured people are also at an all-time low at 32%, with the Indian/Asian community’s figures reaching a new low of 34%.

Researchers posed the question as to whether “I feel positive about South Africa and its future”.

They found that in June 2008, optimism was highest in Johannesburg (excluding Soweto) and Bloemfontein with 69% and 63% of people answering in the affirmative in these cities respectively, and lowest in Cape Town at 35%.

Unemployed people were more optimistic than others, the research found.

Neil Higgs, director of innovation and development, explained that optimism surveys are important for policy and decision makers.

They reflect on the “baggage” brought into buying decisions, holiday planning and decisions to emigrate.

“When you are down you will probably have more chocolate, but you’re not going to go looking for new furniture,” he said.

Younger people between 18 and 24 were more positive (57%) than those aged 50 to 59 (44%), and those aged 60 years and older (34%).

Higgs said these findings come against a “background of increasing concern” about the economy, high food and fuel prices and the associated protests, rising interest rates, xenophobic violence, the Zimbabwe crisis, power shortages and climate change.

He also cited current affairs developments such as the John Hlophe and Constitutional Court case and the court case involving police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Higgs said the high drop, particular among black respondents, is significant.

“People are tired, cross, anxious and it will impact on policy decisions,” he said.

He said there has never been a greater need for “visible, unified and decisive leadership”.

“... but, after the African National Congress [ANC] conference in Polokwane and the uncertainty arising as a result, and with the ANC national executive committee apparently issuing what amounts to directives to President [Thabo] Mbeki, this seems to be an elusive goal.

“Hence, it falls to leaders in other parts of the socio-political spectrum to step forward to avoid a spiralling descent into pessimism.”

The margin of error was 2,5 p%.—Sapa

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