Interracial Trust Is Steadily Increasing among South Africans

Cape Times (South Africa), December 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

Interracial Trust Is Steadily Increasing among South Africans


BYLINE: Dr Kim Wale

The concept of political community speaks to whether South Africans feel they belong to an inclusive political identity. While an inclusive political identity is conducive to reconciliation, an exclusionary political identity is not. In the SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) survey, housed by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), political community is measured through questions about group identity and inter-group trust.

Below, the concept of political community is evaluated through an analysis of the degree to which South Africans express a desire for a united South Africa, which primary social groups they identify most strongly with, and levels of interracial mistrust.

Social identity is a concept which speaks to group belonging, as well as the way in which we associate and connect to others on the basis of this belonging. Individuals hold many identities at one time on the basis of the different social groups they belong to, eg, gender, race, nationality, language. However, some of these associations are more salient (stronger) than others. Identity associations can be inclusive or exclusive.

In the Reconciliation Barometer, political identity is tested through the question of whether South Africans think a united SA is desirable and possible. Results of the SARB over time show the desire for a united SA has decreased by 17.9 percent from 72.9 percent in 2003 to 55 percent last year.

In addition, the survey asks which social group South Africans associate most strongly with: language; ethnicity; race; class; neighbourhood; religion; SA identity; social; savings or sports club; work or school colleagues; age; African identity; and gender. The top four identity associations chosen by South Africans between 2003 and 2013 are language, race, ethnicity and South African identity. Language and race have been more frequently selected over time.

In 2003, language was selected by 20.4 percent of citizens and by 23.2 percent in 2013, race was the third most selected identity in 2003 by 11.8 percent of South Africans, but swopped with ethnicity to come in at second place in 2013, with 13.4 percent of South Africans selecting race as the strongest group association. Ethnicity dropped in strength from 15.1 percent in 2003 to 11.1 percent in 2013 and SA identity dropped from 11.2 percent in 2003 to 7.1 percent in 2013.

Language has remained the most important identity category chosen by South Africans over time. Between 2003 and 2013, race increased in popularity as a primary SA identity, and while SA nationality remains in the top four categories, it has decreased in popularity over time. …

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