South Africa's `Rainbow People', national pride and optimism: a trend study

Dickow, H. and Møller, V. (2002) South Africa's `Rainbow People', national pride and optimism: a trend study. Social Indicators Research, 59 (2). pp. 175-202. ISSN 0303-8300



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Since the first democratic elections of 1994, South Africans are popularly known as the ‘rainbow people'. The paper reports the acceptance of the rainbow as political symbol of unity among the diverse people of South Africa at three times: Immediately after the 1994 elections, two years later in 1996, and five years later in 1999 after the second general elections. The database for the study are responses to items placed with a syndicated national survey conducted countrywide. The public discourse on the rainbow is reviewed through personal interviews with a panel of 25 elites contacted in the run-up to the second general elections. The researchers revisit conclusions based on the earlier results (Møller, Dickow and Harris, 1999). The third round of research finds that the appeal of the rainbow as political symbol has waned but is still inclusive of all groups in society. Projections of national pride have shifted from the rainbow as symbol of unity and reconciliation to other icons of achievement such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme and prowess in sport. Support for the political symbolism of the rainbow is positively associated with happiness, life satisfaction and optimism. Lack of a focus of national pride is associated with pessimism. Results support the conclusion reached earlier that belief in the `rainbow nation' ideal boosts optimism and promotes happiness during South Africa's transition to a stable democracy, thereby preventing alienation among the losers under the new political dispensation. Linkages between acceptance of the rainbow symbol, subjective well-being and optimism are discussed in the light of the socio-political changes which have taken place in South Africa since democracy.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:The original publication is available at
Uncontrolled Keywords:democracy; national economy; national politics; national pride; national unit; civil religion; public attitude; rainbow people; rainbow nation; subjective well-being; Reconstruction and Development Programme; RDP; life satisfaction; trends; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Research Institutes and Units > Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER)
ID Code:680
Deposited On:29 May 2007
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:18
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