South Africa's ''rainbow people'', national pride and happiness

Type Journal Article - Social Indicators Research
Title South Africa's ''rainbow people'', national pride and happiness
Volume 47
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1999
Page numbers 245-280
Since the first free elections were held in April 1994, South Africans are popularly known as the ''rainbow people''. The paper inquires whether South Africans who experienced pride in their nation in the first years of democracy also perceived a greater sense of subjective well-being. It is proposed that national pride in post-apartheid South Africa might be fused with or work through self-esteem to lift levels of happiness. The paper traces the history of the new integrating civil religion of the rainbow people and the acceptance of the rainbow as a political symbol of unity among the diverse people of South Africa immediately after the 1994 elections and two years later. The proposed link between national pride and happiness was explored with data from two independent national surveys, the 1995 South African World Values Survey conducted by Markinor and a June 1996 MarkData syndicated omnibus survey. The study found that the appeal of the rainbow as political symbol was inclusive of all groups in society and that feelings of national pride and support for the rainbow ideal were positively associated with subjective well-being. As indicated by intensity and frequency measures, the majority of South Africans were proud of their country and could name a national achievement that inspired pride. Better-off South Africans tended to be happier and more satisfied with life but less proud, while the poor were less happy but fiercely proud of their country. Results suggest that belief in South Africa's ''rainbow nation'' ideal may have assisted in boosting happiness during the transition to a stable democracy, thereby preventing alienation among the losers under the new political dispensation. Supporters of the ideal of the rainbow nation were more optimistic than others about the future of their country.

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