Personal versus collective quality of life and South Africans' evaluations of democratic government

Robert Mattes, Jennifer Christie

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8 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we examine the political consequences of quality of life, focusing on the link between perceived well-being and people's support for democratic government. We make two key distinctions. First of all, with regard to quality of life, we distinguish between assessments of personal, or household, quality of life, and assessments of collective (national, community) quality of life. Secondly, we follow David Easton in distinguishing between specific support (attitudes about specific leaders, parties and policies) and diffuse support (attitudes toward the political system in general). We find that personal quality of life is only weakly and inconsistently connected to specific or diffuse support. Perceptions of collective quality of life, however, are strongly related to both specific and diffuse support. Thus, South Africans are holding their government accountable to their perceptions of national well-being. Of greater concern, however, is that they also appear to be holding the democratic system accountable to such developments. Teaching people to distinguish between their evaluations of a specific government and their evaluations of the larger system of democratic government appears to be a key challenge confronting the development of a democratic political culture in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-228
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 1997


  • democracy
  • diffuse support
  • political culture
  • quality of life
  • South Africa


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  • Afrobarometer

    Mattes, R., Gyimah-Boadi, E., Bratton, M., Logan, C., Dulani, B. & Mitullah, W.

    14/09/98 → …

    Project: Research

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