I have found several sites claiming that a study shows that over 60% of polled South Africans said the country was better run under apartheid - most notably, a 2002 Guardian article:

In a rebuke to the African National Congress government, more than 60% of all South Africans polled said the country was better run during white minority rule.

The study was run as a series of 'Afrobarometer' polls. However, having looked at their website, I am unable to find the poll.

Was there a poll in which 60% of participating South Africans said the country was better run under the apartheid regime?

  • To head off an edit war about capitalisation, I've asked the experts.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 9:22

1 Answer 1


The Guardian article is from 2002.

I owe a huge hat-tip to @Klanomath for finding the original 2002 survey where I failed, including a code book with the list of questions.

The questions cover a lot of different ground on whether the respondent approves of particular forms of government. Some of them compare between the regimes on specific issues, such as able to enforce the law, corruption, crime and safety. None ask directly about which was "better run"

Afrobarometer have continued to ask similar questions over several years (until 2008), and they include the 2002 data in their later reports, so it is possible to see what the original results were, and compare them over time. The rest of this answer is using more recent reports.

In particular Figure 4 from their Dispatch No 82, 20 April 2016::

Figure titled: Present life compared to apartheid

The question is not "better run", but that the respondent's life was better.

The 2002 figures do not show that over 60% of people responded that their life under apartheid was better - only 30% claimed that. [Note: The question is inverted from original article, so you should be looking at the "Worse/Much Worse" section of the chart to see this.]

Table A2 in the Appendix explores some more specific questions asked in 2000 - in some them, the current system of government rated much more poorly than the apartheid regime. For example, 65% of respondents said people's safety from crime and violence was worse or much worse than under apartheid.

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    I don't think your research supports your conclusion. The question asks if 60% of South Africans in 2002 though the country was better run during apartheid. You say that you can't find the survey that found that, but that some other survey reports that 30% of people thought their life was better under apartheid. That's not the criterion the question is asking about, and it's possible for somebody to say that their life is now better (because they're no longer a second-class citizen) but the government is less effective (e.g., because of decreased quality of government services). Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 16:57
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    The poll can be found here: Afrobarometer: Round II Survey of South Africa, 2002 (ICPSR 4236). In the pdf documentation (direct d/l-link!) it's probably question Q3SAF. Some more questions ask about apartheid. Simply search for apartheid!
    – klanomath
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 22:36
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    @Oddthinking I was considering the same possibility until I saw Q53. It has 4 parts (A through D). In part A, 57.4% indicate apartheid was at least as good at law enforcement (40.6% say apartheid was better). In B, 54% say the new government is not better at delivering services (34.1% say apartheid was better). In part C, over 70% of respondents indicate the new government is at least as corrupt (52.6% say apartheid was less corrupt). 60% say the new government is less or equally trustworthy than apartheid (34.2% say the new gov. is less trustworthy than apartheid).
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 3:57
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    @Trilarion: Face-to-face interviews (going door-to-door) of 1,200 or 2,400 people (depending on the year).
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 10:53
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    @Trilarion page 74 of the codebook for 2002 (linked above) gives some details of the sampling methods. It also includes raw counts for each question/answer: it looks like there were 2400 samples. It mentions a 'gender quota' (and participates are practically half/half), which sounds a bit dubious; that document doesn't contain any details on what exactly this entails: presumably there are more details elsewhere. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 10:55

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