The 1995 Community elections were widely seen to be the closing chapter in South Africa's transition to democracy. These elections would provide citizens with a direct and equal voice in government at the most basic level. They were also seen as the vehicle which would restore to local government the legitimacy necessary to begin the process of reconstruction and development, as well as the authority to bring about law and order in areas where it had broken down. Until these elections, local government in towns and metropolitan areas had been fragmented, based on racially determined, apartheid “group areas”. There were virtually no formal structures of local government in rural areas. Whites (except those in rural areas) elected fully democratic councils to govern themselves. Since 1983, Coloured and Indian citizens were able to vote for local councils with limited powers under the Tricameral parliamentary structures. Africans living in Black townships inside “white” South Africa were legally able to vote for councillors to the “Black Local Authorities”. Local government in the “Black Local Authorities” and the local Tricameral structures in Coloured and Indian communities were constantly challenged. Rent and service boycotts, election stay-aways and physical intimidation of councillors left these governments barren of leaders, bankrupt and illegitimate. For Africans in the “national states” or “self-governing territories”, local government was even in greater disarray, with some urban areas having nominal local councils, and most rural areas being governed by a mixture of traditional leaders, regional services councils or development corporations.
The IDASA survey would provide first systematic evidence on individual attitudes toward the local government system in South Africa. The examination of the legitimacy of local government focused on four key areas: whether people felt local councils were in touch with public opinion; whether they felt able to influence local government; whether they trusted local councils to govern well; and whether they thought local councils were able to address key problems effectively.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
Units of analysis in the survey were individuals and households
v1: Edited, anonymised data for licensed distribution
Basic information was collected on respondents, including age, occupation, highest level of qualification, monthly household income, language, type of living area, population group and gender. The survey focused on issues such as voting intentions, knowledge of voting procedures and party identification. It also examined attitudes towards democracy, evaluations of government performance, views of local councils and economic evaluations.
mass political behaviour, attitudes/opinion [4.6]
The survey had national coverage
The lowest level of geographic aggregation covered by the data is magisterial district
The survey covered all adult South Africans who were eligible to vote in the 1995 Local Election
Producers and sponsors
United States Agency for International Development
The sample was drawn using a multi-stage, clustered random probability sample disproportionately stratified by province, population group and community size (metro, city, large town, small town, village and rural).
Due to disproportionate sample, it was necessary to weight the data up to the universe, i.e. the South African voting public. The sample was weighted according to province, age, gender, type of area, language, income and education and projected onto the universe. The results were then weighted to reflect an electorate estimated at 24.3 million voters. A weight variable has been included in the dataset.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Market and Opinion Surveys (Pty) Ltd
University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
Public use files, accessible to all
Public Opinion Service (IDASA). IDASA Local Election Study 1995 [dataset]. Version 1. Cape Town: Public Opinion Service (IDASA) [producer], 1995. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2012.
Disclaimer and copyrights
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data, and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.