Home Institution

Cornell University

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


This study seeks to explore perceptions of democracy among young voting age South Africans, and how they vary across racial communities. While perceptions of democracy encompass a broad range of topics, this study focuses on the more tangible aspects of youth engagement with democracy. This study questions what democracy means to young South Africans, how it plays out in daily life, how successful its implementation in South Africa has been, and what it would ideally look like in the future. Because youth engagement with these discussions will significantly affect democracy’s trajectory in the future, it is essential to understand young South Africans’ answers to these questions.

Information for this study was collected from open-ended interviews and informal conversations with young voting-age South Africans in Cato Manor, Chatsworth, and around Durban. Each individual that was interviewed about their experience with democracy had unique responses, and they each interpreted their involvement and relationship with the South African government differently. However, certain trends emerged in responses along lines of race and community. The meaning of democracy and its success in South Africa differed across Black, Indian and White South Africans. Furthermore, many participants across racial categories expressed a desire for a nonracial democracy in the future, but diverged on their specific expectations of government service provision and responsibilities.


African Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Politics and Social Change


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