Economic liberation or the lack thereof is the most divisive issue in the country, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

According to the SA Reconciliation Barometer 2011, income inequality keeps South Africans more divided than race.

About 32 percent of those surveyed believed it was the most divisive issue, compared to 20 percent who believed race divided the country.

Researchers polled 3500 people for survey, which was conducted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

About 22 percent believed political party affiliations were more divisive than race.

In another set of questions, 38 percent of the people questioned admitted that they would never reveal their true thoughts about race to people of different race groups. About 33 percent said they would never do so in a public place, like school or at work.

The study found that faith in local government was at its lowest since the annual survey was started in 2003.

Only 43 percent of those surveyed said they had any confidence in the country's municipalities. In 2006 this was 50 percent.

Confidence in the presidency, Parliament, and the national and provincial governments all remained above 50 percent.

The survey concluded that South Africa was a divided country, but that there was scope for hope.

About 66 percent of those questioned believed that creating a united country was desirable and 60 percent believed it was possible.

About 70 percent agreed that they wanted to forget about the past and move on with their lives.

Across the four major race groups, this sentiment appeared to be consistent, with 75 percent of whites and 68 percent of blacks, 74 percent of coloureds and 85 percent of Indians wanting to forget about the past.

The researchers said racism and prejudice had declined.

“There is infinitely more interaction, as equals, between black and white South Africans.”

Some 57 percent of South Africans interacted with people of other races - up from a low of 41 percent in 2004.

A further 47 percent believed that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings had helped to bring about reconciliation.

The survey found that interaction and socialising between the races was greatest in the higher income groups and lowest in the lower income groups.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they socialised with people from other race groups outside the work environment, such as their own homes or the homes of friends.

In contrast, 17 percent rarely socialised across race lines, and 42 percent never did.

There was a two percent margin of error in the survey, said Kate Lefko-Everett, who compiled the 2011 report. - Sapa