Happiness trends in South Africa much higher since elections and formation of the new GNU

Published Jul 3, 2024


The happiness levels in South Africa have been trending upwards since the election results were announced, as the majority of voters feel represented by the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU).

According to the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index, the much-anticipated announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the diverse GNU Cabinet on Sunday night was experienced positively by the South African people.

The index, measured on a scale of 0 to 10 – with 0 being very unhappy, 5 being neutral, and 10 being very happy – was developed by University of Johannesburg’s well-being economists Professor Talita Greyling and Dr Stephanié Rossouw from the Auckland Park University of Technology.

The near real-time happiness index of the GNH today project rose from 5.36 to 5.42 points. The findings indicated an upward trend in the happiness of South Africans and an increase in international trust in the country’s future.

In the May, 2024 elections, the ANC governing party lost their outright majority, which they have held since the first democratic elections in 1994.

This led to the establishment of a coalition government, the GNU, among 11 political parties representing nearly 80% of the votes in the elections.

The GNU ensures a broad representation and a solid mandate to govern the country, contributing to higher levels of transparency, accountability, and trust in the government. It also explains the higher happiness levels reflecting hope for a better future.

Analysing the positive trend in the happiness index, the team found that positive emotion words used in South Africa increased, such as “hope”, “happiness”, and “joy”.

However, they also see an increase in negative emotion words such as “bad” and “afraid”, but with a positive net effect.

Greyling and Rossouw said the increase in both positive and negative words was expected as it indicated the debate around the newly-appointed Cabinet.

“Different parties criticise the portfolio allocations and the ministers appointed.

The increased size of the government is also critiqued,” they said.

“On the other hand, there is relief that the Cabinet was announced after almost a month of negotiations. This announcement implies an agreement about power-sharing.

“The upward trend in the happiness of South Africa is also reflected in a stronger rand, showing increased international trust in the future of South Africa.”

These are the findings of the GNH today project, which measures happiness in near real-time based on specific emotion words used in Google searches.

The GNH today project team, also joined by Professor Frederic Boy of Swansea University, has been developing an index of alternative big data sources.

They found Google search data to be the most efficient predictor of happiness. They have now presented the newly created index at different global forums.

The new index has been well received as a robust measure of happiness.

The Mercury