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Working paper

WP10: Political economic values and economic reform in Southern Africa

28 May 2015

The Afrobarometer contributes new insights into the nature, extent, and sources of popular economic ortientations in Southern Africa. Surveys conducted in seven countries in 1999-2000 indicate that mass publics do not automatically reject the constituent policies of structural adjustment or the economic values that underlie them. Public opinion varies greatly and cannot be neatly characterized as simply pro- or anti-reform. Nor do people derive their economic values and attitudes from their own immediate material circumstances. While liberal economic attitudes are reduced by poverty, such attitudes are increased by exposure to education and the news media. Moreover, the respondent's race and nationality shape support for economic reform, with whites in Zimbabwe and South Africa being the most supportive. A racially polarized distribution of policy preferences, however, poses a challenge for the future viability of a market-based development strategy in the region.