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SA has been happier leading up to elections - index

May 07 2019 21:31
Marelise van der Merwe

South Africans have been getting happier and happier in the days leading up to the election.

That's according to a new happiness index developed by wellbeing economists Professor Talita Greyling and Dr Stephanie Roussouw, which measures South Africa's 'Gross National Happiness' (GNH) by analysing their Tweets.

The nation's mood is then measured on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being very unhappy and 10 being very happy.

Economist Dawie Roodt, who is interpreting the data daily, said in a note on Tuesday: "Since 30 April we have seen a continuous upward movement in the index, with the highest score of 6.68 on Friday, May 3. On Saturday May 4 and Sunday May 5, the scores decreased slightly to around 6.4."

There was a clear correlation between people's feelings and when they were Tweeting, he added.

South Africans appear to have a case of night-time blues, with many Tweets relating to "to sleeping disorders, alcohol (too much and too little), fear, burglaries, and being sick," Roodt said.

Mornings tend to see more Tweets relating to weather, breakfast and traffic, while the daytime sees topical messages – with the names Ramaphosa, Maimane, Malema and Zuma often appearing.

Sundays see Tweets on Tweets on TV programmes, sports "and then the dreaded Monday," Roodt said.

The last few days saw an additional "election energy", he added.

The index was developed as a tool to help "take the temperature of the economy", Fin24 previously reported.

Roodt and Greyling say economists use a "myriad of economic indicators or aggregates to measure all kinds of aspects of an economy".

"Well-known indicators are Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Consumer Price Index, exchange rates and interest rates," they said in a note issued ahead of the election.

Roodt said that when the happiness index was added to other economic indicators, such as GDP growth data, the unemployment rate, inflation, consumer and business confidence and the like, a more accurate picture of the state of the economy emerged.

Additionally, research has shown that there is a relationship between happiness and voter turnout.

"We know that governments and policies affect an individual’s happiness and wellbeing, and in fact, our Constitution states that the main aim of the government is to increase the wellbeing of the people in the country.

"However, we are curious about the reversed relationship between societal happiness and political behaviour," Roodt said on Tuesday.

The Happiness Index was developed by Roussouw and Greyling, who are wellbeing economists. Roodt is providing interpretation of the data, with input from Greyling and Roussouw, who are responsible for data analysis.

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

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