The South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) is a cross-sectional, repeated public opinion survey, conducted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in South Africa since 2003. It is the world’s longest running public opinion survey on national reconciliation and provides a nationally-representative measure of South Africans’ attitudes towards reconciliation.

Survey and Questionnaire design

The SARB survey was conducted twice in 2003 and 2004, and then once annually until 2013. Subsequently, the survey has been fielded biennially, with the most recent round carried out in 2017. A total of 15 rounds were conducted to date. The next round will go to the field in 2019.

Questionnaires for the 2003-2013 rounds followed a set of hypotheses relating to:

  • Human security
  • Political culture
  • Cross-cutting political relationships
  • Historical confrontation Race relations
  • Dialogue
  • Commitment to socioeconomic development (only 2003).

In 2014, following extensive reliability and validity testing, the survey was updated for a new iteration. Since 2015, the SARB’s questionnaires are built around certain conceptual domains, namely:

  • Power relations
  • Democratic political culture
  • Apartheid legacy
  • Racial reconciliation
  • Improvement reconciliation
  • Perception of change.

From 2003-2013, the survey used a quantitative questionnaire with approximately 100 items, most in the form of five-point Likert scales. Some survey items were amended slightly, following pilot studies, some were removed, and others added over time in response to societal changes.  However, most survey items remained the same in order to allow for comparable data. Although the questionnaire had undergone changes from 2013 to 2015, many questions from the 2003-2013 rounds were retained in order to ensure the possibility of time series comparison. The SARB questionnaire is furthermore grounded in relevant qualitative research, conducted by the IJR in the form of focus groups discussions that took place on 2001 and 2011. It is, thus, important to bear in mind that the survey evolved, as South African society evolved, over time.

For ease of reference and usability, we have clustered the various questions under “survey topics”, which do not necessarily reflect the hypotheses and conceptual domains used to design the SARB questionnaire.

Sampling and Fieldwork

During 2003-2013, the SARB survey was conducted by Ipsos as part of their annual Khayabus survey focused on social and political trends. In each round, Ipsos selected a nationally representative sample of the South African adult population. The 2015-2017 rounds were conducted by Kantar Public, also using a nationally representative sample of the South African adult population. Stratified random sampling designs were employed. Both service providers delivered SARB datasets to IJR in SPSS files, with a weighting variable to ensure representivity.

All SARB rounds were conducted by means of face-to-face interviews. The 2003-2015 rounds in six languages according to the preference of the respondent – English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, Sesotho, isiXhosa and Setswana. The 2017 questionnaire were conducted in English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho and Afrikaans according to the preference of the respondent. Back-checks of interviews conducted by each fieldworker were done to ensure accuracy and consistency. Participation has always always voluntary, and no incentives were offered to respondents.

SARB publications and more information

To date, the SARB’s findings were released as part of reports, briefing papers, working papers, occasional papers and other IJR publications. More information on sampling, methodology and findings are presented as part of these publications, and are available on the IJR’s website: Data from the 2003-2013 rounds were furthermore used as part of a book published by the HSRC and IJR – “Rethinking Reconciliation: Evidence from South Africa” (Edited by Lefko-Everett, Govender and Foster: 2017). The book is available here: More information on SARB’s methodology, measurement of reconciliation, and findings over time are captured as part of this book.

For more information, or any questions relating to SARB, contact IJR at