First Advisor

Helen Kras


Regis College

Degree Name

Department of History, Politics and Political Economy

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

36 pages


When Nelson Mandela was set free and millions of South Africans rushed to the streets to celebrate the long awaited democratic regime in their country, many believed that the injustices and inequalities from Apartheid would disappear. Before the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, millions of South Africans anticipated the ability to vote to change South Africa for the better. However, only 30 years into the democracy, South Africans are now challenged with the most important election in their history in 2024. South Africans are fed up with their democracy following years of political corruption, economic stagnation, deteriorating livelihoods, increase in crime and the lowest levels of political trust and democratic satisfaction. Following the heartbreaking 30 years of political and economic stagnation and deterioration within the state, this thesis analyzes the past 24 years of political data to understand the change in political optimism within South African society. It will demonstrate the possible consequences of a democratic state that loses political optimism. And will track the correlation of key political concepts such as political trust, democratic satisfaction, perception of corruption, and political participation with political optimism. Finally, it will establish a new foundation of what political optimism is, the consequences and importance within a democratic society. Two years after the violent riots of the July 2021 presidential corruption scandals, the state could face larger democratic backsliding social movements due to decreasing levels of political optimism.

Date of Award

Summer 2024

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colo.

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Available for download on Wednesday, May 14, 2025