Social researchers have considered attitudes as important units of analysis for almost a century. The renowned Gordon Allport once said that “the concept of attitudes is probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept” in social psychology. For early social psychologists, like Louis Leon Thurstone, attitudes were particularly important because they could be used to predict and motivate social behaviour. Indeed, we can understand public opinion research as an attempt to identify the values, beliefs and understandings that inform human actions. There is a significant and growing literature on when attitudes predict behaviour and how this process may occur. Scholars have accepted that the connection between attitudes and behaviour is mediated by both internal and external factors. Although this relationship may be indirect, the attitude-behaviour relationship is considered to be an important part of modern social psychology.
Aside from the attitude-behaviour relationship described above, the attitude-policy relationship must also be considered. In the modern world, the responsiveness of government policies to the preferences of citizens is an essential concern of most normative and empirical theories of democracy. But the idea that public opinion influences public policy has a long history. Public opinion has been an "orderly force," contributing to social and political life for thousands of years. Indeed, the idea of public opinion can be found in the ancient African practice of holding imbizos in which members of the community gathered together to participate in political decision-making. The association between public opinion and public policy is considered to be a moral good, a crucial characteristic of successful democratic governance. Indeed, scholars in modern democracies have expressed shock and alarm when they do not detect a strong relationship between public opinion and public policy.
One of the most important factors driving the formation of attitudes is information. Attitudes in the present are formed using information stored in memory. The ease with which information can be retrieved from memory should, therefore, influence attitudes. Accepting memory as an important part of attitude formation, we should remember that memory is not merely an individual affair but is socially structured. Memories can also be collective, containing representations of group experiences –whether that ‘group’ is sub-national, national or other. Consequently, one of most important tasks of the public opinion scholar is to understand how knowledge has about a subject. By gathering data on individual knowledge, the scholar can better understand and predict individual attitude formation as well as behaviour.
SASAS as a social attitude survey, aims to measure public attitudes and behaviour patterns to create a picture of lived experiences in South Africa.
Theory of Planned Behaviour Model