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Elite Preference Formation in Divided Societies: Evidence from the American University of Beirut
Abstract by Dr. Christiana Parreira
Coauthors: Daniel Tavana
On Session 003  (Political Psychology in the Middle East)

On Thursday, November 15 at 5:30 pm

2018 Annual Meeting

In lower and middle-income countries where identity-based divisions shape political life, what do the attitudes of the elite class look like? How do they shift at critical junctures? Our paper investigates these questions at the American University of Beirut (AUB), using an original panel survey conducted shortly before and after the annual student elections - the first survey of its kind conducted in the Middle East. Like many universities in the region, candidate alliances and campaign strategies at AUB mirror those of national parties. A central component of the survey is a choice-based conjoint experiment that measures student support for hypothetical candidates running in the 2018 Parliamentary elections. Through the conjoint, we find that students disfavor candidates allied with Lebanon’s dominant sectarian political factions and those from notable families, while simultaneously expressing strong favoritism toward coreligionist candidates. These preferences predictably diverge between students who vote for mainstream sectarian parties and those that support the on-campus secular movement. We also find, using a difference-in-differences design, that support for mainstream party coalitions and candidates from prominent family backgrounds significantly increases among student voters following the elections. Collectively, these findings suggest that Lebanon’s “future elite” enter university life with strong ethnocentric biases, and that participation in campus politics habituates students to Lebanon’s prevailing political order rather than having a liberalizing or radicalizing effect.
Political Science
Geographic Area
Sub Area
Ethnic Groups