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Public Opinion and Participation in MENA Countries

Panel V-28, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Friday, November 3 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
  • This paper explores the citizens’ views of the state and nation under Hashemite authoritarian rule in Jordan through an analysis of the independent public opinion survey conducted in 2023, particularly with a list experiment method. Since its founding in the early 20th century, Jordan has experienced a series of state-transformations, including changes in borders and redefinitions of its people as the results of the conflicts with Israel as well as the peace treaty, and to some extent, the massive influx of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. While the sovereign rule of the Hashemite family has shown robustness and seems to succeed in fostering state- and nation-building, it should not be underestimated that Jordanian territory has expanded and contracted, and thus the Jordanian nationality has been redefined throughout history. In this context, the question is: ‘To what extent do Jordanian citizens accept the state-building and national unity led by the Hashemite monarchy?’ It will have implications not only for prospecting the political stability of the current Jordanian state but also for exploring factors that would sustain the authoritarian monarchy. This paper refers to such political dynamics concerning the Jordanian state and nation, namely contested statehood in Jordan as ‘state-diffusion,’ and explores its mechanism by focusing on the citizen’s view of the state and the nation. Jordan embraces a diverse population, such as local notables, tribes, Palestinian origins, Bedouins, ethnic minorities, and Islamists; each of them has tried to establish a different relationship with the Jordanian state and nation as well as the monarchy. Previous studies on Jordanian politics have successfully revealed the historical fluctuation of statehood in Jordan with mainly qualitative and historical analyses, particularly of the elites’ narratives. However, few have dealt with the non-elite citizens’ views with qualitative methods. It is probably due to the limitations of data collection under the authoritarian rule. While the Arab Barometer provides rich resources for quantitative analyses on Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, this paper employed experimental methods to collect the citizens’ answers to delicate and sensitive questions on the state- and nation-building promoted by the authoritarian monarchy.
  • This paper highlights survey results from Morocco and Jordan that assess correlates of individual support for political parties in hybrid monarchical-electoral regimes. Why individuals living under these regimes support political parties rather than individuals in their community or tribe can be puzzling, especially in regimes where political parties are weak compared with other political actors. In Jordan, political parties are especially weak and generally promote Islamist ideologies. In Morocco, support for specific political parties has fluctuated significantly between elections, but the party system continues to play an important role in organizing political activity. Analysis suggests that support for political parties in weak party systems like Morocco and Jordan is correlated with economic status, urbanization, and the identity salience of social groups, characteristics that lead voters to use political party affiliation to articulate marginalized identities associated with their role in society. Support for political parties can also be used as a low risk form of protest against the monarchy, leading even electorally successful political parties to play a primary role as opposition actors in the hybrid regime.
  • Co-Authors: Tarik M. Yousef
    This article investigates the conditions that lead to heightened trust in the military in non-democracies through an empirical study of post-2011 Libya, where support for the military remains an unexplored cause and consequence of the stalled political transition after Muammar Qadhafi's regime collapse in 2011. Building on the political science and sociology literatures on institutional trust in non-democratic contexts, we generate a set of hypotheses linking public trust in the military to personal safety, interest in politics, Islamist orientation, trust in political institutions, regionalism, and support for democracy. We empirically examine the hypotheses using survey data collected by the Arab Barometer between 2014 and 2019 to explore the correlates of public trust in the armed forces. Our findings show there is a confluence of factors driving trust in the military in Libya, pointing to regional, generational, educational, and class divides. Interest in politics and preference for democracy also correlate with greater trust in the military. Personal safety is a significant driver of trust in the military, suggesting that the institution of the army is viewed as a protector of what remains of the state or as a relief pitcher responsible for ensuring safety. Most significantly, Easterners trust the military more than other Libyans, which may be related to the role and behavior of the eastern-based, self-proclaimed Libyan National Army. Our paper contributes to the sparse data-driven body of work on trust in the military in non-democracies, backsliding and autocratization in conflict countries, and political attitudes in Libya.
  • This study develops and validates a measure for assessing Middle East Muslims’ level of ethnodoxy. Ethnodoxy is an “ideology that rigidly links a group’s ethnic identity to its dominant faith” (Karpov et al. 2012). At an individual level, it is the individuals’ subjective assessment of co-extensiveness of his religious group and his ethnic identity. It presents a set of survey questions that can form a scale for measuring ethnodoxy in the Arab Middle East by drawing on literature on ethnodoxy among Russian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox populations (Karpov et al. 2012; Avetyan 2017; Barry 2019). It uses factor analysis, convergent validity, and divergent validity. This scale evaluates the connection a person has forged between being Arab and being a Muslim. It also explores the connection between ethnodoxy and political attitudes (e.g., gender traditionalism and immigration preferences).
  • This paper investigates the impact of electoral participation, voting, and the connection between the possession of democratic values and expressed support for democracy at the individual level of analysis. This impact is measured in six Arab countries and at three points in time, with country and time-specific attributes considered as conditionalities. The Arab countries are Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. The time periods are 2013, 2018, and 2022. Studies of democracy and democratic transitions place emphasis on the attitudes, values, and behavior patterns of ordinary citizens. More specifically, this research argues that successful democratization requires that a significant proportion of a country’s citizens possess norms and behavior patterns conducive to democracy. Among the relevant normative and behavioral orientations are political trust, political efficacy, political knowledge, interpersonal trust, and societal participation. These individual-level orientations are said to define a “democratic” political culture orientation. Research on democratization also finds that broad support for democracy itself is necessary for a consolidated and sustained democratic transition. A significant proportion of ordinary citizens, this research argues, must believe that democracy is the best form of government by which their country could be governed. Past research in Arab countries has found in this connection that there is indeed widespread popular support for democracy, but that there is often little or no connection between this belief and the possession of a democratic political culture orientation. The paper considers the impact of voting on the relationship between a belief that democracy is the best political system and the possession of democratic values and attitudes. Using Arab Barometer data, it tests two hypotheses. First, when an election is broadly free and fair, this relationship is stronger among those who have voted than among those who have not voted. Second, when an election, broadly, is not free and fair, this relationship is weaker among those who have voted than among those who have not voted.