Between inequality and sectarianism: who destroys generalised trust? The case of Lebanon

In 2015, a new wave of protests erupted in Lebanon. These protests were the result of a lengthy period of political instability in the country. The informality of the sectarian political system in Lebanon has reached the point where the country has not had a president for more than two years. The aim of this paper is to examine the influence of institutional conditions on the level of generalised trust in a divided society. The paper conducts a statistical analysis of the Arab Barometer Survey data. The paper argues that institutions, as well as perceived living conditions – including inequality, the feeling of safety, and the sense of insecurity – in divided societies, are an important source of social (generalised) trust in the long run. The paper suggests that institutions can also easily destroy generalised trust in such societies if they are designed ineffectively and prove to be unfair and unequal. This paper concludes that equal and fair public institutions are crucial in maintaining a high level of generalised trust.

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