How Terrorism Affects Attitudes toward Democracy: Tunisia in 2015

Tunisia is the only country that emerged from the Arab Spring as a democracy. However, Tunisian democracy is threatened by political divisions, economic problems, and the threat of terrorist attacks. We shed light on Tunisia’s democratic prospects by examining (1) the degree to which major terrorist attacks in 2015 influenced Tunisian public opinion on democracy and (2) the extent to which preference for a democratic system affected opinions on the prospects for democracy in Tunisia. We use data from three waves of a nationwide survey conducted just before and just after Tunisia’s first major terrorist attack, and just after the country’s second major terrorist attack. We demonstrate that after the attacks the Tunisian public became less favorable toward democracy and less optimistic that Tunisia would soon be ready for it. Such skepticism was widespread, affecting people who preferred democracy as much as those who did not. We conclude that the prospects for Tunisian democracy are more precarious than is sometimes assumed.

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