Revisiting the Islamist–Secular divide: Parties and voters in the Arab world

Electoral politics in the Arab world are either portrayed as clientelistic affairs void of content or as highly ideological clashes between Islamist and Secular Left forces. Although both arguments are intuitively appealing, the empirical evidence to date is limited. This article seeks to contribute to the debate by investigating the extent of programmatic voter support for Islamist and Secular Left parties in seven Arab countries with data from recent surveys by the Arab Barometer, Afrobarometer and World Values Survey. Ideological congruence between voters and parties exists but is limited to the Islamist–Secular core divide with regard to the role of religion in politics and gender values. In contrast, there are virtually no differences in economic attitudes between respondents and there is no evidence of class-based voting, with Islamist and Secular Left parties sharing the same voter base of better-off, more educated voters. Core results are robust across surveys.

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