Trust and Tolerance across the Middle East and North Africa: A Comparative Perspective on the Arab Uprisings

The protests that swept the Arab Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are expected to have influenced two key civic atti-tudes fundamental to well-functioning democracies: trust and tolerance. However, systematic comparative assessmentsof the general patterns and particularities in this region are rare. This contribution theorizes the uprisings’ impact andpresents new society-level measurements of trust and tolerance for the MENA, synchronizing over 40 Arab Barometerand World Values Survey surveys on Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Yemen, frombefore and after the uprisings. The analyses firstly show political-institutional trust falling in the uprisings’ aftermath incountries that went through democratic reform or regime change. It appears that politicians misbehaving and reformsnot resolving social problems hurt people’s trust in politics. Secondly, in democratic transition countries Egypt and Tunisia,a decrease in social trust reflected the pattern of political-institutional trust indicating a spill-over effect. Thirdly, ethno-religious tolerance dropped region-wide after the uprisings, indicating that the aftermath of religious conflict impacted theentire Arab region. These results support rational-choice institutionalist theories, while at the same time refining them forthe MENA context.

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