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

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

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


  • Niels Spierings Department of Sociology, Radboud Social Cultural Research, Radboud University, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  The protests that swept the Arab Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are expected to have influenced two key civic attitudes fundamental to well-functioning democracies: trust and tolerance. However, systematic comparative assessments of the general patterns and particularities in this region are rare. This contribution theorizes the uprisings’ impact and presents new society-level measurements of trust and tolerance for the MENA, synchronizing over 40 Arab Barometer and World Values Survey surveys on Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Yemen, from before and after the uprisings. The analyses firstly show political-institutional trust falling in the uprisings’ aftermath in countries that went through democratic reform or regime change. It appears that politicians misbehaving and reforms not 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 the entire Arab region. These results support rational-choice institutionalist theories, while at the same time refining them for the MENA context.

Keywords:  Arab spring; civic attitudes; democracy; Middle East; public opinion; tolerance; trust; uprisings

Published:   24 March 2017


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i2.750


© Niels Spierings. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.