Beyond elections: perceptions of democracy in four Arab countries

Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott* (Corresponding Author), Francesco Cavatorta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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This article draws on public opinion survey data from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan to investigate first, whether a “demand for democracy” in the region exists; second, how to measure it; and third, how respondents understand it. The picture emerging from this analysis is complex, eluding the simple dichotomy between prima facie support and second order incongruence with democracy, which characterises current debates. Respondents have a more holistic understanding of democracy than is found in current scholarship or indeed pursued by Western or regional policymakers, valuing civil-political rights but prioritizing socio-economic rights. There is broad consensus behind principles of gender equality, but indirect questions reveal the continuing influence of conservative and patriarchal attitudes. Respondents value religion, but do not trust religious leaders or want them to meddle in elections or government. Moreover, while there is broad support for conventionally-understood pillars of liberal democracy (free elections, a parliamentary system), there is also a significant gap between those who support democracy as the best political system in principle and those who also believe it is actually suitable for their country.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-665
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Early online date11 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This article is based on work carried out as part of the Arab Transformations Project. We would like to acknowledge the work of the partners on the project and especially the in- country partners that carried out the surveys.

The Arab Transformations Project, Political and Social Transformations in the Arab World, was funded under the European Commission’s FP7 Framework [grant agreement number 320214].

Data availability
The Arab Barometer and Arab Transformations data sets are publicly available to freely
download and use in SPSS and STATA.
Arab Barometer III:
Arab Barometer IV:
Arab Transformations:


  • democracy
  • survey research
  • economic rights
  • Arab region
  • values
  • attitudes


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