Preference for democracy in the Arab world

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Economics Department

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Research Article

Publication Title

Politics and Governance

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© 2016 by the authors; licensee Cogitatio (Lisbon, Portugal). We take a new look at the question of the Arab democratic exception by looking at the preference for democracy among individuals in the Arab world in a comparative context. We use the new sixth wave of the World Value Survey, which was collected between 2012 and 2013, and which included for the first time 12 Arab countries (up from only four in wave 5) and 68 non-Arab countries. We innovate empirically by measuring the preference for democracy over strong rule in a way that, we argue, is more adapted to an understanding of the Arab world than other measures used in past studies. Our statistical analysis reveals a democratic gap in the Arab region compared to global experience, which is especially marked among the more educated individuals, and to a lesser extent among the youth and the middle class. We conclude by discussing the reasons that may explain the Arab exceptionalism, and argue that it is unlikely to be related to culture alone.

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