Did Conflict Break Trust in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?: Evidence from the Tunisian Case
Since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2010-11, governments in the MENA region struggle to rebuild the broken trust among their citizens and break the vicious political cycle in which the “Arab Spring keeps coming back.” Hitherto academic literature agrees that instability and institutional weaknesses in the MENA region persist, and countries will keep relapsing into conflict unless governments gain back the trust of their citizens. At the same time, little is known about how erupting conflicts and civil unrest in the MENA region further erode trust in government. Exploiting Arab Barometer (AB) survey and georeferenced data on conflict events from the Armed Conflict Locations Events Data (ACLED), I study the effect of conflict on political trust. Using individual and city-level data from Tunisia between 2011 and 2018, I find that protests have a first-order negative impact on trust in Tunisia. From a policy perspective, my findings underscore the importance of targeted institution-building measures aimed at regaining the trust of the citizenry in post-conflict nation-building efforts.
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