Belief Formation and Political Engagement: A Panel Study of the Dynamics of Change in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey


Project Details


Comparative historical studies of ideological production and cross-national values surveys have shown associations between changes in social conditions and changes in the dominant sociopolitical discourses and people’s value orientations, respectively, in the contemporary Middle East. It is, however, unclear how changes in these conditions explain changes in discourses and values. Comparative surveys were carried out in Egypt in 2011 and Turkey in 2013, using a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 adults in each country. This project will re-interview the same respondents in order to assess how changes in their life conditions and the outbreak of events that transpired since the last surveys affected their values and political engagement.

This project will contribute to a mechanismic explanation of change in values and political engagement by launching a panel study in Egypt and Turkey, where adequate infrastructure for survey research is available. This panel study will (1) explain changes in sociopolitical and cultural values; (2) examine how variation in participation in such activities as peaceful demonstrations, political protests, and political violence is linked to changes in (a) inter-group relations, (b) identity and framing, (c) attitudes toward the West and liberal values, (d) religious fundamentalism, (e) dysphoric emotions or personal efficacy, and (f) sources of news information (the Internet, satellite TV, mobiles); (3) assess how people’s perceptions of corruption and trustworthiness of public officials are linked to political action and conflict; and (4) evaluate the implications of this study for peace and national security. This project will also contribute to survey methodology by (1) including a new Event History Calendar in the questionnaire, and (2) assessing the effects of privacy during the interview and interviewer characteristics on respondents.

Egypt and Turkey have a rich cultural heritage that spans thousands of years and were influential centers of Islamic civilization for centuries. Egypt has been a trendsetter among Arab-majority countries, and since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, it has been experiencing economic difficulties, political instability and violence. Turkey has been the site of one of the most powerful Islamic empires for centuries. It has also been one of the few places in the region where secularism is boldly experimented. Ruled by authoritarian regimes for decades in the twentieth century, the country has recently transitioned to parliamentary politics. This change paralleled impressive economic growth, which made Turkey among the top twenty largest economies in the world. The country is currently a site of serious ideological debates and political contentions between the followers of secularism and supporters of political Islam. A social-scientific study of change in Egypt and Turkey will contribute to public policy. The comprehensive dataset produced by this project expands the empirical infrastructure for a more rigorous social-scientific study of change, providing fresh insights on the possible direction of changes in values and the modality of politics that is most likely to emerge in the two countries. It will offer more clear ideas about the factors in the life experiences of the individuals that prompt them toward violent extremism and those that orient them toward liberal ideas, religious tolerance, and moderate politics. Finally, the ideas and insights that this project will develop may also be generalizable to other cases for understanding, for example, how changes in employment status, level of education, perception of corruption of public officials, access to the Internet, individual efficacy, and various events shape people’s value orientation and political engagement. 

Primary Findings:

Findings from two waves of the panel survey in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey showed that a shift in people’s value orientations have occurred toward secular politics, religious tolerance, and to a limited extent gender equality.


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