Publications and Research
In countries that have recently transitioned to democracy, what factors most drive citizens to mobilize and participate in early elections? Many comparative studies on democratization and elections stress the vital importance of early elections in new democracies – with voter turnout inexorably linked to a democracy’s long-term stability and legitimacy – however, much of this literature focuses on aggregate rather than individual-level behaviour, and very little targets the Middle East/North Africa region. This study closely examines individual voting behaviour in democratizing Tunisia’s critical second election in 2014. We argue that amidst great uncertainty, the polarizing issues of national and political identity created systematic disparities in participation – with the most ideologically polarized citizens/social groups more likely to vote. Using original data from a survey conducted in Tunisia right after its November 2014 elections, we find that Tunisians were sharply divided in their support for democracy, the previous regime, and Islamic governance. Specifically, Tunisians who were more ideologically polarized along its secular-Islamist divide and those more satisfied with the new democratic system were more likely to vote – overall suggesting somewhat uneven electoral participation in this critical election and, therefore, the potential for the kind of instability conducive to democratic breakdown.