Key Findings from the Arab Transformations Project

Arab Transformations Working Paper 16 (2017)

37 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2017 Last revised: 9 Oct 2017

See all articles by Pamela Abbott

Pamela Abbott

School of Education, University of Aberdeen

Andrea Teti

University of Aberdeen

Date Written: April 7, 2017


The December 2010 Tunisian uprising triggered historic revolutions throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) commonly known as the ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘Arab Uprisings’. Focusing on Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, the project on Political and Social Transformation in the Arab World (ArabTrans) explored the root causes of the revolutions, whether and how these countries changed economically, socially and politically following the Uprisings and the outlook for the region. It reviewed the theoretical frameworks for understanding political transitions and examined the economic, social and political drivers of the Uprisings in the two decades prior to 2010 and how governments responded. It also examined the political, social and economic attitudes and values of a nationally representative sample of ordinary citizens in each country, how these had changed leading up to the Uprisings, how they evolved by 2014, and what people thought would happen in the future.

In scholarly terms, ArabTrans makes both substantive and methodological advances in knowledge about the region. At a substantive level, project findings advance our understanding of the political, social and economic drivers, outcomes and future of the Uprisings. Specifically, data analysis produced new knowledge on a range of topics, including the perception of democracy in the MENA, the relation between religion and politics, gender, corruption, political mobilisation and the role of the EU. In particular, the survey data reveal the popular concern about economic security – including corruption, jobs, and services – and an equally worrying distrust in the state institutions and leadership which ought to be delivering such security. Against this backdrop, survey analysis reveals that respondents have a much more holistic and substantive conception of democracy than international policy makers: the latter focus on certain core procedural and formal aspects – e.g. elections, civil and political rights – but public opinion in the MENA also understands democracy to entail substantive commitments to social justice and economic rights. In addition, while most people do not demand Western-style liberal democracy, they also reject religious leaders’ involvement in politics: social justice and economic rights are their primary focus. Methodologically, the project contributes the construction of a longitudinal data base, combining macrodata and international indexes with individual-level survey data, which will facilitate the analysis of socio-political transformations both within the region and beyond it. In addition, the project used new techniques for data verification which significantly improved the quality of the survey data – and therefore the accuracy of the findings, and they will contribute to improving the quality public opinion surveys generally.

Keywords: Arab Spring, Democracy, European Union, Southern Neighboourhood, Corruption,Security, Socio-economic Development, Trust, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morooco, Tunisia

JEL Classification: Z13, Z18, N35

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Pamela and Teti, Andrea, Key Findings from the Arab Transformations Project (April 7, 2017). Arab Transformations Working Paper 16 (2017), Available at SSRN: or

Pamela Abbott (Contact Author)

School of Education, University of Aberdeen ( email )

Aberdeen, Scotland
United Kingdom

Andrea Teti

University of Aberdeen ( email )

Dunbar Street
Aberdeen, Scotland AB24 3QY
United Kingdom


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