Affective and Ideological Polarization during the ‘Arab Spring’ Transitions: Evidence from Egypt and Tunisia

By Elizabeth R. Nugent
Submitted to Session P5140 (Polarization, Participation, and Democratic Outcomes in Egypt and Tunisia, 2018 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Elite polarization has been cited in academic and policy analyses as a major factor in explaining the divergent post-uprising outcomes in Egypt and Tunisia, consistent with established contingent theories of democratic transitions. However, the term "polarization" is rarely defined, and indeed, both affective (based on the classic concept of social-distance) and ideological (based on divergent policy preferences) polarization appear to have played an important role in each country’s initial transition. In this paper, I argue that affective polarization is only important when ideological polarization also exists, and that the two are inextricably linked. By identifying as common victims and as members of a broader opposition movement under the old regime, Tunisian elites were less ideologically polarized, while in Egypt, both affective and ideological polarization among elites derailed important negotiations. I do so through a comparison of elite narratives about the events of 2011-2014 in both Egypt and Tunisia, created through press coverage and original interviews.a