In January 2011, with the self-immolation of a market trader in Tunisia, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) began to experience a series of historic uprisings often referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. Our project ‘Arab Transitions: Political and Social Transformation in the Arab World’ seeks to explore the root causes of these protests, how these countries have transformed (economically, socially and politically), and the outlook for the region.
The ArabTransitions project focuses on the transformations in seven countries in this region: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. Our main methodological tool is a large-scale cross-national survey. This survey will be a combination of tested questions about opinions, values, and behaviours, and additional questions created specifically for this context to explore these transitions. With questions covering the social, economic, and political spheres, the survey provides an insight into a range of key issues, including political, economic, and social values and expectations, and their perception of the situation in their respective countries.
Many of the questions asked are of great interest to analysts, policy-makers, and stakeholders, ranging as they do from including the relation between respondents’ political ideals and the reality they experience, respondents’ social values to their perception of security, from their perception of key international actors to the ‘Arab Spring’ itself, from their use of media during and since the protests to the involvement of religion in political life, gender issues, and the family. Amongst other key issues, respondents were asked about political ideals, about their opinions of democracy, and about democracy’s suitability to their countries, about current political systems – including their trust in key institutions –, what they think about corruption at various levels, and about security at both personal, family, neighbourhood, and national levels.
The ArabTransitions project adds a unique perspective to previous surveys in the region. Not only is this one of the first cross-national surveys to be completed since 2011, but the questionnaire includes three sections of questions that were not explored previously: questions about the revolutions and individual actions, questions about the use of media in political life, and questions about the impact of the EU.
Finally, to better evaluate the processes which have affected MENA countries since 2010/11, the project has created a large longitudinal database combining ArabTransitions data with cognate questions from other surveys (e.g. ArabBarometer, World Values Survey) and with macro-indicators covering a range of economic, social, and political topics. This permits a comparative and longitudinal analysis, as well as providing a database which will be of undoubted use to scholars, policy-makers, and stakeholders.
This allows the ArabTransitions project to conduct analysis at three different levels:
1. The ArabTransitions survey itself, providing key data both for each country individually and a comparative report for all surveyed countries (Work Package 6);
2. 'Transition Analysis’ (Work Package 7); and
3. Specialist themes (e.g. Youth, social media, EU-MENA relations).
All the while, survey and other quantitative data is contextualised by drawing on state of the art debates in non-quantitative subfields, including ‘Area Studies’. This allows the significance of quantitative data analysis to be evaluated against the specificities of individual country and/or regional contexts.
The analysis in each work package and in each report is further structured along three different ‘axes’ – the social, the economic, and the political spheres – so that any question, cluster of questions, or theme can be analysed within countries at specific points in time, across countries, and over time.
These features allow the ArabTransitions project to provide a rich and nuanced analysis of the impact of the Uprisings during 2010/11 both on the region and on its international relations.
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