The National Science Foundation awarded a $437,000 grant to Mansoor Moaddel to carry out the third wave of a comparative cross-national panel survey in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey. The previous two waves of this project were funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, Jack Shand Research Grant of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Max Planck Institute and Göttingen University in Germany, Eastern Michigan University, and the University of Michigan.

The first wave was carried out in 2011-2013 and the second in 2015-2016. The dates and number of completed interviews are as follows: Of a nationally representative sample of 3,496 adults interviewed in Egypt in 2011, 2,430 (70%) were re-interviewed in 2016. To compensate for sample attrition, 1,428 additional interviews were conducted, bringing the total to 3,858. In Tunisia, of a nationally representative sample of 3,070 respondents interviewed in 2013, 2,395 (78%) were re-interviewed in 2015. Finally, in Turkey, of a nationally representative sample of 3,019 adults interviewed in 2013, 1,682 (56%) were re-interviewed in 2016, plus a sample of 1,077 additional interviews to make up for sample attrition, bringing the total to 2,759.

Findings from these waves revealed a pattern of change in the respondents’ cultural outlooks toward secular politics, religious tolerance, gender equality, and national identity. A secular-politics index is constructed by averaging responses to four questions: Do you (4) strongly agree, (3) agree, (2) disagree, or (1) strongly disagree that your country would be a better place (i) If religion and politics were separated, and (ii) If its government were similar to Western [American or European] governments. (iii) Is it (1) very good, (2) fairly good, (3) fairly bad, or (4) very bad to have an Islamic government where religious authorities have absolute power; and (iv) Is it (1) very important, (2) somewhat important, (3) least important, or (4) not at all important for a good government to implement only the sharia. Between the two waves, the value of secular-politics index in Egypt increased from 2.34 in 2011 to 2.72 in 2016; in Tunisia, from 2.82 in 2013 to 2.99 in 2015; and in Turkey, from 2.83 in 2013 to 2.93 in 2016 (Figure 1). All the increases are statistically significant.

Figure 1

A similar shift occurred in religious tolerance across the three countries between the two waves. A religious-tolerance index is constructed by averaging responses to four questions: Do you (1) strongly agree, (2) agree, (3) disagree, or (4) strongly disagree that (i) Our children should not be allowed to learn about other religions, (ii) The followers of other religions should not have the same rights as mine,” (iii) Criticism of my religion should not be tolerated, and (iv) Criticism of my religious leaders should not be tolerated. Between the two waves, the value of this index increased among Egyptian respondents from 2.25 in 2011 to 2.60 in 2016; among Tunisian respondents, from 2.72 in 2013 to 2.92 in 2015; and among Turkish respondents, from 2.43 in 2013 to 2.70 in 2016 in Turkey (Figure 2). All are statistically significant.

Figure 2: Changes in religious tolerance index between two waves

To assess changes in attitudes toward gender relations, a gender-equality index is constructed by averaging responses to five questions: Do you (1) strongly agree, (2) agree, (3) disagree, or (4) strongly disagree that: (i) It is acceptable for a man to have more than one wife, (ii) A wife must always obey her husband, (iii) Men make better political leaders than women do, (iv) University education is more important for a boy than it is for a girl, and (v) Men should have more right to a job than women. Between the two waves the value of this index increased from 2.08 in 2011 to 2.18 in 2016 in Egypt, from 2.48 in 2013 to 2.52 in 2015 in Tunisia, and from 2.71 in 2013 to 2.77 in 2016 in Turkey. Although these increases in the gender-equality index are modest, they all are statistically significant (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Finally, to assess changes in identity, respondents were asked if they were (1) Egyptians, Tunisians, or Turkish citizens; (2) Muslims; (3) Arabs, Berbers, Kurds, or Turks; or (4) other, above all. Figure 4 contrasts national and religious identity. Only 9% and 12% defined themselves as Egyptians in 2001 and 2007, while 78% and 84% as Muslims, respectively. These figures changed dramatically following the mass demonstrations that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Those defining themselves as Egyptians jumped to 52% in summer 2011, 56% in fall 2011, 61% in 2014, and then fell to 43% in 2016 (after the military coup). The corresponding values for those as Muslims were 45%, 46%, 37%, and 54% over these years. Similarly, in Tunisia, those defining themselves as Tunisians went up from 30% in 2013 to 37% in 2015 and those as Muslims declined from 59% to 52%. Finally, in Turkey, the percentage of those defining themselves as Turkish citizens consistently went up in the past decades; from 34% in 2001 to 44% in 2013, and then to 53% in 2016, while those as Muslims declined from 64% to 39%, and then to 36% in the same period.

Figure 4

These changes show a major shift toward liberal values among Egyptian, Tunisian, and Turkish respondents. However, the data that the third wave of this panel survey plans to collect will make it possible to assess if these changes across the three countries indicate a trend. A three-wave panel dataset is necessary in order to be able to advance a causal explanation of change; to the specify the type of changes in the respondents’ life situations that triggered changes in their value orientations. 

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