Silicon Valley Notebook


Noor Darwish


There is a general lack of citizen trust in governmental institutions in the Middle East, especially because of changing of governments and resulting turmoil. Sequential Mixed Methodology was used, in which data from the 2016 Arab Barometer were supplemented with qualitative insights from two professionals knowledgeable about the political climate in the Middle East and content analyses of relevant journalistic accounts. A comparison of North Africa (characterized by political turmoil) and the Levant (political stasis) countries in how government functionality (efficacy, stability, and corruption), as perceived by their citizens, differentially colored trust in governmental institutions was used to illustrate the citizen-government dynamics that resulted in citizens questioning the legitimacy of government authority. Predictions, based on Max Weber’s theory of Political Legitimacy and Gaetano Mosca’s Elite Theory, that, on balance, functional governments will garner more citizen’s trust in the Levant than in North Africa, while corruption will have a more corrosive effect were supported. A trust surplus occurred as a result of governmental functionality, balancing out the trust deficit created by government dysfunctionality. These findings contributed to existing theoretical and empirical literature on the contested relationship between citizens and their governments. Additional research on sectarian and ethnic conflicts and types of government (monarchy, authoritarian, democratic) in the region as they have shaped citizen trust is warranted.