Trade-Offs and Public Support for Security Reform during Democratic Transitions

In: Middle East Law and Governance

During democratic transitions, newly elected governments face public demands to reform the institutions of the old regime, especially the security forces; yet, these reforms often fail. I argue that politicians define policy issues in ways that maximize popular support for their own positions through well-established processes of elite issue framing. Politicians can reduce popular demand for difficult and costly reforms of the security forces by framing them as trade-offs with other types of reform. The argument is tested with original survey data from Tunisia, an important contemporary case of democratic transition. An embedded vignette experiment primes existing issue frames by asking respondents to adjudicate between investments in security reform versus economic or political reform. I find that framing a trade-off with a more popular policy, economic development, reduces public demand for security reform. These findings have important implications for security sector reform and democratic consolidation in Tunisia and beyond.

  • Aleya-Sghaier Amira . “The Tunisian Revolution: The Revolution of Dignity.” The Journal of the Middle East and Africa 3, no. 1 (2012): 18–45.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ashour Omar . “Finishing the Job: Security Sector Reform After the Arab Spring.” World Politics Review. Washington, DC: Brookings, May 28, 2013. http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2013/05/28-security-sector-reform-mena-ashour.

    • Export Citation
  • Beissinger Mark R. , Jamal Amaney A. , and Mazur Kevin . “Explaining Divergent Revolutionary Coalitions: Regime Strategies and the Structuring of Participation in the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions.” Comparative Politics 48, no. 1 (2015): 1–24.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ben Mahfoudh Haykel . “Security Sector Reform in Tunisia: Three Years into the Democratic Transition.” Security in Times of Transition. Arab Reform Initiative, July 2014. http://www.arab-reform.net/security-sector-reform-tunisia-three-years-democratic-transition.

    • Export Citation
  • Bou Nassif Hicham . “A Military Besieged: The Armed Forces, the Police, and the Party in Bin ‘Ali’s Tunisia, 1987–2011.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47, no. 1 (February 2015): 65–87.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bratton Michael , and van de Walle Nicolas . “Popular Protest and Political Reform in Africa.” Comparative Politics 24, no. 4 (1992): 419–42.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brownlee Jason . Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

  • Brownlee Jason , Masoud Tarek E. , and Reynolds Andrew . The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bullock John G. “Elite Influence on Public Opinion in an Informed Electorate.” American Political Science Review 105, no. 3 (August 2011): 496–515.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bush Sarah Sunn , and Jamal Amaney A. . “Anti-Americanism, Authoritarian Politics, and Attitudes about Women’s Representation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Jordan.” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 1 (March 2015): 34–45.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Call Charles T. “War Transitions and the New Civilian Security in Latin America.” Comparative Politics 35, no. 1 (October 2002): 1–20.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cherif Youssef . “The Kamour Movement and Civic Protests in Tunisia.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 8, 2017. https://carnegieendowment.org/2017/08/08/kamour-movement-and-civic-protests-in-tunisia-pub-72774.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chomiak Laryssa , and Salman Lana . “Refusing to Forgive: Tunisia’s Maneesh M’sameh Campaign.” Middle East Report, no. 281 (2016). http://www.merip.org/mer/mer281/refusing-forgive.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chong Dennis , and Druckman James N. . “Framing Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 10, no. 1 (2007): 103–26.

  • Clifford Scott , and Jerit Jennifer . “Is There a Cost to Convenience? An Experimental Comparison of Data Quality in Laboratory and Online Studies.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 1, no. 2 (2014): 120–31.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coppock Alexander . “Generalizing from Survey Experiments Conducted on Mechanical Turk: A Replication Approach.” Political Science Research and Methods 7, no. 3 (2018): 1–16.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Davenport Christian , and Armstrong David A. . “Democracy and the Violation of Human Rights: A Statistical Analysis from 1976 to 1996.” American Journal of Political Science 48, no. 3 (July 2004): 538–54.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mesquita De , Bueno Bruce , Cherif Feryal Marie , Downs George W. , and Smith Alastair . “Thinking Inside the Box: A Closer Look at Democracy and Human Rights.” International Studies Quarterly 49, no. 3 (September 2005): 439–58.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Druckman James N. “Political Preference Formation: Competition, Deliberation, and the (Ir)Relevance of Framing Effects.” American Political Science Review 98, no. 4 (November 2004): 671–86.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Egnell Robert , and Haldén Peter . “Laudable, Ahistorical and Overambitious: Security Sector Reform Meets State Formation Theory.” Conflict, Security and Development 9, no. 1 (2009): 27–54.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gabel Matthew , and Scheve Kenneth . “Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables.” American Journal of Political Science 51, no. 4 (2007): 1013–28.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Geddes Barbara , and Zaller John . “Sources of Popular Support for Authoritarian Regimes.” American Journal of Political Science 33, no. 2 (1989): 319–47.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gelpi Christopher . “Performing on Cue? The Formation of Public Opinion Toward War.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 54, no. 1 (February 2010): 88–116.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ginifer Jeremy . “The Challenge of the Security Sector and Security Reform Processes in Democratic Transitions: The Case of Sierra Leone.” Democratization 13, no. 5 (December 2006): 791–810.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gledhill John . “Conclusion: Managing (In)Security in Post-Arab Spring Transitions.” PS: Political Science & Politics 46, no. 4 (October 2013): 736–39.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greitens Sheena Chestnut . Dictators and Their Secret Police: Coercive Institutions and State Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gross Peter . Entangled Evolutions: Media and Democratization in Eastern Europe. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002.

  • Gürsoy Yaprak . Between Military Rule and Democracy: Regime Consolidation in Greece, Turkey, and Beyond. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Haggard Stephan , and Kaufman Robert R. . “Inequality and Regime Change: Democratic Transitions and the Stability of Democratic Rule.” American Political Science Review 106, no. 03 (August 2012): 495–516.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hainmueller Jens , Hangartner Dominik , and Yamamoto Teppei . “Validating Vignette and Conjoint Survey Experiments against Real-World Behavior.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 8 (2015): 2395–400.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartnett Allison Spencer , Lotito Nicholas J. , and Nugent Elizabeth R. . “The Origins of Coercive Institutions in the Middle East: Preliminary Evidence from Egypt.” Working Paper, 2018.

    • Export Citation
  • Hibou Béatrice . The Force of Obedience: The Political Economy of Repression in Tunisia. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011.

  • Hills Alice . Policing Africa: Internal Security and the Limits of Liberalization. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.

  • Jacoby William G. “Issue Framing and Public Opinion on Government Spending.” American Journal of Political Science 44, no. 4 (2000): 750–67.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jebnoun Noureddine . Tunisia’s National Intelligence: Why “Rogue Elephants” Fail to Reform. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing, 2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kartas Moncef . “Foreign Aid and Security Sector Reform in Tunisia: Resistance and Autonomy of the Security Forces.” Mediterranean Politics 19, no. 3 (2014): 373–91.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lang Hardin , Awad Mokhtar , Juul Peter , and Katulis Brian . “Tunisia’s Struggle for Political Pluralism After Ennahda.” Center for American Progress, 2014.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lawson Joseph Chappell H. Building the Fourth Estate: Democratization and the Rise of a Free Press in Mexico. University of California Press, 2002.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Linz Juan J. , and Stepan Alfred C. . Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lutterbeck Derek . “Tool of Rule: The Tunisian Police Under Ben Ali.” The Journal of North African Studies 20, no. 5 (October 2015): 813–31.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mullinix Kevin J. , Leeper Thomas J. , Druckman James N. , and Freese Jeremy . “The Generalizability of Survey Experiments.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 2, no. 2 (2017): 109–38.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nelson Thomas E. , and Oxley Zoe M. . “Issue Framing Effects on Belief Importance and Opinion.” The Journal of Politics 61, no. 4 (November 1999): 1040–67. Pew Research Center. “Social Media Update 2016,” 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Prior Markus . Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rød Espen Geelmuyden , and Weidmann Nils B. . “Empowering Activists or Autocrats? The Internet in Authoritarian Regimes.” Journal of Peace Research 52, no. 3 (May 2015): 338–51.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rogers Jonathan . “Nothing to Lose: Charitable Donations as Incentives in Risk Preference Measurement.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 4, no. 1 (September 2017): 1–23.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Salem Fadi . “Social Media and the Internet of Things.” Arab Social Media Report. Dubai: Mohamed bin Rashid School of Government, 2017.

    • Export Citation
  • Sayigh Yezid . “Missed Opportunity: The Politics of Police Reform in Egypt and Tunisia.” Carnegie Middle East Center, 2015. https://carnegie-mec.org/2015/03/17/missed-opportunity-politics-of-police-reform-in-egypt-and-tunisia-pub-59391.

    • Export Citation
  • Slothuus Rune , and de Vreese Claes H. . “Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Issue Framing Effects.” The Journal of Politics 72, no. 3 (July 2010): 630–45.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snyder Jack L. From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

  • Stepan Alfred C. Rethinking Military Politics: Brazil and the Southern Cone. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

  • Svolik Milan W. The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

  • Tanner Murray Scot . “Will the State Bring You Back In? Policing and Democratization.” Comparative Politics 33, no. 1 (October 2000): 101–24.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tessler Mark A. Public Opinion in the Middle East: Survey Research and the Political Orientations of Ordinary Citizens. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tessler Mark A. , and Gao Eleanor . “Gauging Arab Support for Democracy.” Journal of Democracy 16, no. 3 (2005): 83–97.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 62 62 62
Full Text Views 6 6 6
PDF Downloads 4 4 4