The literature on government popularity focuses on security and prosperity as the two most important factors shaping government evaluation. However, we still know little about how these two factors can together inform citizens' decision to reward or punish the government. Studies in diversionary theory posit that external security concerns, which give rise to “rally ‘round the flag'' effects, will override domestic economic perceptions, leading to an increase in government support. Yet, recent cross-national studies did not find evidence that security indicators condition the impact of the economy on popularity. Building upon literature on the processing of uncertain information and opinion formation, we argue that security and the economy can operate together in shaping popularity by reducing uncertainty surrounding government performance. By distinguishing between two types of security concern this study shows that government evaluation is likely to increase when citizens who are concerned about external security also have a positive evaluation of the economy, and it is likely to decrease when citizens who are concerned about internal security hold a negative evaluation of the economy. This study focuses on the Arab World since the 2010 Uprisings where ongoing political crises created economic and security challenges for governments. Using individual-level data we examine the interactive relationship between security and the economy in 13 countries over almost a decade and find support for our evaluation uncertainty hypothesis. This study contributes to the literature on government popularity by showing that issues are not necessarily in competition for citizens' attention but can operate together to shape citizens’ opinion of government.
About the presenter:
Alon Kraitzman (Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2018) is an assistant professor in Political Science at Michigan State University and a visiting fellow at the School of Politics & International Relations at ANU. His major research interests are public opinion, political behavior and political institutions. His research has been published in PS: Political Science & Politics and Presidential Studies Quarterly. In his work, he includes both cross-national and case study analyses, with a broad geographic scope, covering the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. His research focuses on popularity ratings of political leaders as an indicator of leaders’ ability to govern effectively and asks what explains variation in public evaluations.
Jessica Genauer is a lecturer in International Relations at the College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University. Jessica's research interests include conflict resolution, institution-building, and political transitions with a focus on the Middle East North Africa region, as well as innovative educational methods for International Politics’ classrooms.
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