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May 24, 2018 | English and Arabic | Laura Paler, Leslie Marshall, and Sami Atallah
The Fear of Supporting Political Reform

This brief examines the extent to which people are willing to support political reform in Lebanon. Using a randomized petition experiment with 2,496 citizens across the country, it is demonstrated that, although people wish to abolish the confessional political system, they are less willing to express that publicly. This is largely due to fear of being sanctioned by their family members, community, and political leaders. Looking at various socio-economic groups, lower income citizens—like their upper income compatriots—do not support sectarian politics.
However, the former is less willing to take public political action. Concerning confessional groups, Christians express more support for confessional politics than their Sunni and Shia counterparts but Sunnis are less likely than other confessional groups to take public action. The study suggests that an effort to effect change would either need to target those who are less fearful of voicing support for reform or would need to reduce the level of fear among sections of Lebanese society that otherwise would support reform.

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