It's Good to Be King: How Ruler Type Shapes Expectations of Ruler Conduct in Authoritarian Regimes

This paper argues that different kinds of authoritarian rulers face different expectations from the public about what constitutes appropriate conduct in office. Specifically, popular understanding of the roles that kings and presidents are meant to play in their political systems makes it easier for autocratic monarchs to distance themselves from the performance of their regimes and to engage in undemocratic practices like handing power to their children. Evidence for these different expectations is provided from Arab Barometer survey data, as well as two survey experiments conducted in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan. Case studies from the Arab Spring are then used to illustrate how these expectations make both opposition and repression more likely in presidential autocracies relative to royal autocracies. This research helps to explain the surprising durability of authoritarian monarchies in the modern world, and it demonstrates the importance of norms for shaping patterns of authoritarian regime resilience.