Did Egypt's Post-Uprising Crime Wave Increase Support for Authoritarian Rule? (With Lisa Blaydes, Caroline Abadeer, and Alexandra Blackman).
Countries transitioning from autocracy to democracy often struggle to maintain law and order. Yet relatively little is known about how social instability impacts public support for democracy and democratization. We find an empirical relationship between rising crime and declining support for democracy in Egypt following the 2011 Uprisings. Survey evidence suggests that Egyptians who were concerned about crime were increasingly likely to express support for “strongman” rule over the course of Egypt’s short-lived democratic transition. We validate these conclusions with analysis of original data on year-on-year changes in localized patterns of crime across Egypt. We find that electoral districts exposed to larger increases in crime — especially homicides — were more likely to vote for the “strongman” candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Our calculations suggest that absent this marked increase in violent crime, Egypt would have seen a different — and perhaps less politically polarizing — pair of final presidential contenders. From a policy perspective, international actors seeking to promote democracy might do so indirectly through support of law and order institutions since founding elections that occur during a crime wave risk becoming referenda on stability rather than a representation of citizen preferences.