Political Consequences of Perceived Inequality Across Ethno-Religious Groups: Experimental Evidence from Lebanon

Income inequalities have risen starkly across the globe in recent decades. Yet societies worldwide are increasingly organized along ethno-religious lines rather than economic ones. This puzzle is particularly true of Lebanon, where ethno-religious voting blocs continue to uphold a failed state. To explore this, we will first conduct a representative survey of 3,300 Lebanese living in Greater Beirut to document the relationship between incorrect beliefs about out-groups and support for sectarianism — the formal and informal organization of life around religious sects. We then conduct an experiment to test the effects of correcting two misperceptions in particular – “they are better off than us”  and “they would not challenge the status quo” — on political preferences and participation. We randomly assign respondents to a video treatment stressing the relatively low levels of inequality between religious groups (treatment 1), the high rates of discontent with the sectarian status quo across religious groups (treatment 2), both videos combined (treatment 1 and 2) or a placebo (control). We test whether correcting beliefs can bolster social cohesion, shape policy preferences on redistribution, tax morale, and the acceptability of voting for politicians from other religions, and boost real-world behaviors capturing political and civic participation.

RFP Cycle:
RFP 22 Fall 2023
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