States or social networks? Popular attitudes amid health crises in the Middle East and North Africa

The article draws on nationally representative telephone surveys in Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon to unpack popular beliefs about who can best handle the social and economic consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It, therefore, offers insights into state-society relations under stress and contributes to the debate on whether or not the state should play a key role in social protection. Findings reveal intriguing differences between countries, but also among social groups within societies. Communal identities and economic status do not appear to drive differences, with roughly half of the three countries’ populations sharing trust in their respective state authorities. In turn, the article challenges findings on the gender gap in people’s expectations about the provision of public goods amid crisis. At the country level, Egyptians exhibit significantly greater trust in their state authorities than Tunisians and Lebanese, which substantiates arguments about the perceived advantage of autocratic governance to fight health crises.