Jordan: A Study of Attitudes toward Democratic Changes

By Massis, Maher J. | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Jordan: A Study of Attitudes toward Democratic Changes


Massis, Maher J., Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


INTRODUCTION

Jordan's transition toward democracy has lead to the rise of a multiparty system, three parliamentary elections (1989, 1993, and 1997), and the enactment of new laws to protect political liberties. While it is important to assess the impact of these changes on Jordanian politics, it is also important to study the attitudes of individuals toward democracy and their role in it. To what extent do the Jordanians believe that their state has become democratic? Do they recognize the changes around them and do they feel they can make a difference in politics? Answers to these questions will enable us to move our level of analysis from the macro level to the micro level in dealing with political culture.

Why is it important to study political attitudes? For a democratic political system to function, we need more than the relevant formal institutions: a party system, a parliament, and universal suffrage. We need a participant public with a reasonable understanding of the political process. This study thus seeks to determine whether Jordanians have the type of political culture that is conducive to democratic practices.

FRAMEWORK OF ANALYSIS

To assess the attitudes of individual Jordanians toward the political system and their role in it, survey data will be used from three surveys conducted from 1993 to 1996 by the University of Jordan Center For Strategic Studies. The 1993 survey collected data on the various social and demographic characteristics of a randomly chosen sample of 1,197 individuals. The objective of the survey was to determine respondents' evaluation of the performance of the Assembly of Deputies (Majlis al-Nawab), its role in political life, and the level of its representation of the various sectors of Jordanian society and its different levels. The survey also sought to examine the respondents' level of awareness of such laws as the Political Parties Law, Martial Law regulations, the Press and Publications Law, and the various changes in them. Finally, the survey sought to determine the extent to which Jordan has progressed in the democratization process, the measures that should be adopted to upgrade the democratic climate, and the inclination of respondents to vote in future parliamentary elections.

The 1995 survey was the second in the series with a sample of 2,000 respondents. The survey is a continuation of the 1993 survey and focused on continued changes in the relationship between the Jordanian citizen and the state. In addition, the survey examined how the changes in the relationship between the Cabinet (herein government) and the Assembly of Deputies (lower house of parliament) affect the lives of individual Jordanians. The third survey (1996) in the series continued the inquiry on attitudes toward democratic changes. In particular, the survey examined respondents' opinions on a number of topics such as the Political Parties Law and the Publications Law, changes in the election law, evaluation of the achievements of the 1993 Assembly of Deputies and its members, evaluation of political parties in general, and respondents' opinions on liberal political changes. Additional questions were asked on social participation and the extent to which respondents read daily and weekly newspapers. In all three surveys, the sample was divided evenly between males and females. Data from the three surveys will be used to gain insight into the political attitudes of Jordanians. The analysis will use four major indicators: patterns of democratic cognition, perceptions of measures to improve democracy, attitudes toward political instruments, and traditional and modern modes of participation. Each of these indicators will be divided into subcategories to gauge and assess respondents attitudes on specific topics. Analysis of the data throughout this study should collectively provide us with a reliable snap shot of the Jordanian political culture, especially as it relates to democratization and changes in it since 1993. …

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