Poverty and Divine Rewards: The Electoral Advantage of Islamist Political Parties

Sharan Grewal, Amaney A. Jamal, Tarek Masoud, Elizabeth R. Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Political life in many Muslim-majority countries has been marked by the electoral dominance of Islamist parties. Recent attempts to explain why have highlighted their material and organizational factors, such as the provision of social services. In this article, we revive an older literature that emphasizes the appeal of these parties’ religious nature to voters experiencing economic hardship. Individuals suffering economic strain may vote for Islamists because they believe this to be an intrinsically virtuous act that will be met with divine rewards in the afterlife. We explore this hypothesis through a series of laboratory experiments in Tunisia. Individuals assigned to treatment conditions instilling feelings of economic strain exhibit greater support for Islamist parties, and this support is causally mediated by an expectation of divine compensation in the hereafter. The evidence suggests that the religious nature of Islamist parties may thus be an important factor in their electoral success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-874
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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