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From Medicine to Mobilization: Social Service Provision and the Islamist Reputational Advantage

From Medicine to Mobilization: Social Service Provision and the Islamist Reputational Advantage

by Steven Brooke, Harvard University

Under what conditions can parties use social-service provision to generate political support? And what is the causal mechanism connecting social-service provision to citizen mobilization? I argue that service provision conveys to voters a politically valuable image of the provider organization’s competence and probity, which is particularly valuable when information about parties and platforms is contradictory or poor. Support comes from an in-depth investigation into the medical networks of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. I combine qualitative evidence, including fieldwork and interviews with Brotherhood social-service providers, with an original 2,483-person survey experiment of Egyptians. Respondents exposed to factual information about the Brotherhood’s medical provision are significantly more likely to consider voting for the Brotherhood in elections. A causal mediation analysis, as well as qualitative evidence drawn from the survey instrument itself, supports the hypothesized mechanism by which respondents map the Brotherhood’s compassion and professionalism in the provision of medical services onto their views of Brotherhood candidates for elected office. Beyond adding to a growing comparative-politics literature on the politics of non-state social service provision, I identify why Egypt’s current rulers have expended such effort to uproot the Muslim Brotherhood’s nationwide network of social services.

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Perspectives on Politics  /  Volume 15Issue 1  /  March 2017, pp. 42-61