The Pew Research Center, which conducts public opinion surveys around the world, published results of a survey of Egypt a few days ago, which are somewhat unexpected and very interesting, to say the least. The survey, based on face-to-face interviews conducted between April 10 and April 29, 2014, among a representative sample of 1,000 randomly selected adults from across the country, among other things reveals that a majority of Egyptians are still in favor of democracy. Although down from 66% percent last year (and 71% in 2011), still a considerable majority of 59% say it is the best form of government. However, within the past year support has declined for some key pillars of democracy, like free speech, freedom of the press, and honest, competitive elections. And when asked which is more important, a democratic government, even if there is a risk of instability, or a stable government, even if there is a risk it will not be fully democratic, a narrow majority (54%) chooses stability, while 44% say that democracy should be the number one priority. (Last year it was the other way round: 51% prioritized democracy, 43% said a stable government is more important).
These last figures are almost equal to the percentage that supports last July’s military takeover: 54%
favor it; 43% oppose it. And again: this corresponds roughly with the popularity of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the former general, who is almost certain to be Egypt;s next president and who was the man behind last year’s overthrow of the
government of Mohammed Morsi. Sisi
receives a favorable rating from 54% of Egyptians, while 45% view him
unfavorably. And this is a much more mixed review than media reports from Egypt over
the last year might suggest.
As for former Mohamed Morsi, the deposed ex-president, his ratings keep declining. Last year 53% expressed a favorable opinion of him,. now it is 42%. Ratings for the Brotherhood have also dropped, but it remains to be a force to be reckoned with, as about
four-in-ten Egyptians (38%, down from 63% last year) still continue to have a positive view of the group, which has been banned by the current regime.
Attitudes toward other institutions in the country have also
turned more negative over the last year. Most notably, support for the
military is down. Fifty-six percent say the military is having a good
impact on the country and 45% say it is having a negative influence. A
year ago, 73% described the military influence as positive and 24% as
negative. In a 2011 poll, conducted weeks after the overthrow of Hosni
Mubarak, 88% gave the military a good rating, while only 11% assigned it
a negative one.
The image of the courts, which have issued numerous controversial
verdicts in the past year, has also suffered. Now, just 41% believe the
court system is having a positive impact on the country; 58% say the
impact is negative. Last year, opinions were the exact opposite: 58% saw
the courts positively, 41% negatively.
The poll also
finds that relatively secular and liberal leaders and groups receive
mostly poor ratings. Hamdeen Sabahi, often described as a Nasserist or
leftist politician, and the only major figure challenging Sisi in the
presidential race, is seen favorably by just 35% of Egyptians, down from
48% in 2013. Attitudes towards Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the
International Atomic Energy Agency who supported the removal of both
Mubarak in 2011 and Morsi in 2013, have soured steadily since 2011.
Then, 57% had a positive opinion of ElBaradei; currently, just 27% hold
Meanwhile, the April 6th Movement, a largely youth-led,
relatively secular group that was active in the Tahrir Square protests
that led to Mubarak’s downfall, has seen its positive rating fall to
48%, compared with 2011 when seven-in-ten Egyptians regarded the group
Dissatisfaction is widespread. By a 3-to-1 margin, Egyptians are more dissatisfied (72%) than satisfied (24%) with their country’s direction. Last year already 62% was dissatisfied. Now the numbers are roughly the same as it was before the revolution that removed Mubarak.
(For the full report about the survey, click here)