Egyptian Attitudes, September 2013

This poll represents the third time since May 2013 that we have conducted a nationwide survey of Egyptian public opinion. It has been a momentous and tumultuous time for Egypt. During this period our polling has opened a window, allowing us to better understand and track the Egyptian people’s changing attitudes toward developments as they unfold: how they view their government and institutions; areas of agreement and disagreement; and their hopes for the future.

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May 2013

In our May survey we found Egyptian society deeply polarized. Three-quarters expressed both concern with the way the Morsi government was monopolizing power and fear that the Muslim Brotherhood was attempting to impose its ideology on the country.

Egyptians had lost the hope they had in 2011 that positive change would result from their revolution. While 82% said they had been hopeful in 2011, now only 36% retained that hope. The military had the overwhelming support of all segments of Egyptian society (94%), but the country was divided on whether they wanted the military to intervene (44% in favor, 56% opposed). Almost all Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) supporters opposed this action, but 60% of other Egyptians wanted the military to assume control. Overall, the favored options for what to do next were national dialogue (87%) and scrapping the constitution (64%). Of these options, those with confidence in the FJP supported dialogue, but they were nearly unanimous in their opposition to scrapping the constitution, an option that was supported by more than 85% of the rest of the country. What was clear from that May survey was that the continuing behavior of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party had alienated three-quarters of all Egyptians. While there were differences as to how to end their rule, it was evident that most Egyptians wanted change.

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July 2013

In July, following the deposing of the Morsi government, we found that despite continuing division over the military’s July 3rd action, many Egyptians felt a renewed sense of hope (68%) and the military still retained an overall 93% positive rating. However, given the tumult and violence that followed the end of the FJP rule, the public was not fully convinced that the interim government would succeed in being able to carry out their “roadmap for change.” Only one-third of Egyptians expressed confidence that this government would be able to amend the constitution, create an inclusive democracy, and restore order in the country. At that point, most Egyptians were in a “wait and see” mode.

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September 2013

In our September survey, we find that public opinion in Egypt has become more conflicted and even more polarized. Overall, 60% of Egyptians remain hopeful about the country’s future and 83% believe that the situation will improve in the next few years, but the continuing violence has taken a toll. A plurality (46%) of all Egyptians believe that the situation in their country has become worse, not better, since the Morsi government was deposed. Eighty percent (80%) of FJP supporters express this view. But only about one-half of the rest of the country feels that Egypt is better off, with nearly one in five saying that the situation is the same as it was before the military intervened.

The military remains the institution in which Egyptians have the greatest confidence, but their positive rating has declined to 70%, owing to a sharp drop in support from those who identify with the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP and a slight decline in support among liberals and those Egyptians who associate with none of the country’s parties.

The country is split down the middle in its view of the military’s July 3rd deposing of the Morsi government. The FJP, of course, is unanimous in finding the military’s action incorrect, while almost two-thirds of the rest of Egyptians support the deposing of Morsi. Between July and September, confidence in the interim government of Adly Mansour has increased, with between 43% and 51% now saying that they believe that this government can follow the “roadmap” and restore order to the country – with almost two-thirds of non-FJP supporters now expressing this view.

During the past month, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party has consolidated its strength, while at the same time alienating itself from many other Egyptians. Support for the FJP has leveled off at 34%, up from May’s 28%. And 79% of all Egyptians still want national reconciliation as the desired goal for Egypt. But now one-half of those who do not support FJP identify the Muslim Brotherhood as the main obstacle to reconciliation and more than 60% of non-FJP supporters want the Brotherhood to be banned from Egyptian politics.

The July poll found Egyptians deeply dissatisfied with the role the United States has played in their country. In September we asked Egyptians about their attitudes toward other countries. Israel, the United States, and Iran received the lowest ratings (0% for Israel, 4% for the U.S., and 9% for Iran), with Saudi Arabia and the UAE viewed positively by more than one-half of all Egyptians. Turkey was favored by only one-third of Egyptians, with Qatar receiving a positive rating from less than one-fifth.

There can be no doubt that Egyptians face real challenges and must address difficult questions as they move forward. Other than retaining optimism about their future, desiring national reconciliation, and continuing to support their military institution, there is very little else on which most Egyptians agree. With the FJP continuing to have the support of about one-third of the country, some effort to achieve national reconciliation will be important. At this point, it appears that the choices made by both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood will be decisive in shaping Egypt’s near-term future.

Egypt’s other political parties remain weak, with the largest percentage of Egyptians showing confidence in the Tamarrud movement, which is not a party. If the next election is to produce an outcome that reflects the concerns and aspirations of a substantial number of Egyptians, the organizers of the Tamarrud movement will have to use their discipline and skill to either strengthen the existing parties or transform their movement into an electoral force that can effectively compete.

The real short-term test for Egypt will be the ability of the interim government to produce a new constitution, pave the way for new elections leading to a civilian government, while keeping Egyptians safe and restoring order in the country. To the degree that all parties can find common ground in achieving these goals, the optimism of Egyptians may be rewarded. Should these issues be resolved, Egypt can then focus on the business of meeting what our polls have consistently demonstrated are the country’s most pressing needs – rebuilding the economy and creating jobs and opportunities for Egypt’s youth. But should the violence continue, the polarization will deepen, and Egypt will continue to a troubled future.

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Press Coverage:

Patrick Kingsley, "Egypt's Abdel Fatah al-Sisi given go ahead to run for president." World Affairs Journal, January 27, 2014

Amelia Smith, "Most Egyptians believe it was wrong to depose Morsi." Middle East MonitorNovember 28, 2013

Gregg Carlstrom, "Egypt losing confidence in state: poll." Al Jazeera, November 27, 2013

 Alaa Shahine, "Most Egyptians Oppose Ouster of Mursi, Poll Shows." Bloomberg News, November 26, 2013