Posted on April 11, 2013 in Reports

For most of the past two decades, American opinion of Egypt has been overwhelmingly favorable. In the 1990’s attitudes were almost four to one favorable—with positive ratings in the 60% range. Today, however, only 36% of Americans have a favorable view of the country. And, in our most recent poll, almost one-half of Americans have a negative view of Egypt, a significant rise even since our January 2012 poll.

While modern Egypt has been known in the Arab World for its cinema, its comedy and music, and its political and intellectual leadership, the image of the country has never been established in the United States. A decade ago, when Egypt’s favorable ratings were in the 60% range, the positive attitudes were soft. During this period, when we asked an open-ended question, like “what is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear Egypt?” the overwhelming majority of the responses recalled the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the other “glories of ancient Egypt.” There was also a smattering of respondents who made reference to Sadat and/or Camp David. What was clear was that modern Egypt was not known and remained undefined for many Americans.

This difficulty becomes even more pronounced after an examination of the responses to our open-ended question: “what is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of Egypt.” In response, almost one-half of those who have favorable views of Egypt can only think of something related to its ancient history, giving responses like “pyramids,” “the Sphinx,” and “King Tut.” Among those who have unfavorable views of Egypt, on the other hand, almost all of the top-of-mind responses focus on the current instability, using words like “dangerous,” “chaos,” “trouble,” “a huge mess,” “unrest,” and “war.”

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