Posted on August 12, 2013 in Washington Watch

During the second half of July, Zogby Research Services (ZRS) conducted a nation-wide face-to-face survey of 5,042 Egyptian adults in an effort to learn how they were reacting to developments in the post-Tamarrud, post-Morsi era, as well as their assessment of the US-Egypt relationship. This survey was a follow-up to the ZRS poll of 5,029 Egyptian adults that had been completed in May.

What we found in the July poll is that Egyptian attitudes toward both their internal political situation and their relationship with the United States are conflicted and in flux.

Back in May, 82% of all Egyptians told us that they had been hopeful at the time of the 2011 revolution. By May that hope had evaporated with only 36% saying they were still hopeful about developments in their country. In the July survey, following Tamarrud and the deposing of President Morsi, the percentage of Egyptians who now say they feel hopeful has jumped to 68%.

As we anticipated in May, however, Egyptians are not of one mind regarding the military intervention, with those who support the Islamic parties favoring restoring President Morsi to power, while those who support the Tamarrud movement and the secular parties maintaining that the military took the correct decision to depose Morsi on July 3rd. Despite this division, a remarkable 93% of all adults still retain confidence in the military, as an institution - an attitude shared by Egyptians across the political spectrum - Islamists and secularists, alike. This support for the military in July remains virtually unchanged from the findings in our May survey in which we found that the military had the confidence of 94% of all Egyptians. This near unanimous level of support might be surprising given the drama that is currently unfolding in the streets of Cairo.

Also noteworthy is the degree to which the confidence in the military stands in contrast to the lack of confidence displayed in all of Egypt's political parties - none of which can claim the confidence of more than 30% of the public. In fact, the only entity to earn the support of more than 30% of Egyptians is the Tammarud movement, which has the confidence of 39% of those polled. Even with this strong support for the military, however, almost two-thirds of all Egyptians are in a "wait-and-see" mode as to whether the new interim government will fulfill its promise to deliver a new constitution and a more inclusive democracy in their country.

What the July survey further reveals is that Egyptians are deeply conflicted about the role played by the United States. President Obama, who had earned high marks among Egyptians following his "Address to the Muslim World" delivered at the University of Cairo in 2009, has now dropped to a 3% positive rating. At the same time, confidence in the US is at 1%.

Nevertheless, Egyptians are divided on the matter of how important it is for their country to have good relations with the United States with 48% saying it is important and 51% saying it is not important. Interestingly the only sub-group in which a majority agree that relations with the US are important are the supporters of the Tamarrud movement.

Two-thirds of all Egyptians feel that the US was too supportive of President Morsi. And more than 8 in 10 feel that "Egypt was harmed by the US policy of support for Morsi". When asked about their reactions to the calls by some American politicians to "suspend US aid until there is a legitimately elected government in Egypt", 18% respond that "it makes me happy", 24% say "it makes me angry", but 56% say they "don't care, because Egypt doesn't need US aid". The reason for this negative attitude can be found in the responses given to the question: "Who has most benefited from the billions of dollars of US assistance to Egypt?". Only 24% agree that either the Egyptian people or military have been the prime beneficiaries, while 21% say it is the US and 48% say that it is Israel that has benefited most from the post- Camp David US aid to Egypt.

One of the more revealing findings in the poll comes in the responses to the question "to what extent do you feel that the United States understands Egypt and the Egyptian people?" Only 36% agree that the US has some understanding, while 62% say that the US has little or no understanding of Egypt and its people.

These results make clear the profound challenges facing both the Egyptian military and the United States in this critical period of Egypt's history. Regardless of the strong support it currently retains, the military establishment must deliver on its promise to restore order and to help to create a more inclusive political order with a new constitution and elections. This is what is what the public expects. Failure to deliver could have negative consequences.

For its part, the US needs to understand that its role in Egypt has been seriously compromised by its past behavior. Especially in this extraordinarily volatile period, Egyptians do not have a favorable view of interference by the US in what they feel are critical decisions they must make about the future direction of their country. Threats to suspend assistance ring false or hollow, especially when they are delivered by politicians whose motives are suspect since they are not seen as having been friendly to Egypt or to concerns shared by most Egyptians.

In this period, US officials would do well to recall the more measured approach taken by President Obama in his post-Arab Spring May 2011 speech at the State Department. Back then he offered wise counsel noting that the US didn't start the Arab Spring and couldn't direct its outcome. What he suggested the US could do is provide assistance, where needed, to help grow the economies and build the infrastructures of these societies in midst of the dramatic changes they were experiencing.

The July poll shows that the US still has a reservoir of good will to draw on with one-half of Egyptians still viewing relations with the US as important. But with most Egyptians feeling that the US doesn't understand their society or their needs, the US ought not to squander its potential by attempting to impose itself and dictating terms in the internal affairs of Egypt.

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