Egyptians of all ages, from all walks of life, and parts of the country continue to celebrate the dramatic political changes their nation has undergone. Overwhelmingly, they say it is good that former president Hosni Mubarak is gone. Nearly two-in-three are satisfied with the way things are going in Egypt, and most are optimistic about their country’s future.
This is not to say that many do not remain cautious about the prospects for political change – just 41% say that a free and fair choice in the next election is very likely, while as many (43%) think it is only somewhat likely, and 16% say it is unlikely.
In this new political era, Egyptians are embracing long-standing bases of power, and new ones, as well. The military and its leadership are very well regarded, and the Egyptian public is clearly open to religion-based political parties being part of a future government. Most have a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood, and looking ahead to the elections, it has as much potential support as any of a number of political parties. But other agents of political change are also viewed positively by majorities of Egyptians, including the relatively secular April 6 Movement and political leaders Amr Moussa, Ayman Nour, and Mohamed ElBaradei.
No dividend emerges for the United States from the political changes that have occurred in Egypt. Favorable ratings of the U.S. remain as low as they have been in recent years, and many Egyptians say they want a less close relationship with America. Israel fares even more poorly. By a 54%-to-36% margin, Egyptians want the peace treaty with that country annulled.
These are the principal findings from a nationwide survey of Egypt by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,000 adults in Egypt between March 24 and April 7, 2011. The poll finds Egyptians anxious for democracy and accountable government. When they are asked what has concerned them most about Egypt in recent years, corruption and a lack of democracy top the list.
And support for democracy is clearly on the rise in Egypt. Last year, 60% of Egyptians said that democracy is preferable to any other type of government; today, 71% hold this view. By a 64%-to-34% majority, most say they favor a democratic form of government over a strong leader. Four years ago the public was evenly divided on this basic question about governance. Moreover, 62% want parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible, rather than delaying them to give political parties more time to organize.
Yet, the poll finds that the desire for free multiparty elections co-exists, and potentially competes with, other aspirations. More Egyptians say that improved economic conditions (82%) and a fair judiciary (79%) are very important than say that about honest, multiparty elections (55%). And maintaining law and order is also more highly rated (63%). In that regard, when asked to choose which is more important – a democratic government, even if there is some risk of political instability, or a stable government that is not fully democratic – democracy wins out, but by a narrow 54%-majority; 32% choose stability, and as many as 14% of Egyptians say they are not sure. When a good democracy is tested against a strong economy, it is a 47%-to-49% draw, respectively.
Regarding economic conditions, the survey finds Egyptians somewhat more positive than they were a year ago. About one-third (34%) now rate the economy as good, compared with 20% in 2010; still, most (64%) say economic conditions are bad. But fully 56% think the economy will improve over the next year. Just 25% were optimistic in 2010.
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