Inside Egypt: Recent Gallup Poll Results


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We have all been captivated by the hope, strength, and commitment to democracy of participants in the Arab Spring. I’ve also long been a “fan” of Egypt, studying Arabic for two years while living in Tokyo, in hopes of relocating to that country (hasn’t happened yet). Thus, I was excited recently to be able to hear Mohamed Younis speak about Gallup’s research in Egypt.

Over the past decade I seem to quote more and more from Pew Research, so I was very happy to see that Gallup has made a major commitment to conduct 100% self-funded, independent polls regularly in 140 countries. This should provide invaluable data for the intercultural field.

The research on Egyptians’ opinions that Mohamed presented had been conducted just after the parliamentary elections, in December 2011. The top findings he shared with us included:
  • Despite recent challenges in the country’s transition, Egyptians are still optimistic that Mubarak’s overthrow will improve their lives.
  • There is overwhelming confidence in the transparency of the upcoming presidential elections and in participation — 86% of those polled plan to vote in the presidential election.
  • Most Egyptians believe SCAF will hand over power to a civilian government after the presidential elections.
  • Islamists and Liberals very much agree on the issues of most immediate concern for Egyptian households, including women’s rights and economic priorities such as inflation and jobs.
 Some other interesting statistics from the polling:
  • 63% of the Egyptians polled felt that protests and revolts in their country have been the result of an indigenous desire for change. Mohamed said he felt this reflected a “hyper-nationalism” and “hyper-distrust” of foreign intervention, which he said can also be seen in the fact that 46% of the Egyptians polled opposed NATO intervention in Libya (compared to just 18% who were in favor).
  • Our group of listeners was largely US American, so Mohamed shared that 41% of the Egyptians polled said closer relations between Egypt and the US would be a good thing. 40% said it would be a bad thing, for a fairly even split on the issue. His interpretation is that this split is closely related to the fact that 73% of the Egyptians they polled do not feel that the USA is genuine in supporting democracy (rather they support their allies and economic interests).
  • When asked “If drafting a constitution for a new country, which rights should be included?” the vast majority of those polled cited freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and women’s rights (ahead of others in the region). The people of Egypt are definitely envisioning a representative government.

During questions and answers, Mohamed told us how some of the Islamist parties had won seats because they had bankrolled local services such as providing burial services or pilgrimages to Mecca for those who couldn’t afford them. He did not feel the rise of these parties reflected a rise in Islamism per se, and definitely not in the desire for a theocracy.

When asked what foreign governments could do to support Egypt, the clear response was: trade not aid, due to the rising sense of independence, nationalism and regionalism he perceives.

Mohamed also talked about the need for education around democracy, and the fact that an overthrow of Mubarak is not in itself going to create jobs. He said many young Egyptians expect a government job, with high salary and a pension, but with 80 million people and much poverty, they can not expect what young people in Saudi might be able to expect.

When asked about the high price of gas sales to the Sinai, and the fact that many Egyptians blame the Camp David Accords, Mohamed responded that even though this has nothing to do with the peace accords, they are nonetheless blamed. Most Egyptians have no interest in re-engaging Israel.

When asked about security for the Coptic church, Mohamed reiterated that most Egyptians very much respect religious diversity, and that the decision to protect churches was not a government mandate but rather an organic, people-led effort.

If you’re interested in hearing Mohamed present the Gallup findings, they do have a video posted and you can also find a download of his slides. He mentioned there was also audio available on iTunes.

Please note that any errors in my report of the data and Mohamed’s comments are no doubt my own.

Other Gallup reports on related subjects available online:

5 thoughts on “Inside Egypt: Recent Gallup Poll Results

  1. I don’t know if you’ve also seen the important gallup study “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think” It is excellent research and spans 35 Muslim majority nations. It has been turned into a book and has some surprising results for those in the west who are unfamiliar with the area and very familiar with U.S. media. Thank you for this post. We were back in Egypt in December and it was a great time to talk with people and hear what Egyptians on the ground are thinking.

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  2. Thank you very much for sharing this additional resource, Marilyn. Sounds terrific. I am so happy to see Gallup conducting this kind of regular polling; I trust more organizations worldwide will engage in such practices, as it seems to me a sound counter-balance to the misinformation so many of us so frequently receive. Your blog looks very interesting as well. Quite the global nomad/Blended Culture person you are! Thank you for joining us here! Look forward to getting to know you better.

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  3. [In response to CD tweet of:

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/10/zakaria-explaining-the-arab-worlds-democracy-deficit/%5D

    Although freedom of press is wonderful, some reporters write rather opinion pieces – which anyone is free to write – and blend them in with some facts; yet this one also has incorrect statements. I think the Arab world deserves justice in the media, and the obvious lack thereof moves me to write this.
    The people in the Arab world are perfectly capable themselves to decide how they want to run their countries – they do not need anyone telling them what is best for them; outside interference has caused a lot of problems in the Arab world – and elsewhere – and it is one of the Arab world’s grievances which they have repeatedly and justifiably stated.

    Fareed Zakaria states:
    “As Egypt’s election campaign gathers pace, we are seeing the rise of candidates from Islamic parties, one more radical than the next. Across the Arab world, the promise of a new birth of freedom has been followed by a much messier reality.”
    Not all Islamic parties are necessarily radical; it has been widely reported straight from the Arab world that the people are feeling oppressed by dictators – who have no close alliances with religious leaders – of secular states, who often ban Islamic parties from being involved in politics.

    Fareed Zakaria also states:
    “It raises the question in many people’s minds: Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?”
    Well, they are working on it, but this reporter appears to disagree with how they are going about it.

    The people asked for freedom; the ability to have control over who runs their countries. This is democracy. Yet some of the aforementioned Islamic parties are now democratically elected by the people – this makes these statements by Fareed Zakarias entirely fallacious. Of course the people in this world do not want radical oppression – yet these statements here are insinuating enforced democracy in ways some of the western world demands is the only acceptable form of government for the Arab world. This would be contradictory in itself.

    Democracy is necessary, but not necessarily Democratic governments.
    [“A democracy can not exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” “Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.” “Many dictatorships have been followed by a monarchy.” {See: http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html }]

    Throughout human history, people have chosen leaders to guide and direct them. Culturally the Arab world has historically functioned this way – on a much smaller scale as well with tribal leaders, some who later on became leaders of countries – and quite often with positive results. And there are many forms of government. In a Republic the government is officially apportioned to the control of the people. And keep in mind certain full-blown ‘democracies’ are not doing so good in this world at the moment.

    Perhaps let the people of the Arab world decide for themselves what forms of government – with democracy implemented – they see fit.

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  4. Emerald, thank you so much for taking the time to weave together the Tweet we sent out of the Zakaria post, with this blog post about Gallup’s research on Egypt. You are so kind. It is key to understand cultures in context, and you help us to put some of what Zakaria says into context. In my reading, it sounds like what you are saying dovetails quite well with the key findings of the Gallup research. Would you agree with that, or am I missing something? Thank you for so generously sharing!

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    • Dianne, you are quite correct; it dovetails very well with what I stated. Although I am not on site in the Arab world – yet – I have been following Arab & Muslim world affairs for a long time; there are quite a few people – such as this researcher Mohamed – who have a great amount of understanding and inside knowledge about what is truly going on in the region; unfortunately it takes some of us weeding through the ignorance spread by often singleminded reporters who – at times well-meaning – apply some of what they hear and perceive to a western background, thereby giving distorted views of a unique and in many ways very beautiful part of this world.

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