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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: