WASHINGTON -- Beyond the headlines and YouTube videos of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square, there are more than 80 million Egyptian citizens whose attitudes suddenly matter a great deal. Do they support or oppose the Muslim Brotherhood? Who would win a truly free Egyptian presidential election? Do Egyptians want to tear up their peace treaty with Israel, or to uphold it?
To answer these and other crucial questions, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is pleased to release the first-ever reliable public opinion poll of Egyptians on these issues, taken by telephone in the midst of the current political upheaval. The results provide an eye-opening and unprecedented perspective on how the Egyptian public -- rather than the pundits and the politicians -- is reacting to these remarkable and historic events.
The poll was conducted by a professional, Egyptian-led field team supervised by Pechter Middle East Polls, a respected independent polling company based in Princeton, New Jersey. Dr. David Pollock, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute and former chief of Near East/South Asia research at the U.S. Information Agency and Department of State, directed the project.
The results of the poll are taken from nearly 350 interviews selected by random-digit dialing of both landline and cell phones in Cairo and Alexandria -- a sample large enough to be representative of the entire population of Egypt's two major metropolises -- with an approximately 6 percent margin of error. The interviews were conducted from Saturday, February 5 through Tuesday, February 8, 2011.
The following is Dr. Pollock's summary of the poll's key findings:
1. This is not an Islamic uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood is approved by just 15 percent of Egyptians -- and its leaders get barely 1 percent of the vote in a presidential straw poll. Asked to pick national priorities, only 12 percent of Egyptians choose sharia (Islamic law) over Egypt's regional leadership, democracy, or economic development. And, when asked to explain the uprising, the issues of economic conditions, corruption, and unemployment (around 30 percent each) far outpace the concern that "the regime is not Islamic enough" (only 7 percent).
2. Surprisingly, when asked two different ways about the peace treaty with Israel, more support it (37 percent) than oppose it (27 percent) -- although around a third say they "don't know" or refuse to answer this question. Only 18 percent of Egyptians approve either Hamas or Iran. And a mere 5 percent say the uprising occurred because their government is "too pro-Israel."
3. Even more surprisingly, opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has very little popular support -- just 3 percent -- in a presidential straw vote. He is far outpaced by former foreign minister and current Arab League secretary-general Amr Mousa, who gets 25 percent. But President Mubarak and his new vice president, General Omar Suleiman, each garner 16-17 percent of support in this poll.
4. As for Egyptian views of America, a narrow plurality (36 percent vs. 27 percent) say Egypt should have good relations with the United States. And only a small minority (8 percent) say the current uprising is against a "too pro-American" regime. Nevertheless, half or more of the Egyptian public disapprove of how Washington has handled this crisis so far, saying that they do not trust the United States at all.
The polling continues, and results will be updated in coming days as new developments occur in the unfolding Egyptian drama. Further details and additional analysis by Dr. Pollock will also be available shortly, in both English and Arabic, at www.washingtoninstitute.org.
About the Washington Institute
The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution that advances a balanced and realistic understanding of U.S. interest in the broader Middle East. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.