Egyptians more optimistic, adamant on political participation, says poll

Safaa Abdoun
8 Min Read

CAIRO: Nine out of 10 Egyptians survey in a recent poll plan on voting in the upcoming elections, with no political party or entity garnering more than 15 percent of public support.

The Muslim Brotherhood won over the support of 15 percent of the respondents of the study released by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center on Sunday. Ten percent of the respondents supported the now disbanded National Democratic Party took 10 percent.

Eighty-eight percent of Egyptians stated in the report that the are likely to continue living in the country, in comparison to 75 percent of the respondents in the Fall of 2010.

“Stay and make things better and participate in political system … Compared to before the revolution, Egyptians, even though they were the highest in democratic aspirations, they were the lowest in the practice of democracy. Now their intentions and actions are reflecting their aspirations,” Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center and Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, told Daily News Egypt.

Building on George Gallup’s saying “If democracy is about the will of the people, shouldn’t someone find out what that will is?” and in response to the “pivotal” period in the history of Egypt, the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center for Muslim Studies started tracking this transitional period monthly to contribute to the historic documentation of a post revolution period as its happening.

It aims at “helping this process by giving policy makers a window into the people’s heads, wants, hopes and aspirations,” Mogahed said.

Mogahed, along with CEO of the Gallup Organization, Jim Clifton, and Ghassan Khoury, partner with Gallup and the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, launched in Cairo Sunday the latest study titled “Egypt from Tahrir to Transition.”

The study is the second to be released after the January 25 Revolution. The first was “The Arithmetic of Revolution” which reported the underlying conditions that led to the 18-day uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak out of office.

Between the “Arithmetic of a Revolution” and the new report, Mogahed found that the key difference in Egypt is their optimism.

“Before the revolution … [people were] dissatisfied with their current conditions and their outlook on the future was very negative; now their lives are [still hard], perhaps harder but their outlook for the future is much brighter,” she explained.

In addition to optimism, Egyptians also expect themselves to take part in shaping the country’s future. One way is their desire to stay in Egypt. “[This] is an indicator that they expect to have a role to play in building of the new Egypt,” Mogahed noted.

“After the revolution, even though the satisfaction with the standard of living went further down, the desire to stay in [the country] went up. So people’s confidence, optimism and national pride surged after the revolution,” she explained.

The analysis in the report is based on Gallup’s surveys and interviews, before and after the revolution, with Egyptians over 15-years-old, males and females, educated and illiterate in both urban and rural areas. It also makes a comparison with the image of Egyptians reflected in the media, which Mogahed found it “in some way similar but in an important way different.”

“The media in Egypt is portraying that most people supported he revolution,” she said. For example, the radio is always playing patriotic songs and commercials are building on the national pride.

“This reflection of the population’s support of the revolution, is an accurate portrayal of Egyptians as 83 percent supported the uprising,” Mogahed stated.

On the other hand, where the media is perhaps less accurate according to Mogahed is in portraying intolerant sectarian tensions. “Not to say tensions and problems don’t exist, but according to the representative sample, Egyptians are the second most welcoming to people with other faith in the whole region,” she said, adding that Egypt comes after Lebanon, 67 percent, compared to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, 19 percent, and Israel, 23 percent.

The media reflects the opinions of a “vocal minority” meanwhile the majority look to others in a welcoming way, she noted.

The key findings of “Egypt from Tahrir to Transition”, according to Mogahed, are that Egyptians expect a bright political and economic future for their country and appear committed to working for it. They envision a representative government where religious principles guide the democratic process, but with clerics limited to an advisory role.

No other population Galllup surveyed rejected attacks on civilians more than Egyptians, whose faith in peaceful means of change had only increased since unarmed protestors brought down the country’s president of 30 years.

The report also outlined the challenges during this period, which Mogahed said include how Egyptians are less satisfied with their standard of living and the availability of necessities such as quality healthcare, good affordable housing and jobs. They feel their communities have become less safe and less tolerant and many no longer trust the police.

Perception of US aid
Regarding Egyptian-US relation, the report found that the most important thing the US can do to support Egypt in its transition to democracy is to protect its ally’s political independence by standing for principles not political parties or people.

“The space the US occupies in the mind of Egyptians has shrunk. More and more Egyptians are looking at themselves for answers and looking at the US to step away, as most don’t trust the intentions of the US and don’t want democracy promotion as a way to help Egypt,” Mogahed explained.

She cited the report which stated that Egyptians overwhelmingly oppose the US sending aid to political groups in their country; this is especially the case among those who look to America as a political example. “[This] implies that the rejection of US aid for political groups, not out of hate but for the desire of self determination,” she explained.

When asked whether Egyptians were placing a responsibility on the United States in terms of helping out with the economy during the transitional period, Mogahed replied saying “Yes and no.”

“Yes, they do look to the United States to restructure debt and return assets of the former regime back to the people. And no, they do not want economic aid or political aid; they are mostly against aid of all kinds, especially to political groups.”


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