CAIRO: Contrary to commonly held beliefs, Facebook, Twitter and the internet played a negligible role in delivering information to Egyptians on the events of the January 25 protests.
According to a public opinion poll released this week by the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI), only 6 percent of respondents said that their most relied upon source for information concerning the events of January 25 came from Facebook, 2 percent said internet news sites, and less than 1 percent said Twitter.
Instead, the poll, which according to the IRI “marks one of the first major releases of public opinion research in Egypt since the departure of Hosni Mubarak,” showed that the vast majority of respondents, 84 percent, acquired their information from TV.
The poll also found that the majority of respondents, 64 percent, participated in the January 25 protests because of “low living standards and lack of jobs.” According to the results, only 19 percent participated because of a “lack of democracy and political reform,” 6 percent took part because of the “recent events in Tunisia,” and another 6 percent because they were “encouraged by friends and family.”
With regards to the timing of the upcoming parliamentary elections, which remains a controversial topic in Egypt with some political factions arguing that elections should be postponed in order to afford budding parties time to develop, the IRI found that, “76 percent [of the respondents] feel the election should be held in September or sooner.”
Another interesting finding from the survey was that 65 percent of respondents said they still don’t know which political party they would vote for if the parliamentary elections were held next week. Of the remaining respondents, 6 percent said they would vote for independents, 6 percent for the Wafd Party, 4 percent for the National Party, while another 4 percent refused to answer, 3 percent said they would vote for Al-Islah wal Tanmia (Reform and Development), and 2 percent for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The IRI also found that respondents rated unemployment (37 percent), security (21 percent) and corruption (11 percent) as the top three issues facing Egypt.
While 89 percent of those surveyed felt that things in Egypt were “going in the right direction,” 81 percent rated the economy as doing poorly and 78 percent felt that security has gotten worse in the last year.
Despite the gloomy outlook on the current economic situation, the IRI poll showcased Egyptians’ optimism in the future, with 80 percent expecting their “personal financial situation to improve over the next year and only 13 percent [expecting] it to get worse.”
Respondents also appeared content with regards to government corruption, with 53 percent citing improvements in the last year, compared to only 25 percent feeling that things have gotten worse.
In addition to improvements in corruption, political reform was also voted as one of the most improved areas in the last year in Egypt, with 49 percent believing that there have been improvements, compared to only 29 percent citing decline.
With the overall positive dispositions towards political reform and government corruption, it’s no surprise that Egyptians are “confident [that] the current government is able to address the main issues facing Egypt today.” According to the IRI poll, 77 percent of the respondents said that they are confident in the current government (39 percent very confident, 38 percent somewhat confident), and only 21 percent are not confident (13 percent not very confident, 8 percent not confident at all).
The survey was conducted from April 14–27 of this year, and was based on 1,200 interviews across a geographic and demographic distribution that “conforms to the most recent generally accepted official statistics [of Egypt] available.”