Poll Finds Deep Skepticism of U.S. in Egypt

Jun 7, 2011 6:48pm

ABC News' Sarah Burke reports:

A new survey by the Gallup Organization of public opinion in Egypt found deep-seated skepticism about American meddling and aid for Egyptian political parties.

According to the report, 52 percent of Egyptians are likely to oppose any US aid to Egypt, and 75 percent oppose the provision of U.S. aid to political groups in their country.  Even among those Egyptians who see the US as a political model for their country’s future, a staggering 88 percent oppose any US aid to political groups.  A total of more than $1.3 billion in aid is sent from the US to Egypt every year.

“I expected it to be negative, but I didn’t expect there to be an overwhelming tsunami of negative opinions,” said Mohamed Younis, Senior Analyst with the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, who presented the results to reporters in Washington.  The survey, “From Tahrir to Transition,” is the latest Gallup report on Egyptian public opinion since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

“I think it’s a very healthy reaction to the past 30 years,” said Younis, who argued that Egyptians have long perceived US aid to be the reason why Egypt can’t make its own decisions politically, and why Egyptian “aspirations and desires on the ground are not reflected in the way the country is governed.”  Two-thirds of respondents in the survey said their opinion of the US leadership would significantly improve if the US would pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories.

Opposition to U.S.  involvement does not correspond with support for the political and religious extremism that might concern U.S. policy makers, however. The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, achieved recognition as a political party in Egypt yesterday, but only 15% of the Egyptian public is likely to support them, according to Gallup’s face-to-face survey of 1000 people aged 15 years and older, conducted in Egypt between late March and early April.

Despite popular opposition to US aid and some aspects of American policy in the Middle East, only 1% of Egyptians are likely to cite Iran as a political model for the new Egypt.  The report shows a moderate and hopeful Egyptian public, 79% of which has faith in the effectiveness of peaceful means of correcting injustice, and 67% of which is likely to be welcoming of a neighbor of another religion.  Egypt ranks second only to Lebanon in the whole region for readiness to welcome religious diversity.

Egyptians are considerably more optimistic about their future than at any time in recent years.  Since the revolution 88% Egyptians say they are likely to continue living in Egypt – up from 75% in the fall of 2010 – revealing a stronger public commitment to their country since long before the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.

Even with a fairly stern review of US policies in the region, the Egyptian people appear hopeful for a bright future. “They are demanding many of the values that we as Americans favor very highly,” says Mr. Younis, himself an Egyptian-American, “What they are asking for cannot be more parallel to what American values represent.”

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