Via Scoblete, I see that WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) has a poll on Egyptian public opinion. It has several interesting results. Everyone is very excited to point out the relatively low level of support for the Muslim Brotherhood (15% favorability), and I’ll talk about that in a minute, but what I found more interesting is that a combined 33% of Cairo and Alexandria respondents expressed a preference for Mubarak or Suleiman as president. Obviously, that’s not a majority, but put together that is still a large constituency apparently in favor of some form of continuity with the old regime and/or the status quo. Amr Moussa receives 26%. Perhaps this is because of name recognition and stature as head of the Arab League, but Moussa has been in Mubarak’s cabinet in the past and hardly represents a sharp break the old system. All together, that’s 59% favoring one of the old fixtures of the system, and another 33% don’t know or refuse to answer.
Perhaps most important is the Egyptian assessment of the reasons for the protests. Economic conditions, corruption, unemployment, and poor delivery of basic services top the list and make up a combined 65% of the “first most important reason” category, and they make up 51% of the “second most important reason” category. (Multiple responses were allowed.) This is overwhelmingly a protest about lack of opportunity and economic conditions. For just 3%, “political repression/no democracy” was the first most important reason, and the second most important for another 6%. About one in ten of urban Egyptian respondents sees these protests primarily in the terms that virtually everyone in the West sees them. Just 6% cite abuses by the security services, and another 6% cite the issue of succession. I’d be interested to hear from democracy promotion fans how exactly the U.S. could have been changing poor economic conditions in Egypt by insisting on free elections.
The 15% favorable/52% unfavorable rating for the Muslim Brotherhood is important to note, but it’s also worth observing that this is a poll of Cairo and Alexandria residents. Assuming that it is an accurate reflection of the views of residents of those cities, that leaves a lot of Egyptians completely unrepresented in the results. Cairo and Alexandria residents are probably more secular and more hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood than Egyptians outside the major cities. Were there a more comprehensive, nationwide poll that reflected the views of the entire population instead of a sample with a heavy urban bias, we might be seeing significantly different results.
Update: WorldPublicOpinion.org polled Egyptians in the summer of 2009. It’s worth a look to see how its results compare with WINEP’s more recent survey. On the Muslim Brotherhood, WINEP and WPO polls have almost reversed results. In a survey of 600 urban Egyptians from Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, and Subra, WPO found that 29% had “very positive feelings” about the Muslim Brotherhood, and another 35% with “somewhat positive feelings.” It’s entirely possible that the Muslim Brotherhood has lost a lot of support in the last two years, but is it likely that the group went from having a net 64% “positive feelings” result to a 52% unfavorable rating? Is it likely that opposition to the Brotherhood more than tripled from the 16% who expressed “negative feelings” in the WPO poll to the 52% that had an unfavorable view of the group in the WINEP poll?
Furthermore, according to WPO’s poll, 56% said that the Muslim Brotherhood “has found an acceptable way to blend Islamism and democracy.” 60% reportedly believe the government in Egypt “should be based on a form of democracy that is unique for Islamic countries.” As Mark Mellman noted in a column Tuesday, 75% of respondents agreed that “there should be a body of senior religious scholars that has the power to overturn laws when it believes they are contrary to the Quran.” 26% said that a non-Muslim should not be allowed to run for public office, and 34% said a non-Muslim should not be allowed to run for president. Perhaps the WPO results overstate some of these things, but it would seem to be the more representative poll of the two.
Second Update: It occurs to me that the WINEP poll result for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate mentioned in the presidential poll, Muhammad Badi, is potentially misleading. The pollster makes a point of emphasizing the Muslim Brotherhood’s poor showing in the presidential poll (at less than 1%), but the Brotherhood has specifically ruled out running a candidate in the next presidential election. Badi’s likely supporters may know this, and so they wouldn’t volunteer support for a candidacy that they know won’t materialize. Then again, maybe his name recognition is terrible, or perhaps his support really is that low. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t assume we can glean very much from this poll.