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July 1, 2013

Half of all Egyptians see Morsi's election as a setback

Scott Stockdale

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Last month, after polling 5,029 Egyptians nationwide the Washington-based Zogby Research Services has determined that more than half of all Egyptians see president Morsi's election as a setback for Egypt.

One year into the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, not only is the nation divided along ideological and religious lines, but 40% of the population appear to have no confidence in either the government or any of the political parties.

The two main Islamic parties, Morsi’s the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Nour Party appear to have the confidence of just under 30% of all Egyptian adults.

The major opposition groups, the National Salvation Front (NSF) and the April 6th Movement (A6M), combined have a slightly larger support base, claiming the confidence of almost 35% of the adult population.

These three groups define the deep divide that manifests itself on most issues.

For example, more than 90% of those who identify with the Islamic parties say they are “better off” today than they were five years ago, while more than 80% of those associated with the opposition and the “disaffected plurality” claim that they are “worse off.”

And while the overwhelming majority of those associated with the Islamic parties retain hope in the promise of the Arab Spring, the rest of the society now says they are disappointed.

Moreover, virtually the same gap was found between these three groups in response to most of the other questions: support for the constitution; confidence in the Morsi government; the performance of the government in providing economic opportunity and needed services, guaranteeing freedom, and keeping the country safe.

In almost every one of these areas, only about one-quarter of the electorate expressed some degree of approval for the government, with the support for the government coming almost exclusively from those who expressed some confidence in the Islamic parties, and the rest of the population nearly unanimous in their disapproval.

Meanwhile, none of the nine living Egyptian figures covered in the poll (including all those who ran for president and/or who lead important groups in the country), are viewed as credible by more than a third of the electorate, with most seen as credible by only a quarter.

In fact, Bassem Yousef, a popular TV satirist, who was recently charged with insulting the presidency and Islam by the Morsi government, is seen as credible by 60% of all Egyptians.

Despite only claiming minority support, the president and his party now hold most of the levers of executive and legislative decision-making.

In addition, there is growing concern of still more over-reach by the presidency, with a strong majority expressing the concern that “the Muslim Brotherhood intends to Islamize the state and control its executive powers. “

While the majority of Egyptians favour scrapping the constitution and holding immediate parliamentary elections, as a method of moving forward, there is deep division between the Islamic parties and the opposition in response, not only to this proposal, but also to convening “a real national dialogue” as the way to start the process of healing the divide and solving the country’s problems.

The latter proposal, however, achieves near consensus agreement from all the groups.

Although The Silent Disaffected Plurality, which is the largest grouping to emerge from the data, with 1,944 individual respondents, expressed no confidence in any of the four major political groups, their attitudes, in most cases, closely track the attitudes of the organized opposition.

Overall, Egyptians are more than twice as likely to say they are worse off now compared to five years ago (61%), while 28% said they are better off. Dissatisfaction has been increasing significantly in recent years: one-quarter said they were worse off in 2009, 46% said they were worse off in 2011 and currently 61% say they are worse off.

However, those who have confidence in the FJP and Nour Party are overwhelmingly satisfied with the situation today compared to five years ago, (98%) and (90%) respectively.

But more than 80% of respondents who have confidence in the NSF and A6M say they are worse off as compared to five years ago.

In addition, Muslims are more than three times as likely as Christians to see themselves as better off now (30% vs. 9%), with more than eight in ten Christian respondents saying they are worse off (81%).

After the change in government in June 2011, 85% of Egyptians said they expected to be better off in five years. Now, 47% said they expect to be better off in five years, while 34% said they expected to be worse off.

Muslim respondents appeared to be somewhat optimistic with 48% saying they will be better off vs. 33% who think they will be worse off. However, Christian respondents lean the other way, with 43% expecting to be worse off and 34% expecting to be better off.

There is also a significant regional difference in opinion, with pluralities in Upper Egypt (46%) and in agricultural areas (44%) saying they are still hopeful, while just 24% in the major cities and 28% in tourist areas agree.

Especially worrisome is the fact that the number of people who seem to have lost hope has doubled since the election of President Morsi last year.

At that time only 10% of respondents said they are resigned to the fact that nothing will change in Egypt. That figure has now more than doubled to 21%.

One year ago, when Morsi won the presidential election, a majority (57%) said either they saw it as a positive development (22%), or they could respect the result, as it was a democratic election (35%).

Now half of all respondents see Morisi's election as a setback for Egypt and only 28% see it as either positive or tolerable. 

Those with confidence in the FJP and Nour Party overwhelmingly view Morsi's election as either positive (60% and 54%, respectively) or respect the result of the democratic election (38% ), while 67% of opposition party supporters view it as a setback.

Moreover, in the major cities and tourist areas, 58%  think Morisi's election was a setback, while fewer than one in ten respondents in these areas said it was a positive development.

Among Christians, only 5% view Morisi's election as a positive development and another 5% respect the election result, while 64% are concerned that it was a set-back for Egypt. 

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