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Egyptians 'meh' on democracy, 2 years later: Pew poll

A man walks in front of a mural of people killed during Egypt's 2011 uprising, at Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square in Cairo in April. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

The short version of just about every poll taken since the Arab Spring sprang two years ago boils down to the supposedly idiot-proof maxim, "It's the economy, stupid."

But with the Egyptian economy still on its knees amid continuing political uncertainty, a new survey by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project suggests the glum reality now is cutting deeply into the country's enthusiasm for democracy itself.

Barely 30 per cent of Egyptians think the country is headed in the right direction -- and equally, 30 per cent feel they are worse off today than they were under the sclerotic kleptocracy of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, according to the Pew survey, based on 1,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in March.

The findings also suggest "political divisions are growing deeper," with supporters of Islamist parties and the more secular opposition taking increasingly different views of Egypt's key challenges.

The good news? Well, Pew says its new data shows "most Egyptians believe democracy is they best form of government, and they embrace key principals and institutions. For example, majorities describe having a free press and a fair judiciary as very important."

But democracy, thus far, is not seen as working for them the way it should, with 56 per cent of Egyptians dissatisfied with the way it is playing out. And as the unrest continues, the concept of stability, as opposed to one person/one vote, is becoming increasingly popular.

Says Pew: "While more than half continue to say that, if they had to choose, they would prioritize democracy over stability, the percentage favouring stability is on the rise."

Where, then, are Egyptians united? In the dislike of America.

Favourable views of the United States have fallen to 16 per cent. That's lower than the 27 per cent who showed enthusiasm when Barack Obama took office. And "lower even than the 22 per cent who expressed a positive opinion of the U.S. in 2008, President George W. Bush's final year in the White House," says Pew.

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites 


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