Poll: Egypt optimistic but worried about jobs

Two new surveys find Egyptians optimistic about their political future but worried about the economy and crime.

    Up to 83 per cent of Egyptians said they support the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, one poll found [Reuters]

    Egyptians are more optimistic about the overall direction of their country since former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, but they are also increasingly worried about the economy and crime, according to two new polls released on Sunday.

    One of the polls was conducted by Gallup in late March and early April; the other was carried out in mid-April by the International Republican Institute.

    The two polls found broadly similar results: 89 per cent of Egyptians told IRI their country was moving in the right direction, for example, and the Gallup poll found markedly increased public confidence and 83 per cent support for the protesters who overthrew Mubarak.

    But a majority of Egyptians say the economic situation is getting worse, and nearly half say they’re having trouble feeding their families and affording basic essentials.

    Little support for politicians

    The revolution has clearly created high expectations among Egyptians. 90 per cent told Gallup that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be "fair and honest", for instance, a remarkably optimistic statement in a country where ballots have been rigged for decades. 79 per cent said the media now will be able to report freely.

    Egyptians are excited about the parliamentary election scheduled for September, both polls found, with more than 90 per cent planning to vote. One in four respondents told IRI they want the date of the election moved up.

    Neither poll found much enthusiasm for Egypt’s established political parties, though. The Muslim Brotherhood received just 15 per cent support in Gallup’s poll - scarcely more than the remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which received 10 per cent. Other opposition parties received single-digit support.

    The IRI poll asked respondents who they would vote for in a parliamentary election. 65 per cent said they didn't know; the second most popular answer was "independents". Only 14 per cent said they would support an established party in the upcoming vote.

    Pessimism on the economy

    The Egyptian economy has largely gone into free-fall since January. Egyptian officials expect the economy to grow by just 1 per cent this year, compared to more than 5 per cent in 2010. Tourism revenue - Egypt’s second-largest source of foreign currency - has dropped by nearly 50 per cent. Many factories have been paralysed by ongoing strikes, and exports have fallen markedly.

    Against that backdrop, 53 per cent of Egyptians told Gallup that economic conditions are getting worse, compared to just 25 per cent who held that view in 2010. Eighty-one per cent rated this as a "bad time to find a job".

    The IRI poll found even more pessimistic results: 49 per cent described the economic situation in Egypt as "very bad", and 32 per cent as "somewhat bad". 41 per cent of respondents said they had trouble "feeding myself and my family".

    Thirty-seven per cent said unemployment was the biggest problem facing Egypt; "wages and salaries" and "poverty" were also popular answers.

    The quality of some basic services also seems to have declined since the revolution, Gallup found. Thirty-six per cent of respondents said they had access to quality health care, down from 54 per cent last year.

    The stagnant economy, coupled with the virtual absence of police on the streets, has made crime an increasing problem. 39 per cent of Egyptians told Gallup they do not feel safe walking alone at night, and crime ranked as the second-biggest problem facing the country in IRI’s poll.

    No support from the US

    Neither poll focused much on foreign policy, but Gallup’s poll included several questions about Egyptian attitudes towards the United States.

    The survey found that roughly two-thirds of Egyptians "disagree that the US is serious about encouraging democratic systems of government" in the region. Sixty-eight per cent think the US will try to "exert direct influence" over Egypt's political future.

    Cynicism about American motives is well-founded, of course, given Washington’s decades-long support for the Mubarak regime.

    And that history has made many Egyptians reluctant to accept any assistance from the US, Gallup found. 52 per cent of respondents are opposed to accepting economic aid from the US, in spite of the current economic conditions, and 75 per cent oppose American aid to political groups. (US president Barack Obama recently announced $1bn in debt relief for Egypt, and another $1bn in loan guarantees.)


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