Americans Split on Whether Egypt Will Spur Democracy

by Jeffrey M. Jones

No consensus on whether events will help promote peace, aid U.S. anti-terror efforts

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are about evenly divided, 47% to 44%, in their views of whether the recent events in Egypt will result in democracy taking hold in other Middle Eastern countries.

Just your best guess, do you think the recent events in Egypt will or will not result in democracy taking hold in other countries in the Middle East? February 2011

These results are based on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Feb. 14, just days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned in response to weeks of anti-government protests in that country. Egypt is now under temporary military rule while its constitution is being revised, with democratic elections expected later this year.

Protests have spread across other Middle Eastern and North African countries after the protests in Egypt and Tunisia that succeeded in toppling those countries' governments. Whether the protests in other countries will achieve results as dramatic or will ultimately lead to democracy in those nations -- including Egypt and Tunisia -- remains to be seen. But Americans are about as likely to say democracy will take in hold in some countries in the region as to say it will not.

Democrats (53%) are more likely than independents (46%) or Republicans (39%) to believe democracy will take root in other Middle Eastern countries after the events in Egypt.

The poll also finds Americans more likely to believe the changes in Egypt will increase (37%) rather than decrease (22%) the chances for enduring peace in the broader Middle East region. But 28% do not believe the events in Egypt will make a difference; the remaining 14% have no opinion. Democrats are also more optimistic in this regard than are independents or Republicans.

Do you think the changes taking place in Egypt will increase the chances for enduring peace in the Middle East, not make any difference, or will decrease the chances for enduring peace in the Middle East? Among all Americans and by party ID, February 2011

Although Mubarak's regime was autocratic, under his rule the country was an ally of the United States and generally cooperated with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. Now, with the future governance of Egypt uncertain, it is unclear what impact the changes will have on the war on terror, particularly given fears that terrorist groups may try to seize on the instability in the country to expand their strength and influence.

Americans' views on the implications of the situation in Egypt for the war on terror are decidedly mixed. Twenty-eight percent say the changes in Egypt will help U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, while 21% believe the changes will hurt these efforts; 41% expect them not to make a difference.

Do you think the changes in Egypt will help the United States' efforts to fight terrorism, not make any difference, or will hurt the United States' efforts to fight terrorism? Among all Americans and by party ID, February 2011

Although the plurality of all three party groups believe the changes in Egypt will not make a difference in U.S. anti-terror efforts, Democrats are most inclined to believe they will help rather than hurt.

Americans rate the job President Barack Obama is doing of handling the situation much more positively than negatively -- 66% say he is doing a good job, including 16% who say very good. Twenty-eight percent say the president is doing a poor job, including 8% who say very poor.


The recent events in Egypt and Tunisia show that popular uprisings against a government can be effective, at least in terms of toppling an existing regime. Still, it is unclear how democratic the new regimes in Egypt and Tunisia will ultimately be. Although most Americans are probably not highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics, they appear ready to hazard a guess about the implications of the changes taking place in the region.

Americans are about as likely to expect democracy to spread to additional countries in the Middle East as not to spread. They say the recent events in Egypt are more likely to increase rather than decrease the odds of enduring peace in the Middle East, although those who are optimistic remain a minority, given that more say the changes will either decrease the odds of peace or make no difference.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 14, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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