August 19, 2013

Public Backs Cutoff of Military Aid to Egypt

50% Say Obama’s Reponse to Violence Is ‘Not Tough Enough’

Overview

With violence continuing to rage in Egypt, 51% of Americans say it is better for the United States to cut off military aid to Egypt to put pressure on the government. This is nearly double the percentage (26%) saying it is better to continue military aid to the government in order to maintain influence in Egypt.

Better Approach for the US toward EgyptThe new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug.15-18 among 1,000 adults, finds that half of the public (50%) says that Barack Obama has not been tough enough toward the Egyptian military in responding to the violence against anti-government protesters; just 6% say he has been too tough. However, a sizable minority volunteers that Obama’s response has been about right (12%) or offers no response (32%).

Half See Obama as Not Tough EnoughWhile the public favors cutting off U.S. aid to the Egyptian government, the country’s military is widely seen as better leaders for Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood: 45% say the military could provide better leadership compared with 11% who say the Muslim Brotherhood. Nearly one-in-five (19%) volunteer than neither side can better lead Egypt, while 25% say they don’t know.

The violence and chaos in Egypt has not attracted much in the way of interest among the U.S. public. Just 22% say they are following news about violence in Egypt very closely, while another 29% are following events there fairly closely. About half of Americans (48%) say they are following news from Egypt not too closely or not at all closely. A Pew Research Center survey last month found that fewer Americans viewed events in Egypt as critical to U.S. interests than did so in February 2011 during the Arab Spring.

For the most part, there are only modest demographic and partisan differences in opinions about the situation in Egypt. However, Republicans (63%) are more likely than Democrats (47%) or independents (46%) to say that Obama has not been tough enough on the Egyptian military in responding to the violence.

But comparable percentages of Republicans (56%), Democrats (49%) and independents (53%) favor cutting off U.S. military aid to the Egyptian government. About half of Republicans (52%) and Democrats (46%) say the military could provide better leadership for Egypt, as do 42% of independents.

Low Public Interest in Egypt News

Public interest in news about Egypt is higher than it has been in the past few months. But it is farInterest in Egypt News lower than during the Arab Spring two years ago.

In the current survey, 22% say they are following news about political violence in Egypt very closely. In February 2011, when former President Hosni Mubarak resigned after weeks of public protests, 39% were following events in Egpt very closely.

More Republicans (33%) than Democrats (23%) or independents (18%) say they are paying very close atttenion to news about political violence in Egypt. But large shares of all partisan groups (56% of Democrats, 48% of independents and 42% of Republicans) say they are following news about Egypt not too or not at all closely.

Public’s Top Stories

While interest in Egypt’s violent political situation attracted only modest public interest last week, it was the most closely followed news. Interest in Egypt outpaced interest in all other news stories last week; including Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement on policy August News Interestchanges intended to reduce prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders (17% very closely).

The public paid less attention to news about the U.S. stock market (10% very closely) and the U.S. Justice Department suing to block the merger of American Airlines and US Airways (7% very closely) objecting to restrictions on competition.

Earlier in the month, the U.S. government’s decision to temporarily close several embassies in the Middle East and North Africa due to security concerns topped the public’s news interest, with 28% saying they followed that story very closely in a poll conducted Aug. 8-11, 2013. That same week, Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend players over alleged use of performance enhancing drugs attracted the very closely attention of 18% of the public. Interest in the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos (6% very closely) and scientists testing the first lab-grown hamburger (5% very closely) attracted the interest of small percentages of the public.