Needless to say, as Brookings notes, this is emphatically an anti-Obama vote rather than a pro-Romney one. If even one percent of Egyptian voters are capable of picking Romney out of a line-up, I’d be surprised.
Still, an amusing result. Because I’ll bet you that a huge chunk of those who “prefer” Mitt here do so on the assumption that he’ll be more hostile to Israel than Obama is. Lots of rude awakenings in Cairo happening these days.
Attitudes toward the United States continue to be unfavorable (85%).
Asked to name the two steps by the United States that would improve the views of the US the most, 66% identified brokering Middle East peace and establishing a Palestinian state, 46% identified stopping economic and military aid to Israel, and 44% identified withdrawal of American forces from the Arabian Peninsula. Only seven percent identified withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as one of the two top steps, 12% identified an American push to spread democracy in the Middle East, and 18% identified providing more economic assistance to the region.
Although Egyptians in the past year have been understandably preoccupied with their own political and economic situation and have not been paying as much attention to the American elections as usual, and they probably know less about the republican candidates for president, that has not prevented them from giving their opinions. Presented with a choice between President Obama and likely Republican candidate Mitt Romney, 73% said they preferred Romney, and only 25% chose Obama. It is unlikely that most Egyptians know much about Romney, and the choice is more likely to be an expression of disappointment with Obama. When Obama first came to office in 2009, even before his important speech in Cairo, Egyptian public opinion of the President was more favorable than unfavorable. This contrasted with Israeli public opinion, which was more suspicious of Obama. Since then, there has been a reversal of fortune, where in a poll we conducted in Israel last February, Israeli Jews expressed preference for Obama over all the leading Republican candidates (although his lead over Romney was within the margin of error).
Amazing to think that O was more popular three years ago, when he was still part of the American presidential tradition of propping up Egypt’s oppressor Mubarak, than he is after having helped shove Mubarak towards the exit at the height of the Egyptian revolution. He did that in no small part to stay on the right side of regional popular opinion while the Arab Spring was raging, and look where it’s gotten him. He’s probably suffering here in part because he’s maintained relations with the reviled military junta — a policy which Romney will surely continue — but the bulk of the antipathy, I assume, is due to the fact that he’s inched closer over time to Israel thanks to Iran (and the election). Speaking of which, while 46 percent of Egyptians want to maintain the peace treaty with Israel, 44 percent say it should be canceled and another 10 percent want it amended. When asked who the two biggest threats are to the country, fully 97 percent say Israel; 80 percent also say the United States versus just 20 percent who name the ascendant Shiite power that’s busy trying to build a nuclear trump card with which to intimidate the region’s Sunni nations.
Exit quotation from current Egyptian presidential frontrunner Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, allegedly uttered last year about 9/11: “It was too big an operation …. They [the United States] didn’t bring this crime before the U.S. justice system until now. Why? Because it’s part of a conspiracy.”