WaPo's Birnbaum: 'Only 31 Percent' of Egyptians 'Sympathize with Fundamentalists,' 75 Percent Like Muslim Brotherhood

A new poll finds one out of 10 Egyptians are sympathetic to Islamic "fundamentalists," 75 percent have a positive view of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 79 percent have a "very" or "somewhat unfavorable" view of the United States.

But Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum seems to portray this data as of little concern (emphasis mine):

CAIRO — Egyptians are deeply skeptical about the United States and its role in their country, but they are also divided in their attitudes about Islamic fundamentalists, according a poll released Monday by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.


Most Egyptians distrust the United States and want to renegotiate their peace treaty with Israel, the poll found. But only 31 percent say they sympathize with fundamentalists, while 30 percent say they sympathize with those who disagree with fundamentalists. An additional 26 percent said they had mixed views.


The poll is the first comprehensive look at attitudes of Egyptians since protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to end his 30-year reign in February. The numbers reveal a society that overwhelmingly agrees that Mubarak was bad for the country but is divided about what the future should look like.


Although 75 percent were positive about the Muslim Brotherhood, which was officially banned under Mubarak and is now the strongest political organization in the country, almost as many — 70 percent — felt positively about the youth-based April 6 movement that was mostly secular and was one of the key organizers of the protests.

When you do the math that's a solid majority (56%) who have at least some sympathy with "fundamentalists" and a supermajority who would have no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood having a stake in the nation's new government.

Of course, the news gets worse for President Obama.

Although the media have long hailed Obama as a statesman who would bring respect from foreign countries alienated by the Bush presidency, it appears he's having a net negative effect on the views of everyday Egyptians:

The poll found that 39 percent of Egyptians believe the U.S. response to the upheaval in Egypt was negative, almost double the 22 percent who said it was positive. But many Egyptians — 35 percent — said that the U.S. impact on what happened in Egypt was neither positive nor negative, suggesting that, to them, the United States might not have had much to do with the situation either way.


The United States initially struggled to adopt the right tone toward the protests, at times sending conflicting messages about how quickly Mubarak, its longtime ally, needed to step down, while consistently saying that the decision was in the hands of Egyptians.


Egyptian attitudes toward the United States more generally stayed about the same between 2010 and 2011 — with just 20 percent holding a favorable opinion of the United States this year, an increase of three percentage points from 2010, and 79 percent holding an unfavorable opinion, a decrease of three percentage points.


More Egyptians — 64 percent — said they had low or no confidence in President Obama in 2011 than they did last year, up five percentage points.

Birnbaum's story ran on page A8 of today's Washington Post.

Foreign Policy Africa Egypt Middle East Obama Watch Michael Birnbaum