WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Islamists appear to be losing steam in the lead-up to Egypt's presidential election next week, according to recent Gallup surveys. Less than half of Egyptians (42%) polled in April say they support the Muslim Brotherhood, a noticeable decline from 63% who said the same in February. Support for conservative Islamists, often referred to as "Salafis," is also down, but less dramatically.
While support for Islamists skyrocketed in the lead-up to parliamentary elections that followed the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, an opposite trend is unfolding ahead of the country's presidential elections set for May 23-24. Egyptians' support for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) -- the official political party of the decades-old Islamist movement -- fell 24 percentage points to 43% in April after reaching a high of 67% in February 2012. Support for the Salafi Nour Party is now at 30%, receding to late 2011 levels after a surge in early 2012.
Egyptians also seem less comfortable with parliament, now heavily stacked with FJP and Nour members, exerting primary control over writing the constitution. In the aftermath of the judicial suspension of Egypt's first Constituent Assembly, the assembled committee that was tasked with drafting the country's new constitution, 44% of Egyptians in April say the party with the most seats in parliament should choose those who will write the new constitution. While still considerable, this rate is a shadow of the support Egyptians expressed just weeks before (62%).
Egyptians are also less comfortable now than they were in February with the party with the most seats in parliament appointing the country's next prime minister. This is a crucial development because the country's parliament has recently called into question the effectiveness and legitimacy of the interim government headed by Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri.
Additionally, for the first time since September of last year, less than half of Egyptians think it is a "good thing" for the Muslim Brotherhood to hold a strong and influential position in the country's parliament. Nearly as many now think it is a "bad thing" as did so last September. Such a decline is likely a testament to increasing frustration with the parliament's ability to manage the affairs of a country in the throes of a turbulent transition process that has been plagued with bouts of violence and economic decline.
The strong showing of Egypt's various hues of Islamist movements and parties in the parliamentary elections last December surprised many observers and regional experts. While some saw this as a dawn of a new Islamist era for the Arab world's largest nation, others said voters simply chose to support those who they thought could govern with more transparency and competence during the country's rocky transition. The FJP's failure to keep its initial promise of not running a presidential candidate and its over-reach of power in stacking the Constituent Assembly with ideologically friendly figures and members of parliament seems to have eroded many Egyptians' confidence.
Instead of parliament and political leaders in the country focusing on reversing the country's financial decline and working to hold former regime members accountable, Egypt's transition has been wrought with political power grabs and partisan quarrels. Political Islam and the parties and groups that fall into the country's eclectic "Islamist" camp will continue to be major players in Egypt's domestic political market. However, the latest Gallup data suggest that Egyptian support for such movements is conditioned on performance and not a blanket subscription based on ideology.
How these latest sentiments will affect the presidential vote are not clear, as the leading Islamist in the contest, Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, has since broken ranks with the Muslim Brotherhood as he launched his political campaign for president. Still, according to Gallup data, Egyptians view Islamists differently now than they did on the eve of the parliamentary election.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,074 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted April 8-15, 2012, in Egypt. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.
For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
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