Pew: U.S. Voter Pessimism on New Middle East

Oct 22, 2012

            The Pew Research Center conducted a poll on the U.S. public‘s views on the Middle East in early October. The public is increasingly pessimistic about regional developments following the Arab uprisings. In April 2011, 42 percent of Americans thought changes in leadership would “lead to lasting improvements for people” in countries like Egypt and Libya. But in October 2012, only 25 percent still believe there will be lasting improvements.The results were released prior to the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Overall the poll found little difference in opinion between Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  The majority of Americans, 54 percent, say it is “more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy in the region.” The following are excerpts from the poll.

            Doubts have spread about the political direction of countries swept up in the Arab Spring protests that began almost two years ago. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) do not believe the changes in the Middle East will lead to lasting improvements for people living in the affected countries, up sharply from 43% in April 2011.

            And a majority of Americans (54%) continue to say it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy in the region. Just 30% say democratic governments are more important, even if there is less stability.


            There is little partisan difference on this question; both Republicans and Democrats place a higher priority on stability. Independents also prioritize stability over democracy in the Middle East (62% vs. 27%).

            While there is no public consensus on how changes in the Middle East are likely to affect the United States, few think the effects will be positive. Just 14% believe the leadership transitions in the region will be good for the United States, down from 24% in April 2011. More than twice as many (36%) say these changes will be bad for the United States, while 38% say they will have little effect.

Public Favors Less U.S. Involvement in Region

            More than six-in-ten (63%) say they think the U.S. should be less involved with changes of leadership in the Middle East, compared with just 23% who say the U.S. should be more involved. Although Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to favor greater involvement, just 34% of Republicans advocate this (compared with 20% of Democrats and 19% of independents).

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The Islamists Are Coming is the first book to survey the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties.  They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.

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