Yesterday Foreign Policy reported on a public poll in Egypt, conducted in the aftermath of the uprising that ousted former leader Hosni Mubarak. The good news from the polls? President Obama is more than twice as popular as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.
But don’t get too excited; the other news is quite sobering. It turns out Obama’s popularity ratings have never been lower in Egypt, dropping drastically in the three years since his election to office. The numbers are so low in fact, that slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is actually more popular than Obama is — and by a 9 percent margin.
Why are these polls important? Egypt now finds itself at a crucial political juncture. The poll indicates how Egyptians plan to deal with the power vacuum, and exaclty what kind of leader they will elect post-Mubarak. In expressing low approval for Obama, Egyptians may be expressing that they do not care if their future leader is open to diplomacy with the U.S. Furthermore, if Osama bin Laden is receiving high ratings (relative to Obama, at least), it seems friendly relations with Israel may not be a priority for Egyptian voters either.
Interestingly, the poll reflects, it is the Egyptian army which enjoys the highest popularity, outdoing even political frontrunners like Amr Moussa and Essam Sharraf. After refusing to fire on demonstrators during the country’s popular uprising, the army can now boast a 90 percent favorability rating among its people.
Perhaps in Egypt, Obama is perceived as having condoned and in a way enabled Mubarak’s rule, eliciting disapproval, whereas the army is seen to have delivered the coup de grace to Mubarak, eliciting high levels of approval. The discrepancy illuminated by the polls begs the question: had Obama handled the uprising differently, could the results have been different?