Poll: Obama has public's support on his handling of Egypt

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceFebruary 8, 2011 

A majority of Americans say the Obama administration is handling the political crisis in Egypt about right, though Republicans are less likely than Democrats or independents to give the president high marks, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The poll, conducted Wednesday through Monday, also shows that Americans are split over how the Egypt protests will affect the United States. A majority, 58 percent, said the protests will not have much of an effect. Of those who believe there will be an impact, those thinking it will be negative outweighed the positives, 28 percent to 15 percent.

The poll is based on interviews with 1,385 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Protesters have clogged Cairo's Tahrir Square since Jan. 25, calling on President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Mubarak, who has been in power for almost 30 years, has refused; he has said he will not seek re-election in September, a concession that has not mollified the demonstrators.

The Obama administration's public response has gradually shifted from neutrality to sending signals that democratic reforms should begin immediately and that Mubarak has no place in that process. Last week, President Barack Obama publicly talked tough, but he stopped short of calling on Mubarak to immediately step down.

Over the weekend, the administration signaled it supported talks among the protest groups and newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, who has urged demonstrators to leave Tahrir Square and has called for stability in the reform process.

According to the poll, 57 percent of the respondents said the Obama administration is handling the situation in Egypt about right. About 12 percent said the administration has shown too much support for the protesters, while the same number said the administration had shown too little.

Politically, 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents said the administration is doing well. Just 43 percent of Republicans gave the administration a positive rating; 19 percent of Republicans said the administration was showing too much favor for demonstrators and 15 percent said too little.

Republicans and independents are more likely than Democrats to say the Egyptian protests will end up having a negative impact on the United States. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said the protests will have a negative effect, more than four times the 8 percent who said it will have a positive impact. Among independents, 28 percent said the protests will have a negative impact and 14 percent said it would be positive. Democrats split evenly at 21 percent.

Despite the media saturation on the issue, about 52 percent said they have heard little or nothing about the situation in Egypt, while 48 percent said they have heard a lot.

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