May 22, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Trails In Race For Egypt’s Presidency

Majority of Egyptians Faults Brotherhood Fielding its Own Candidate

As Egypt prepares this week to elect its first president since the 2011 revolution, a new University of Maryland poll finds the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate tied for fourth place. Researchers describe the race as fluid.

The poll confirms the strategic damage inflicted by the Brotherhood's decision to field its own candidate, after saying it would not. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (71 percent) called the decision a "mistake."

The poll also shows Egyptians approaching the race differently from Parliamentary elections, focusing more on personal trust and the economy over party affiliation.

Those surveyed identified personal trustworthiness as the key factor in selecting a presidential candidate (31 percent). In Parliamentary elections, political party was the biggest driver (24 percent).

Islamist moderate, Abd Al-Men'em Abul Fotouh, who broke away from the Brotherhood and is garnering the backing of some of its supporters, leads the way in the poll with 32 percent, followed by former Arab League chief, Amr Mousa at 28 percent, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq with 14 percent.

The Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Morsi, is tied for fourth place with Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi at eight percent.

While the role of religion in politics does not appear to be a significant factor driving potential voters (nine percent), the poll shows widespread support for making Islamic Shari'a law the basis for Egypt's national system (66 percent). However, the overwhelming majority, 83 percent, rejects a literal application of Shari'a law, including to the penal code, and prefers to apply its spirit with adaptation to modern times.

University of Maryland Anwar Sadat Professor Shibley Telhami directed the poll, which was fielded by JZ Analytic between May 4 and May 10. The poll surveyed a nationally representative sample of 772, and has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.6 percent.

"The situation on the ground is changing by the day," says principal investigator Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland political scientist who conducts regular polling across the Middle East. "Morsi's numbers may be deceiving, and it is probable that he'll exceed his low showing in the poll. We know that political machinery is essential in getting out the vote. But the Brotherhood has already lost some of its early advantages."

Telhami adds that predictive political polling in Egypt is especially challenging now because electoral behavior is still in the formative stage. "The experiment is new, coalitions are still forming, and little information is available about turnout and likely voters," he says. "Consider these numbers as indicative of trends and direction."


Abul-Fotouh: 32 percent
Amr Mousa: 28 percent
Shafiq: 14 percent
Morsi: 8 percent
Sabahi: 8 percent

Muslim Brotherhood supporters are divided between Morsi and Abul-Futouh, as are the ultra-conservative Salafis. Salafi support for Abul-Fotouh appears to hurt his standing with liberals who might otherwise be inclined to back him.

Those who identify the economy as the primary basis for selection tend to have a slight preference for Amr Mousa as President, while those who emphasize personal trust prefer Arab nationalist candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi and former Prime Minister, Ahmad Shafiq. Among the supporters of Abul-Fotouh, the biggest factor is the role of religion in politics. Among Amr Mousa