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Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt and the American Public

According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 48 percent of Americans say that they have read or heard "a lot" about anti-government protests in Egypt. Despite heavy media coverage over the past several weeks, 38 percent say that they have heard only "a little," and 13 percent say "nothing at all."

Despite the intense media focus on Egypt, Americans appear to be fairly mild in their calculations of its importance. There is minimal evidence that the average American considers the Egypt situation to be a major international crisis as far as its impact on the United States is concerned.

Egypt barely registers when Americans are asked to name the most important problem facing the country today. Domestic economic issues and in particular jobs overwhelm every other concern. The Feb 2-5 Gallup survey finds .5% (5 people out of 1015) mentioning Egypt as the most important problem.

Less than half of Americans say what happens in Egypt is vitally important to the U.S. Egypt ranks 9th on a list of 12 countries rated on this dimension. China dwarfs all other countries as vitally important, no doubt reflecting its economic prowess in today's international marketplace. Other countries seen as at least marginally more important than Egypt to U.S. interests include North Korea, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, and Pakistan.
The Pew Research Center also provides background data on American priorities for foreign policy:
In the most recent "America's Place in the World" survey, conducted in November 2009, just 21% said promoting democracy abroad should be a top long-range priority for U.S. foreign policy. Democracy promotion ranked last on a list of 11 long-term foreign policy objectives. The most widely shared goals -- protecting the nation against terrorist attacks and protecting the jobs of American workers -- were cited by 85% each.