Americans hate the Muslim Brotherhood

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the Muslim Brotherhood? According to a new Zogby poll, there’s one word that wins by a mile when you ask Americans: "Terrorists." The survey, which was commissioned by the Arab American Institute and conducted last month, shows just how negative American attitudes toward ...

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the Muslim Brotherhood? According to a new Zogby poll, there's one word that wins by a mile when you ask Americans: "Terrorists."

The survey, which was commissioned by the Arab American Institute and conducted last month, shows just how negative American attitudes toward Egypt's most powerful political and social organization have become. Only 13 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a scant four percent said that the organization's victory in recent elections was a "positive development."

These dismal results, to be sure, are not solely the result of the actions of the Brotherhood itself. A plurality of Americans surveyed (44 percent) said they had an unfavorable perceptions of Muslims in general -- no matter what the Brotherhood does, it's probably not going to win over those people. But it would be a mistake to simply chalk up the Brotherhood's image problem to Islamophobia: Even among Americans who said they had a favorable view of Muslims, only six percent said the Brotherhood's electoral victory was positive, and only 27 percent said the organization is committed to democracy.

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the Muslim Brotherhood? According to a new Zogby poll, there’s one word that wins by a mile when you ask Americans: "Terrorists."

The survey, which was commissioned by the Arab American Institute and conducted last month, shows just how negative American attitudes toward Egypt’s most powerful political and social organization have become. Only 13 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a scant four percent said that the organization’s victory in recent elections was a "positive development."

These dismal results, to be sure, are not solely the result of the actions of the Brotherhood itself. A plurality of Americans surveyed (44 percent) said they had an unfavorable perceptions of Muslims in general — no matter what the Brotherhood does, it’s probably not going to win over those people. But it would be a mistake to simply chalk up the Brotherhood’s image problem to Islamophobia: Even among Americans who said they had a favorable view of Muslims, only six percent said the Brotherhood’s electoral victory was positive, and only 27 percent said the organization is committed to democracy.

Americans’ negative views about the Brotherhood are spilling over to their perception about Egypt. 48 percent of Americans now say they have an unfavorable view of the country — a jump of 14 percent from last year.  Egypt’s image has taken a beating ever since the revolution: The proportion of Americans saying they have a favorable view of Egypt has plummeted from 58 percent in 2010 to 36 percent now. Not all of this can be attributed to President Mohamed Morsy’s actions, because the deterioration in perceptions was evident in early 2012, before he took office. Rather, it appears to be a toxic cocktail of street violence and broader Islamist ascendancy that is behind the negative views of Egypt.

These views could help undo the decades-long alliance between Washington and Cairo. Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed agreed that U.S. aid to Egypt – which totaled over $1.5 billion last year – should continue. 47 percent disagreed, saying that military and civilian aid should be cut under a Muslim Brotherhood-led government. A majority of Americans also favor supporting other Arab governments’ efforts to crack down on the Brotherhood — a view that could impact U.S. policy across the Middle East.

American officials of any political persuasion know how to read a poll. So the next time a congressman stands up to attack the Egyptian government or block U.S. aid to Cairo, it helps to keep one thing in mind: It’s a political winner. 

 

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