Egypt: The impossible question for the West

August 20, 2013, 8:47 AM UTC

Recent developments in Egypt have pitted one of the Western world's strongest values, democracy, against one of its biggest fears, Islamist government. Voters in the US and UK find it hard to choose between them.

The foreign secretary William Hague has said that Britain will not "pick and choose" which side to support in the conflict in Egypt - between the elected Islamist government and the unelected non-Islamist regime which overthrew them. New research by YouGov reveals that most British adults are split evenly between them or cannot choose.

24% of the UK public would prefer to see an elected, Islamist government in Egypt while 23% would prefer an unelected, non-Islamist government. 53% don’t know.

In the US, by comparison, the public have a clearer opinion: nearly twice as many (36%) would prefer an unelected non-Islamist government as would prefer an elected Islamist government (19%) in Egypt.

Politics

The question is also less partisan in the UK: Labour and Conservative supporters are fairly evenly split between the two options, however Liberal Democrats favour the elected over the unelected option 29%-15% and UKIP supporters tend the opposite way by 40%-16%.

In the US, on the other hand, 56% of Republicans prefer an unelected non-Islamist regime to an elected Islamist government 56%-10% while Democrats tend the other way by 29%-24%.

Today it was reported that Mohammed Badie, the spiritual leader of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, had been arrested in Cairo as authorities continue a crackdown on supporters of his party. The Brotherhood was ousted by the military on 3 July after protesters objected to its leader Mohammed Morsi’s handling of economic problems. Last Wednesday Morsi’s supporters began fresh protests against military rule. 900 have been killed. 

See the full GB results

See the full US results