Monday, November 04, 2013

More on Egypt's Anti-Secularist Left

Further to some of the summary of evidence that I have showed in the previous post, some of which using World Values Survey 2008 (data collected 2005-7), I show below some results from the latest available Pew Spring 2012 survey. It shows the same pattern of a strong Islamist left contingency.

The Bayesian network analysis for this survey (using all 160 variables) identifies that the question Q26:
"Please tell me whether you completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree with the following statement - most people are better off in a free market economy, even though some people are rich and some are poor?"
is independent of all other variables in the survey conditional on the question Q62:
"How much of a role do you think Islam plays in the political life of our country – a very large role, a fairly large role, a fairly small role, or a very small role?"
In other words, religious attitudes are still the best predictor of views toward neo-liberal pro-market economic policies. The joint distribution of the two variables is shown here:
Joint Distribution of Q62 and Q26 responses from Pew 2012 Egypt survey
 So, we can see that those who think that Islam plays a fairly large role in politics is significantly tilted to disagreeing with the assumption that free market policies benefit most people, and those who think that it plays a fairly small role are more likely to think that free market policies do in fact benefit most people.

This is the same relationship between Islamist and leftist tendencies, but it appears less dramatic in the Pew data because they didn't ask whether religion should play a bigger role; rather, Q62 only asked if it does.

To establish that this framing of the question diluted the result somewhat, we show the relationship between Q62 and the follow up question Q63 on whether or not the current role of Islam, as perceived by the respondent, is a good or bad thing (the Bayesian network structure shows that Q62 is independent of all other variables conditional on Q63 and the respondent's religion).

Joint Distribution of Q63 and Q62 responses from Pew 2012 Egypt survey
Note that 31% of the respondents think that the role of Islam in politics is fairly large and that that's a good thing, but that an additional 23% think that the role of Islam is fairly small and that is a bad thing. Adding the two, we get 54% of the population being decidedly anti-secular. If Pew had asked if Islam should play a large role in politics, they would have been in the same group, and would have a shown a stronger anti-secular leftist contingency, as shown in the WVS data.

Finally, Pew only asked about "Islam" playing a role in politics, rather than "religion," which biases Christians' responses to the question. The WVS data shows that even among Christians, a very significant percentage opined that "it is an essential feature of democracy that religious authorities should interpret the law."

One potential objection that a friend mentioned regarding the usefulness of these findings is that public opinion is believed by some to have moved considerably after the abject failure of the Muslim Brotherhood regime to rule during their year in power (July 2012 -- June 2013). I am sure that some people who were willing to give MB the benefit of the doubt, and hopeful that they will moderate once in power, as examples of Islamists in some other countries have suggested, have been badly disappointed in their authoritarianism and incompetence.

Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that such strong public sentiments, built over nearly a century, during which Islamist and leftist views commingled, could really have dissipated so quickly. The underlying dynamics are often veiled behind identity political discourse, but I would argue (not surprisingly, because I am an economist, after all) that -- as in that old Clinton campaign slogan from two decades ago -- "it's the economy, stupid."

There is much more evidence to go with this story, but it's probably best to keep some material for the formal paper.


Blogger Unknown said...

Masha'Allah this is extremely important information...You have proven statistically what I have believed intuitively. I am very happy to read this.

The Islamist parties largely ignore leftist resistance to Neoliberalim (indeed, they even adopt Neoliberal positions), assuming that it is only secular leftists who are concerned about these issues.

I have been struggling to convey to some of the Islamist leadership that, yes, the population is both anti-neoliberal, and pro-Islamist in many ways. But when they see Isalmists taking a Neoliberal stance, it diminishes their support and trust for their leadership.

12:20 PM  

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