Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms and Islam in Political Life; Few Believe U.S. Backs Democracy
More than a year after the first stirrings of the Arab Spring, there continues to be a strong desire for democracy in Arab and other predominantly Muslim nations, finds a just released survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.
Solid majorities in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan believe democracy is the best form of government, as do a plurality of Pakistanis. These publics do not just support the general notion of democracy – they also embrace specific features of a democratic system, such as competitive elections and free speech.
A substantial number in key Muslim countries want a large role for Islam in political life. However, there are significant differences over the degree to which the legal system should be based on Islam.
The United States is not seen as promoting democracy in the Middle East. In newly democratic Tunisia, only about three-in-ten believe the American response to the political upheaval in their country has had a positive impact.
Despite the tumult and uncertainty of the last year, views about democracy are mostly unchanged since 2011, although support has declined somewhat in Jordan. Enthusiasm for democracy tends to be generally less intense in Jordan and in Pakistan. It is consistently strong in Lebanon and Turkey.
The survey, conducted in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey from March 19 to April 20, also finds:
- Economic Concerns: While democratic rights and institutions are popular, they are not the only priorities. In particular, the economy is a top concern; most would rather have a strong economy than a good democracy.
- Role of Islam: Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt believe laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran, while most Tunisians and 44% of Turks want laws to be influenced by the values and principles of Islam, but not strictly follow the Quran.
- Gender Equality: Majorities in all six nations surveyed believe women should have equal rights as men, and more than eight-in-ten hold this view in Lebanon and Turkey. In Egypt, a slimmer majority (58%) favors equal rights, while 36% oppose the idea. Moreover, while many in the six nations surveyed support the general principle of gender equality, there is less enthusiasm for gender parity in politics, economics and family life.
- Extremist Groups: Extremist groups are largely rejected in predominantly Muslim nations, although significant numbers do express support for radical groups in several countries. While there is no country in which a majority holds a favorable opinion of Hamas, it receives considerable support in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt.
- Iran and Syria: On balance, opinions about Iran are negative, although Pakistan is a clear exception – 76% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of Iran, and 47% rate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad positively. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad generally receives very negative ratings.