Election Compass conducts panel survey on the new Egyptian constitution

In the aftermath of the so-called ‘Arab spring’ revolution, Egyptians had the opportunity to vote on a new constitution. The proposed constitution seemed to divide Egyptian society deeply. Especially people that fear the rise of Islamism are very skeptical about the constitution, claiming that the constituent assembly had an overrepresentation of Islamists.

Professor Mazen Hassan of Cairo University led the research team that fielded the survey in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Obviously, public opinion polling was scarce during the authoritarian regime of Mubarak, thus not much is known about the opinions of Egyptian citizens.

We asked Egyptians to give their opinion on a large number of articles from the proposed constitution. This survey led to unique and interesting information, with over 550 people responding to our request of answering a long list of questions. Because these people had already filled out the Election Compass during the election, we could combine their opinions on a wider range of political issues facing the country, link their opinions to voting behavior and personal characteristics as age, gender and religiosity.

A preliminary report was made after one week and showed large differences of opinion between different sections of society. We differentiated between devout Islamists, moderates which had supported both secular and Islamist parties or candidates, revolutionaries, which had participated in the uprising and non-reformers, who had voted for the parties and candidates associated with the old regime. This analysis revealed the strangulating friction that is stifling Egyptian society.

Clearly this is a constitution that Islamists strongly approve of. They agreed with most of the proposed constitutional articles, also with many of the controversial clauses that are widely seen as an ‘Islamisation’ of Egyptian society. The three other voter groups displayed deep concerns about the large role of the Islam in the new constitution βˆ’ which is given a significantly more prominence than in the previous constitution.

Our report generated substantial media attention from Egyptian newspapers and news websites. With this report, we will provide a very thorough analysis of varying opinion structures of different groups in Egyptian society. We hope that our analysis elucidates one of the most difficult political disputes of our time and sparks a public debate about different outlooks on the future of Egypt.

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