Fifty-one percent of Americans support cutting off the $1.3 billion in annual aid the United States gives the Egyptian military, according to a new Pew survey. That support cuts across party lines, with 56 percent of Republicans, 49 percent of Democrats, and 53 percent of independents in favor of ending the aid. And on the whole, Americans aren't too happy with how President Obama is handling the ongoing crisis, with 50 percent saying he hasn't been tough enough. The survey was taken from Aug. 15-18, just after more than 600 people were killed on Aug. 14.
But the biggest takeaway: Many Americans aren't really paying close attention to the escalating crisis that has already seen more than a thousand deaths.
According to Pew, just 22 percent of Americans say they are following the news out of Egypt "very closely," down from the 39 percent who followed Egypt "very closely" in February 2011 when then-President Hosni Mubarak was pushed out of power. Now, nearly half of Americans aren't following the news closely, while an additional 29 percent of Americans say they are not following Egypt closely at all.
But in some ways, that number could be much worse. The Jeff Bezos purchase of The Washington Post may have dominated D.C. news coverage for a few days this month, but only 6 percent of Americans said they followed that news "very closely," and 16 percent "fairly closely." Fifty-six percent of Americans say they didn't follow the purchase closely at all. In contrast, 28 percent of Americans followed the recent U.S. embassy closings and terrorist threats "very closely."
Would public pressure to cut off aid make a difference? The New York Times reported Sunday that the Obama administration is already looking to stop aid to the Egyptian government, but it hasn't made any decisions on the $585 million in military aid remaining this year. Members of Congress haven't come to any sort of agreement either. And even if aid is cut off, it may not really even hurt the Egyptian military, which has promises from Saudi Arabia that Arab countries will step in to pick up the slack if any countries pull aid.
But, it's summertime, we're deep into August, and it's the last few days before schools across the country start up again. Americans are largely otherwise occupied.
This article appears in the August 20, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.