Majority of Americans Want to Cut Off Military Aid to Egypt

But many aren’t following the crisis closely at all.

Egyptians remove a body for burial from the Zenhoum morgue following the deaths of hundreds of people in violence over the last week, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Aug. 19, 2013, 12:06 p.m.

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.

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