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More Americans want to cut aid to Egypt after embassy attack

October 8, 2012 |  1:46 pm

Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans surveyed think the United States should reduce its aid to Egypt or cut it off entirely after angry protesters pulled down the American flag at its Cairo embassy last month.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll found most Americans did not think that the majority of Egyptians backed the assault on the Cairo embassy, where protesters scaled a wall and pulled down the flag after furious protests over a film mocking the Islamic prophet. Almost two-thirds of Americans surveyed said “the violent actions were only supported by extremist minorities,” it found.

However, Americans were also deeply dissatisfied with how Egyptian authorities handled the assault. Less than one-third of Americans surveyed said the Egyptian government had tried to find and arrest the perpetrators, and less than half believed it had criticized the attack.

The Egyptian government did say the riot was unacceptable, but President Mohamed Morsi was criticized for his delayed remarks on the attack. The belief that Egypt has done too little to protect the embassy, in turn, appears to have soured many Americans on providing aid to Egypt.

The U.S. government provides the Egyptian military with more than $1 billion in assistance annually, despite restrictions on political rights that would ordinarily block such aid. Most Egyptians oppose the outside support, fearful it gives the U.S. undue influence on Egyptian sovereignty, a Gallup poll found this year.

Many Americans now agree that U.S. aid to Egypt should be reduced or eliminated, according to the Program on International Policy Attitudes. Its new poll found 42% of Americans thought aid to Egypt should be reduced and 29% thought it should be cut off entirely -- a total of 71%.

The numbers mark a significant increase from a June poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which found roughly half of respondents wanted Egyptian aid to be reduced or ended. Americans who thought Egypt had done too little to prevent or repel the embassy attack were much more likely to want reductions in aid.

The poll also found that Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to say the U.S. should cut off the funding completely, with 41% of Republican respondents saying aid to Egypt should be totally stopped, compared with 15% of Democrat respondents.

Americans were also displeased with how Libya reacted to a much more severe attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the September assault, now described by U.S. officials as a terrorist attack. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said the Libyan government didn’t try to protect American diplomats and their staff.

The poll didn’t ask whether the U.S. should reduce aid to Libya, which receives much less money than Egypt, as several Republican lawmakers had sought in the wake of the attack.

More than 700 Americans were included in the survey, conducted from late September to early October by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, a joint program of the University of Maryland and the Center on Policy Attitudes in Washington, and the University of Maryland Anwar Sadat Chair.


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Photo: Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. Credit: Mohammed abu Zaid / Associated Press