A protestor holds up a photo of President Obama and a U.S. flag in Cairo, Egypt
A protestor holds up a photo of President Obama and a U.S. flag in Cairo, Egypt // Hassan Ammar/AP

50 Percent of Americans Say Obama Isn’t ‘Tough’ on Egypt

Since the Egyptian military’s July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi began a brutal and ongoing violent crackdown in the streets of Cairo, critics have labeled the Obama administration’s response as everything from cautious and poorly understood to feckless and incoherent.

A Pew Research Poll conducted Aug. 15-18 found that half of those polled think that President Obama isn’t being tough enough in responding to the Egyptian military’s violent crackdown on anti-government protestors, with just 6 percent saying he’s been too tough. Only 12 percent said Obama’s response has been “about right” while another 32 percent said they didn’t know.

On Tuesday, critics calling the administration’s Egypt policy “confusing” were given new ammunition. Quoting a spokesperson for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), The Daily Beast reported that the administration had “secretly” decided to suspend aid to Egypt. At a briefing at the White House later in the day, spokesman Josh Earnest said that claim was “inaccurate.” A Pentagon spokesman also denied the report. 

Calls for putting a stop to the $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt have grown as the violence worsens. The Pew poll found that 51 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should cut off military aid.

In July, it appeared the administration was inching closer to suspending aid, placing five procurement programs “under review” while possibly delaying deliveries of 10 Apaches and 125 kits used to build M1A1 tanks, according to Bloomberg.  When asked about the potential delays, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday, “We’re reviewing all aspects of our relationship.”

Despite wanting to cut off aid to Egypt, the survey found that 45 percent of Americans believe the Egyptian military would provide better leadership for Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood (11 percent).

Overall, the poll found that the public has displayed only “modest” interest in events happening in the Middle East, with 22 percent of Americans saying they’re following the violence in Egypt “very closely.” An increase from 15 percent when Morsi was ousted last month, but a decline from 39 percent in February 2011 when former President Hosni Mubarak resigned during the Arab Spring.

Read Pew’s survey findings here