July 11th, 2012
05:31 PM ET
By Laura Koran, CNN
(CNN) –Just as an Islamist president takes office in Egypt, a major survey shows that most Muslims in nations in or close to the Middle East want both democracy and a strong role for Islam in politics and government.
The survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, finds that most people in many predominantly Muslim nations remain optimistic that democracy can succeed in the Middle East, more than a year after the Arab Spring began sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.
Conducted in six countries between March 19 and April 20, the survey found that a majority of people in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan believe that democracy is the best possible form of government, as does a 42 % plurality in Pakistan.
In Lebanon, where support for democracy is strongest, 84% of people surveyed said they preferred democratic governments to nondemocratic ones, a preference that was pronounced across religious groups.
Even among Pakistanis, who expressed the weakest support for democracy, only 17% said that nondemocratic systems of government are sometimes preferable.
The study also showed that Muslims in and around the Middle East believe that Islam has a major role to play in politics and government. Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt believe that laws should strictly follow the Quran.
Support for strict Islamic law was lower in Lebanon, Turkey and Tunisia, but big pluralities in the latter two said they wanted the values and principles of Islam to be reflected in their laws to some degree.
When the importance of having democratic government was weighed against the need for a strong economy, support for democracy weakened.
Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Tunisia said that having a strong economy is more important than having a democratic government, while Egyptians were evenly split on the question. Of the six countries surveyed, only those in Lebanon and Turkey gave a preference for democracy.
The survey found that people in the countries surveyed have largely negative assessments of their economic situations but that they are generally optimistic that democracy will spread in the region.
When it comes to Islam, majorities in five of the countries surveyed reported that Islam already plays a large role in their political systems. In Egypt, that figure jumped from 47 % to 66% in the past year, even though the poll was conducted before Islamist President Mohamed Morsy recently took office.
Only the Lebanese did not see Islam as an important player in political life. However, those perceptions varied significantly across religious communities, with 81% of Shia Muslims believing that Islam plays a role in government, compared with 53% of Sunni Muslims and 21% of Christians.
The surveys are based on face-to-face interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates and included sample sizes of at least 1,000 people in each of the 6 countries. Margins of error ranged from 4.2% to 5.2%.
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