18 February 2012 11:59 am | | 1


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The Tunisian people spoke loud and clear in poll results released today by Tunisian think tank I Watch: the economy must take precedence for Tunisian politicians.

In spite of all the media attention concerning Islam and the “Arab-Muslim identity,”  the numbers show that Tunisians are far more concerned with making ends meet. In response to the question “What is your main priority today,” 40% answered “the economy” while only 18% said “national identity.”

Neither do Tunisians appear particularly concerned by the process of writing the country’s new constitution. Far more respondents chose “security” as their priority (31%) over “the constitution” (11%).

The results were communicated by the I Watch organization at a press conference today in Tunis entitled, “The Perceptions of Transition in Tunisia.” It is considered to be the largest poll carried out in the history of Tunisia.

“It is a poll that tries to follow the evolution of public opinion,” said Ashraf Aouadi, founder of I Watch Tunisia.

The poll, conducted via text message, gathered the opinions of more than 15,000 Tunisians in 24 governorates. Participants answered a series of questions about their expectations concerning the constitution, their priorities, their concerns, their favorite political party, and their approval of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, President Moncef Marzouki, and President of Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar.

Perhaps surprisingly in light of his recent faux pas and a stream of mockery and criticism on Tunisian social media, President Marzouki continued to be the most popular politician in the country, with his approval rating increasing by a point to 69%.

However, the poll results date to January, before Marzouki made the public flub of sending away a Syrian ambassador who was in fact no longer in the country.

“We expect more changes for February, because the government has been taking decisions that are likely to influence public opinion,” asserted Aouadi.

Prime Minister Jebali’s approval rating stands at 48%, up 8 percentage points from December, mostly coming from undecided voters, while Ben Jaafar’s is at 49%, up two.

Support for Ennahda continues to see its popularity increase vis-à-vis the other parties, reaching 56%. Conversely, CPR’s popularity has fallen to 22%, Ettakatol’s to 8%, and Aridha Chaabia’s to 5%.  The PDP, battered in October’s elections, has enjoyed a modest rise in the polls, arriving at 9%.

Chart showing responses to the question "What is your main priority today?" The caption reads: "Priorities have changed by 5% in favor of the economy, coming in large part from 'national identity.'"

Cynicism seems to have set in for a large portion of Tunisia’s population regarding the Constituent Assembly elected last year to draft the country’s constitution. A little less than half (49%) of participants expected that members of the body will represent the people’s  interests, while the rest believed they will either do what their party tells them (35%) or will serve their own individual interests (17 %).

As to the process of writing the constitution itself, opinion was also divided, with 44% “satisfied,” 15% “somewhat satisfied,” 11% “not satisfied,” and 20% “not sure.”

When asked about Tunisia’s impact in terms of foreign policy, 33% responded that it has been “positive,” 42%  said “mixed,” 14%  said “negative,” and 11% said they didn’t know.

The poll was conducted in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute and the American Studies Center Mobile Records, which prepared the results.

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