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Mid-East extremes in power survey
Israelis have the strong sense of their national identity
September 14, 2005
A global survey for the BBC about power and how it is used has found the Middle East to be home to some of the most sharply defined national attitudes.

In Egypt, people are more likely to define themselves by religion than anywhere else in the world, it says.

Israelis are more supportive of their intellectuals, military and business leaders than any other nationality.

Gallup International questioned 50,000 people in 68 states for the BBC World Service survey Who Runs Your World.

Focus on Egyptian and Israeli responses to survey

Two-thirds, compared with a global total of 26%, said they trusted their military and police leaders.

Half of the 500 Israelis in the survey wanted military leaders to have more power in their country, which is higher than any other nation surveyed.

Other professions also scored higher among the Israelis than other nationalities, including intellectuals (71%, against an international average of 35%) and business leaders (45%, as opposed to 20%).

Attitudes towards politicians were very similar to the global average, with just one in six saying that they should hold more sway.

Trust in military

The survey suggests that Israelis have the strongest national identity of any country in the world.

Egyptian voters
Egyptians were not asked their views on their political leaders
Sixty percent of the Israelis answered that nationality was the most important thing to them, nearly double the global average.

Only 13% said their religion was more important to them and 4% their ethnic group.

In Egypt by contrast, where 500 people were questioned, a tiny 2% said nationality was most important to them.

One in 12 Egyptians cited their regional affiliation, but a massive 87% said their religion was the most important, giving them the strongest religious identity of any country surveyed.


An important part of the survey concerns whether those questioned feel represented by their government and whether their country holds free and fair elections.

Selection of facts and figures from the global survey

Unfortunately, not all the questions were allowed to be asked - especially ones about politics - in Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak has just been returned to office in the country's first contested presidential elections, but with a very low turn-out.

Israelis, however, believe that they are governed by the will of the people more than most other nationalities.

Just under half said "yes" to the question "Would you say that your country is governed by the will of the people?" - a confidence in their political system that was only topped by Scandinavian countries and South Africa.

The overall global figure is only 30%.

Israelis were also among the most positive globally in responding to the question of whether elections are free and fair.

Egyptians were asked - along with Israelis - whether there was anything they could do to change their lives.

Forty-nine percent of Egyptians said yes, they did feel in control of their own lives to some extent.

The Israelis felt more empowered, with 64% thinking they could do things to change their lives, and just 29% saying there was nothing they could do.