WASHINGTON - As an Islamist president took office in Egypt, most Muslims in the Middle East nations want both democracy and a strong role for Islam in politics and government, a new survey has found.
Solid majorities in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan believe democracy is the best form of government, as do a plurality of Pakistanis, the Pew Research Center's Global Attitude Project said in a new report released earlier this week.
There is also a strong desire for Islam to play a major role in the public life of these nations, and most want Islam to have at least some influence on their country's laws.
The survey, conducted a year and half after the Arab Spring swept the Middle East, found that most people in many predominantly Muslim nations remain optimistic that democracy can succeed in the Middle East.
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.
Even among Pakistanis, who expressed the weakest support for democracy, only 17% said that nondemocratic systems of government are sometimes preferable.
Majorities in five of the countries surveyed reported that Islam already plays a large role in their political systems.
In newly democratic Tunisia, where the Islamist party Ennahda won the largest share of votes in the recent parliamentary elections, fully 84% think Islam has a major role, Pew report said.
Similarly, in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has won both parliamentary and presidential elections, 66% hold this view, up from 47% two years ago.
Support for 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.
Another Pew survey released earlier this year found that most Egyptians want Islam to play a major role in society and the Noble Qur'an shape their country's laws
The nationwide survey of 1,000 respondents also showed that six-in-ten Egyptians believe the Noble Qur'an should shape the country's laws.
When the importance of having democratic government was weighed against the need for a strong economy, support for democracy weakened.
When respondents are asked which is more important, a good democracy or a strong economy, Turkey and Lebanon are the only countries where more than half choose democracy, Pew report said.
Egyptians are divided, while most Tunisians, Pakistanis and Jordanians prioritize the economy, the report added.
With Turkey a notable exception, views about the economic situation in these countries are grim.
Nearly six-in-ten Turks (57%) say their country's economy is in good shape, but at least seven-in-ten in Pakistan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan offer negative assessments.
The Pew poll is part of the broader 21-nation spring 2012 Global Attitudes survey.
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%.