Despite Dissatisfaction with the Performance of the Hamas Government, Especially Regarding Salaries, and Despite Public Preference for a National Unity Government in which Fateh and Hamas are Equal, Hamas’ Popularity Remains Largely Unchanged and the Majority does not Think it Should Recognize Israel
14-16 September 2006
These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during September 14-16, 2006. The poll deals with public evaluation of the performance of the Hamas government, views on the national unity government, attitudes towards peace and violence in the aftermath of the Lebanon war, and the domestic balance of power. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%.
For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, or Walid Ladadweh at
Tel 02-296 4933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six months after the establishment of the Hamas government, poll findings show widespread public dissatisfaction with its performance especially in the economic areas of salaries and poverty as well as the enforcement of law and order. This dissatisfaction leads the majority to support the formation of a national unity government that is not under the full control of Hamas. The largest percentage supports the formation of a government in which Hamas and Fateh would enjoy equal weight.
But the dissatisfaction with the performance of the government does not lead to a reduction in the popularity of Hamas compared to where it was three months ago. Moreover, Fateh does not benefit from Hamas’ lack of performance with its popularity remaining essentially stable. Moreover, despite the criticism of the performance of the government, two thirds of the public does not believe that Hamas should recognize Israel as required by the international donor community. This view does not reflect a hardening of public attitude toward the two-state solution. Rather it reflects public rejection of recognition of Israel as a precondition for negotiations. Poll findings show that a Palestinian majority supports recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people but only as part of a settlement that creates a Palestinian state along side Israel and resolves all other issues of the conflict.
(1) Domestic Conditions, Governmental Performance, and Views on a National Unity Government
- Only 42% are satisfied with the overall performance of the Hamas government; 54% are dissatisfied. The public is least satisfied with the government’s performance regarding economic issues (26%) and most satisfied with its performance in fighting corruption (46%).
- 46% want a national unity government in which Fateh and Hamas would have equal weight; 25% prefer a national unity government under Hamas’ control; and 24% prefer an apolitical government made up of professionals, not politicians.
- The largest percentage (32%) wants the top priority of the national unity government to be the enforcement of law and order while 25% want the top priority to be the return to the peace process and 23% want it to be the ending of the financial and political sanctions.
- An overwhelming majority (84%) sees conditions of the Palestinians today to be bad or very bad and only 5% see them good or very good; 80% say they are not safe and secure.
- 89% believe corruption exists in the PA and 72% believe that jobs are obtained mainly through wasta, or personal connections.
- 46% believe the strike of PA employees and teachers is not political while 36% believe it is political aimed against Hamas
- 41% define poverty and unemployment to be the biggest problem confronting Palestinians today while 25% define the biggest problem as being occupation and 22% say it is corruption and 11% say it is internal anarchy.
- 86% oppose kidnapping of foreigners residing in Palestinian areas and 13% support it.
Poll findings show that 54% of the public is dissatisfied with the overall performance of the Hamas government and 42% are satisfied. Satisfaction is at its lowest with regard to performance in economic issues such as providing salaries and alleviating poverty with only 26% satisfied and 69% dissatisfied. Satisfaction is at its highest with regard to performance regarding fighting corruption with 46% satisfied and 49% dissatisfied.
Satisfaction with the overall performance of Hamas government increases in the Gaza Strip (45%) compared to the West Bank (40%), in cities (44%) compared to villages and towns (40%), among the most religious (44%) compared to the least religious (39%) among supporters of Hamas (75%) compared to supporters of Fateh (17%), and among those most unwilling to buy a lottery ticket (51%) compared to those most willing (27%).
Poll findings show that strong correlation exists between satisfaction with the overall performance of Hamas government and those willing to vote for Hamas if new elections are held today: 90% of the highly satisfied intend to vote for Hamas (compared to 4% for Fateh) and 4% of those who are not satisfied at all intend to vote for Hamas (compared to 66% for Fateh)
To find a way out of the current crisis, the largest percentage (46%) supports the formation of a national unity government in which Fateh and Hamas would enjoy equal weight. A quarter supports the formation of a national unity government in which Hamas would dominate while a similar percentage (24%) prefers a non political government made up of professionals. With regard to the priorities of the future national unity government, the public is divided with about one third (32%) focusing on fighting lawlessness by enforcing law and order, a quarter focusing on renewing the peace process, and a similar percentage (23%) focusing on ending the current financial and political sanctions. Only 18% want the top priority to be fighting corruption.
Findings show a great deal of depression regarding existing conditions with 84% describing current condition as bad or very bad and only 5% describing it good or very good. Moreover, 80% say they and their families do not feel secure and safe in PA areas. The percentage of those believing that corruption exists in PA institutions is at its highest (89%) while 72% believe that jobs today can be obtained largely through wasta, or personal connections.
This gloomy perception might be the reason why the largest percentage (46%) does not view the strike by public employees and teachers as a political strike targeting the Hamas government and instead view it as motivated by professional consideration, a protest against the existing miserable conditions. Only 36% view it as an attack against the Hamas government.
(2) Lebanon War
- 86% believe that Hezbollah emerged as a winner in the Lebanon war and 2% see Israel as a winner.
- 90% oppose the position advanced by some Arab countries that saw the war as an uncalculated adventure by Hezbollah and 9% support this position.
- 73% believe the war strengthens the resistance option in Palestine and 24% believe it weakens it while 75% believe that in light of the war they would support taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinians.
- 65% believe that the war was an Israeli calculated step since Hezbollah represented a threat to Israel and only 5% believe it was caused by Iranian and Syrian intentions.
- 84% agree that one of the war lessons is the need to establish soon a Palestinian state in order to prevent in the future a war between Palestinians and Israelis similar to the war in Lebanon but 64% agree with the view that Israel will never allow the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
- About three quarters agree with the views that the Palestinians can not count on Arab support, that they are in need for international understanding, and that they can not count on armed action only.
- 63% agree that Palestinians should use the same methods as Hezbollah such as the launching of rockets at Israeli cities and 41% only agree with the view that only after it ends its occupation of the West Bank Israel would be able to live in peace.
Findings show a semi consensus among the public (86%) that Hezbollah has emerged victorious from the war in Lebanon while the percentage of those who believe that Israel came out winner is 2%. Moreover, the overwhelming majority (90%) does not share the views expressed by some Arab countries that the war in Lebanon was an uncalculated risk by Hezbollah with about two thirds (65%) believing that the war was a planned Israeli measure because Hezbollah has become a threat against Israel. The percentage of those who believe that the war had Syrian and Iranian origins did not exceed 5%. In brief, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians accepts Hezbollah’s, rather than Israel’s narrative regarding the origin and outcome of the war in Lebanon.
With regard to lessons learned from the war and their implications for the Palestinian-Israeli situation, findings show apparent inconsistency. On the one hand, 73% believe that the war has strengthened the armed resistance option in Palestine and in light of the war 75% would support taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners. Moreover, 63% believe that the Palestinians should emulate Hezbollah’s methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.
On the other hand, three quarters agree with the view that Palestinians can not depend on armed action alone and must reach a political settlement with Israel. Moreover, a similar percentage believes that Palestinians can not count on themselves alone and that they need the help and understanding of the international community.
One reason for this apparent inconsistency can be found in the belief of 84% that there is a need to establish soon a Palestinian state in order to prevent a future a war between Palestinians and Israel similar to the war in Lebanon while almost two thirds (64%) believe that Israel will never allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In other words, while the Palestinians recognize the need for a political settlement acceptable to Israel and the international community they do not believe that Israel would agree to a settlement that would establish a Palestinian state; therefore, most Palestinians support armed confrontations.
(3) Peace Process and Olmert’s Realignment Plan
- 74% want permanent status negotiations between Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert but only 44% believe such negotiations if they were to take place would succeed and lead to a compromise agreement.
- 59% want Hamas to negotiate with Israel but only 36% believe such negotiations if they were to take place would lead to a compromise permanent status agreement.
- 67% do not believe Hamas should recognize the state of Israel in order to meet international donor demands. But 63% would support a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people after a peace agreement is reached and a Palestinian state is established.
- 77% support the call for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians and 22% oppose it.
- 62% have not heard of Olmert’s realignment plan to evacuate most of the West Bank settlements while realigning into large blocks of settlements along the line of the separation barrier.
- 70% do not welcome Olmert’s plan and only 20% believe it will be implemented.
- 75% believe that the evacuation of the settlements in the Gaza Strip was a victory for armed struggle.
- 52% support the Road Map and 42% oppose it. Also, only 44% support collection of arms from Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This percentage increases to 64% if collection of arms is restricted to Gaza Strip. 82% support the integration of armed groups into the Palestinian security services.
- 57% support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel and 57% believe that armed confrontations have helped Palestinians achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not.
Findings show that two thirds of the public do not believe that Hamas should accept the international demand to recognize the state of Israel in order to end the current financial and political sanctions. This view does not mean that the public opposes a future Palestinian recognition of Israel as 63% support recognition of Israel as a Jewish state but only as part of a package of permanent status that would resolve all issues of the conflict and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state recognized by Israel as the state for the Palestinian people. Moreover, about three quarters (74%) want President Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazin) to conduct permanent status negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A majority of 59% (compared to 70% last June) supports Hamas’ engagement in peace negotiations with Israel. But expectations that such negotiations would succeed are not high: 44% if conducted by Abu Mazin and 36% if by Hamas.
Findings show that 52% support the Road Map plan while 42% oppose it. But only 44% support collection of arms from armed groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as required by the plan. However, if collection of arms is restricted to the Gaza Strip (now, after the Israeli withdrawal from it) support would increase to 64%. Moreover, if the solution to the arms and the armed men and militias can be found in merging them into the Palestinian security services, the overwhelming majority (82%) would support that.
Support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians remain relatively high as it was three months ago, standing today at 57% and opposition at 41%. Findings also show that three quarters believe that the Israeli evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip has been victory for armed struggle while 57% believe that armed confrontations have helped achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not and 40% do not share that view.
Most Palestinians have not heard about Olmert’s Realignment Plan for the evacuation of some settlements in the West Bank and the relocation of settlers to settlement blocs near the separation wall. Findings show that 70% do not welcome the plan while only 26% welcome it. Given the war in Lebanon and the continuation of armed confrontations in the Gaza Strip, the majority (65%) does not believe that the plan will be implemented while only 20% think it will.
(4) Domestic Balance of Power
- Despite the dissatisfaction with the performance of Hamas’ government, the percentage of those willing to vote for it in new elections remain as it was three months ago (38%) while Fateh’s popularity increases slightly to 41%.
- Satisfaction with the performance of president Mahmud Abbas reaches 55%. But if new elections are held today, only 31% would elect him, 24% would elect Ismail Hanieh, 13% Marwan Barghouti, 5% Mustafa Barghouti, and 3% Mahmud Zahhar.
- If elections were to be held for a vice president, Ismail Hanieh would receive 20% of the vote, Mahmud Zahhar 16%, Marwan Barghouti 15%, Mohammad Dahlan 9%, and Saeb Erikat, Farouq Qaddoumi, and Mustafa Barghouti 7% each.
Findings show that despite the dissatisfaction with Hamas government, the popularity of Hamas has not dropped compared to where it stood three months ago. 38% say they would vote for Hamas if new elections are held today compared to 39% last June and 47% last March. Support for Fateh remains relatively stable with a slight increase in this poll compared to three months ago. 41% would vote for Fateh if elections are held today compared to 39% in March 2006 and again in June 2006.
Findings show that satisfaction with the performance of Abu Mazin stands today at 55% compared to 53% last June and 61% last March. But if new elections for the presidency are held today and five candidates competed, Abu Mazin would receive 31% followed by Ismail Hanieh, the current Prime Minister, with 24%, Marwan Barghouti (13%), Mustafa Barghouti (5%) and Mahmud Zahhar (3%).
If elections are held for the office of a vice president and seven candidates competed, Ismail Hanieh would receive the largest percentage (20%) followed by Mahmud Zahhar (16%), Marwan Barghouti (15%), Mohammad Dahlan (9%), and Saeb Erikat, Farouq Qaddoumi, and Mustafa Barghouti (7% each)..... Full Report