FIRST SERIOUS SIGNS OF OPTIMISM SINCE THE START OF INTIFDA
01-05 December 2004
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 between December 01 and 05, 2004. The poll deals with Palestinian elections, the post Arafat era, support for violence and reconciliation, internal conditions and perceptions of reform, democracy and corruption, and American elections. Total size of the sample is 1319 adults interviewed face to face in the West Bank (836) and the Gaza Strip (483) in 120 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3 % and rejection rate is 2 %.
For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki or Ayoub Mustafa, at tel 02-296 4933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The poll shows an emerging new reality in the Palestinian territories compared to the situation prevailing three months ago when we conducted our September 2004 poll. The most important changes indicate a more optimistic atmosphere with a significant drop in the level of support for Hamas and a big increase in the level of support for Fateh. It is worth remembering that similar trends were observed in December 1995, one month before the first Palestinian elections in January 1996.
The smooth transition of power after the death of Yasir Arafat, the virtual absence of violence despite the gloomy expectations, and the quick preparations for elections may have all been responsible for the new optimism. Hamas’ loss of support may be due to the fact that the Islamist movement had decided to boycott the upcoming presidential elections while the increase in support for Fateh might be explained by the appreciation people have for the way Fateh dealt with the succession issue. A bandwagoning effect may have also helped Fateh as new supporters might be expecting gains from supporting the faction that is most likely to win the upcoming elections.
Optimism can be seen in the fact that a majority believes that a compromise settlement can be reached with the current Israeli leadership and that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are strong enough to convince Israelis and Palestinians to accept such a compromise. Optimism can also be seen in the large increase in the percentage of those who believe that the roadmap can still be implemented and the large decrease in the percentage of those who believe that a political settlement with Israel is impossible. It can also be seen in terms of the greater expectation recorded in this poll regarding the chances for a return to negotiations and an end to the violence in the post Arafat era with Abu Mazin leading the PLO.
(1) Palestinian Elections:
- Mahmud Abbas and Marwan Barghouti in a close race with 40% for the first and 38% for the second
- Abbas is the most able to reach a peace agreement with Israel and Barghouti is the most able to protect the right of return
- If Hamas participates in the presidential elections, its candidate would receive 28% of the vote
- Barghouti is the person most preferred to lead Fateh, followed by Abbas and then Qaddoumi
- Large increase in the popularity of Fateh and a large decrease in the popularity of Hamas
The poll shows that if presidential elections were to be held today, the results would be close, with Mahmud Abbas receiving 40% of the votes and Marwan Barghouti receiving 38%. Mustafa Barghouti would receive 6% while all the other candidates would receive a total of 3% for all of them combined. 13% have not decided yet. The poll shows Abbas winning in the Gaza Strip (48% vs. 34% for Marwan Barghouti). But Marwan Barghouti wins in the West Bank (40% vs. 35% for Mahmud Abbas). These results represent the voting intentions of those planning to participate in the vote on January 9, 2005. The findings show that the level of non participation is going to be low (10%).
When compared to Mahmud Abbas’, support for Marwan Barghouti increases in West Bank cities (41% compared to 29%) while support for Abbas compared to Barghouti is higher in Gaza towns (57% compared to 31%) and Gaza cities (50% to 29%). But the gap between the two narrows in West Bank refugee camps, with 42% for Abbas and 40% for Barghouti. Men give more support for Abbas (46% compared to 31% for Barghouti) while women give more support for Barghouti (44% compared to 35% for Abbas). Young people between 18 and 22 years of age give more support to Barghouti (47% compared to 35% to Abbas). Older people give more support to Abbas. Illiterates give more support to Abbas (45%) compared to Barghouti (33%). Support for Abbas is higher among holders of BA degree (37% compared to Barghouti 32%). Students give more support to Barghouti (47%) compared to 35% to Abbas while support for Abbas is greater among farmers (50% to 29%), retired people (47% to 18%), unemployed (45% to 30%), and merchants (43% to 26%). Support for Abbas is higher among those working in the public sector (48% to 27%). Abbas receives more votes from those with low income and less votes from those with high income. Among Fateh supporters, 54% go to Abbas and 38% to Barghouti. But among Hamas supporters, 44% go to Barghouti and 24% to Abbas.
The poll shows that Mahmud Abbas is seen as the candidate most capable of reaching a peace agreement with Israel, improving the economic conditions, and enforcing law and order. Marwan Barghouti is viewed as the candidate most capable of protecting the right of return. The public evaluation of the ability of the two candidates to maintain national unity and prevent internal infighting is similar for both. If Hamas nominates Mahmud Zahhar as its candidate in the presidential elections, 28% say they would vote for him. And if the competition for the presidency is between Zahhar, Abbas, and Marwan Barghouti, 34% prefer Barghouti, 29% Abbas, and 24% Zahhar. The overwhelming majority (83%) of those who selected one of the three believes that the person they have chosen would be able to lead the Palestinian people under the current conditions.
In answers to an open question, 30% prefer to see Marwan Barghouti becoming the head of Fateh, while 26% preferred Mahmud Abbas and 7% want Farouq Qaddoumi as head of the movement. In the Gaza Strip, support for Abbas as head of Fateh reaches 31% (compared to 22% in the West Bank) and for Barghouti 28% (compared to 31% in the West Bank), and for Qaddoumi 5% (compared to 9% in the West Bank).
In local elections, 42% believe that Fateh candidates are likely to win, 20% believe Hamas/Islamic Jihad candidates are likely to win, 14% believe independent candidates are likely to win, and 11% believe that family candidates are likely to win. With regard to voting intentions, 37% say they will vote for Fateh candidates, 20% to Hamas/Islamic Jihad candidates, 13% to independents, and 11% to family candidates. Last September, only 21% said they intend to vote for Fateh candidates. In this poll, those intending to vote for Hamas/Islamic Jihad candidates reach 27% in the Gaza Strip compared to 16% in the West Bank.
The poll shows a significant increase in the popularity of Fateh from 29% last September to 40% in this poll. The increase is higher in the Gaza Strip, from 24% to 38%. The popularity of Hamas drops in the total West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 22% last September to 18% in this poll. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ popularity drops from 30% to 22%. The total level of support for all Islamists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and independent Islamists) drops in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 32% to 24% during the same period.
(2) A Post Arafat Era
- Great public satisfaction with the past performance of Arafat in national causes, medium satisfaction with his performance in ending the occupation and fighting corruption
- After Arafat, things will be better with regard to delivery of basic services, building strong public institutions, and building a democratic PA and will be worse with regard to protection of national rights in negotiations, promoting the Palestinian cause internationally, and fighting corruption
- A majority believes that Arafat died of poison and most think Israel was responsible for his death
- A majority is not worried about internal infighting after Arafat, but 50% expect his death to weaken Fateh
Poll findings show that 88% are satisfied with Arafat’s contribution to promoting the status of the Palestinian cause internationally, 86% with his contribution to protecting Palestinian rights in negotiations with Israel, 86% with his contribution in providing basic services such as health and education, 65% with his contribution to building an authority with democratic governance, 65% with his contribution to building public institutions able to enforce law and order, 54% with his contribution to ending the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and 51% with his contribution to fighting corruption in the PA.
In post Arafat period, the percentage of those believing that the situation would be better after Arafat is higher than the percentage of those who believe the situation would be worse in the following areas: provision of basic services such as health and education, building public institutions able to enforce law and order, and building an authority with democratic governance. The percentage of those believing that the situation would be better after Arafat is equal to the percentage of those who believe it will be worse in one area: ending the Israeli occupation. But the percentage of those believing the situation would be worse is higher than the percentage of those believing it would be better when it comes to the areas of protecting Palestinian rights in negotiations with Israel, in promoting the international status of the Palestinian cause, and in fighting corruption in the PA.
About 72% believe that Arafat died of poison and most of those believing in this (64%) believe that Israel is the party responsible for the poisoning while 22% believe that a Palestinian party is responsible.
After Arafat, a majority of 52% believe that there will be no internal infighting but 38% believe some internal infighting will take place but not civil war. Only 7% believe that a civil war will erupt. Half of the Palestinians expect Arafat’s death to weaken Fateh while one quarter expects it to strengthen Fateh.
(3) The Peace Process
- Wide scale support for a ceasefire and a majority believes that it is possible to reach a compromise settlement with Israel
- A majority supports the roadmap but about half believes that it can not be implemented today
- Increased optimism regarding the chances of a peace settlement with Israel and an increase in the percentage of those expecting return to negotiations soon
- A majority opposes continued armed attacks from the Gaza Strip after a complete Israeli withdrawal from the strip
- A majority views the Israeli disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip as victory for armed struggle
Poll findings show that support for a cease fire and for an immediate return to negotiations is very high, reaching 80% for each. The findings also show an increasing optimism regarding the chances for success in the peace process. A majority of 52% believes that it is possible today to negotiate a compromise settlement with the current Israeli leadership and 48% believe it is not possible. If such a settlement is reached, 58% believe that the Israeli leaders are strong enough to convince the Israelis to accept such a compromise settlement while 37% do not share this belief. Moreover, 56% of the Palestinians believe that Palestinian leaders are strong enough to convince the Palestinian people to accept a compromise settlement with Israel while 41% do not share this belief.
Belief that it is possible to reach a compromise settlement with the current Israeli leadership increases among women (57%) compared to men (46%), among the youngest (61%) compared to the oldest (49%), among non refugees (54%) compared to refugees (49%), among illiterates (68%) compared to holders of BA degree (46%), among students (66%) compared to professionals, the retired, and merchants (29%, 38%, and 41% respectively), and among supporters of Fateh (61%) compared to supporters of Hamas (38%).
With regard to the plan known as the roadmap, findings show that 59% support the plan and 38% oppose it. But 48% believe that the plan cannot be implemented any more while 46% believe it is possible to implement it. In July 2003, support for the roadmap reached 56% and opposition 41%, and last June, only 28% believed that the roadmap could still be implemented. Findings also show that the percentage of those believing that a political settlement with Israel is impossible stands now at 34%. In July 2001, ten months after the start of the current intifada, 46% said this was the end of the peace process. This finding confirms the sense of optimism mentioned above.
With regard to the post disengagement from Gaza, 59% will oppose and 38% will support the continuation of armed attacks from the strip if the Israeli withdrawal was complete. Opposition to continued attacks from Gaza increases in the Gaza Strip to 67% compared to 55% in the West Bank. Last September, 54% opposed and 42% supported continuation of armed attacks from the Gaza Strip after a complete withdrawal. The poll shows that 59% are worried about internal Palestinian infighting after the Israelis evacuate the Gaza Strip and only 29% believe the PA has high capacity to control matters in the strip after the Israeli withdrawal.
Three quarters of the Palestinians believe that Sharon’s plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip is a victory for Palestinian armed resistance against Israel and 23% do not see it as victory. 78% believe that most Palestinians view the plan as victory for the armed resistance. Last September, 71% believed that most Palestinians view the plan as victory.
Poll findings show further optimism regarding return to negotiations with a big increase in the percentage of those believing that now (in the aftermath of Arafat’s death and the appointment of Mahmud Abbas as chairman of the PLO) the two sides will return soon to negotiations and that armed confrontations will stop from 17% last September to 30% in this poll. The percentage of those believing that armed confrontations will not stop and the two sides will not return to negotiations drops from 37% last September to 12% in this poll. Indeed, a majority of 53% believe that the death of Arafat will increase the chances for a political settlement with Israel while only 23% believe that it would decrease those chances.
(4) Support for Violence and Reconciliation
- Decrease in the level of support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians to 49%
- About one third believes that the Palestinians have so far come out winners in the armed confrontations and a larger percentage believes that no one came out winner
- Increase in the level of support for reconciliation between the two peoples, reaching an unprecedented 81%
Support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel drops from 54% last September to 49% in this poll. Opposition to such attacks increases from 44% to 48%. A majority of 58% says that it would support and 38% say it would oppose taking measures by the PA to prevent armed attacks against Israelis if an agreement on a mutual cessation of violence is reached. 82% support such an agreement on mutual cessation of violence. Nonetheless, 64% believe, and one third does not believe, that armed confrontations have helped achieve Palestinians national rights in ways that negotiations could not.
More than one third (35%) believes that Palestinians have come out winners in the ongoing armed conflict (compared to 40% last September) and 14% (compared to 16% last September) believe Israel came out a winner. But the highest percentage (44%) is for those who believe neither side came out a winner. In the Gaza Strip, the percentage of those believing that the Palestinians came out winners reaches 46% compared to 28% in the West Bank. Yet, 43% among all Palestinians (compared to 48% last June) believe that most Palestinians believe they came out winners and 59% (compared to 51%) believe the Israelis think Palestinians came out winners.
Belief that no one so far came out a winner increases in the West Bank (48%) compared to the Gaza Strip (37%), among non refugees in the Gaza Strip (44%) compared to refugees in the strip (35%), among holders of BA degree (50%) compared to illiterates (36%), among professionals, students, and the unemployed (71%, 50%, and 50% respectively) compared to farmers, craftsmen and laborers (25%, 35%, and 39% respectively), and among supporters of Fateh (46%) compared to supporters of Hamas (37%).
The level of support for reconciliation has never been higher reaching 81% (compared to 75% last September). But 34% (compared to 47%) believe that reconciliation is not possible ever.
(5) Internal Situation and Perceptions of Reform, Democracy and Corruption
- Evaluation of Palestinian conditions today is negative and 95% believe that there is wide scale suffering and more than three quarters feel a loss of security and safety
- Great majority supports calls for reform, only 30% gives a positive evaluation of democracy in Palestine, and belief in the existence of corruption in the PA remains very high at 87%
About three quarters of the Palestinians assess Palestinian conditions these days as being bad or very bad and 95% believe that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip suffer much or very much. But only 67% say that they personally suffer much or very much. Moreover, 76% feel that their security and safety and that of their family are not assured while 24% believe they are assured.
With regard to issues of governance, little has changed. An overwhelming majority of 93% support internal and external calls for fundamental reforms within the PA and 30% give Palestinian democracy positive evaluation. Yet, 62% believe that people can criticize the PA without fear while only 34% believe that people can not do that. A large majority of 87% believes that there is corruption in PA institutions and among those 60% believe that this corruption will increase or remain the same in the future.
(6) American Elections
- About one third views the re election of Bush as increasing the chances for peace while a similar percentage views it as decreasing those chances
- Three quarters believes the second Bush administration will be more supportive of Israel than the first one
Poll findings show that the Palestinians are divided in their evaluation of the impact of the reelection of the US president George Bush on the chances for the peace process. About one third (32%) believes that the reelection of Bush as US president for another four years will increase the chances for a political settlement with Israel but a similar percentage (34%) believes it will decrease those chances. But a clear majority feels pessimistic regarding the ability of the new US administration to play the role of an honest broker with more than three quarters of the Palestinians (76%) believing that the second Bush administration will be more supportive of Israel during the next four years and only 9% believe it will be less supportive..... Full Report