15-18 May 2002
These are the results of opinion poll # 4, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 15-18 May 2002. The poll deals with public attitudes toward the peace process and reconciliation, armed confrontations, evaluation of PA performance, calls for political reform, and popularity of Arafat, Fateh, and Islamist groups. The total sample size of this poll is 1317 from Palestinians 18 years and older, interviewed face-to-face in 120 locations in the West Bank (810) and the Gaza Strip (507). The margin of error is 3%.
The results of this poll indicate that while the latest Israeli incursion into the West Bank left little impact on Palestinian public attitudes regarding peace and violence, it did have a significant impact on attitudes regarding domestic affairs. The incursion exposed to full view the faults of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leading the street to demand fundamental reforms. As a result, the issue of internal political reform became an important issue by itself; indeed, from this moment on, it can go hand in hand with that other most important issue, ending occupation. This is the most important finding of this poll.
1. Peace Process and Reconciliation
- Two-thirds support the Saudi initiative (defined as two states, 1967 borders, full normalization and peace)
- 70% support reconciliation between the two peoples after peace and statehood
- 54% support Palestinian participation in the peace conference called for by the US
- But only 17% expect to see a quick end to armed confrontations and return to negotiations
The results of the poll show a high level of support for the Saudi initiative even when the issue of refugees is omitted. Two-thirds of the respondents supported the initiative that has been defined as meaning: (1) the establishment of two states, Palestine and Israel, (2) Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, and (3) full normalization and peace between Israel and the Arab states. This dovish attitude is confirmed by the high level of readiness to embrace reconciliation (70%) between the two peoples in the context of a peace agreement and the establishment of a state recognized by Israel. It is also confirmed by the willingness to support (54%) participation of the Palestinian side in the peace conference that has been called for by the US. It is important to note the reference in the question to the US role in holding the conference, which may have led some to oppose it.
Despite these positive peace-related signals, the public remains pessimistic. Only 17% expect negotiations to resume soon enough and armed confrontations to stop. An additional 39% do expect that negotiations will resume but expect to see some armed attacks continuing, while 36% expect that armed confrontations will not stop and the two sides will not return to the negotiations table. These expectations are not different from those found in our two previous polls in December and July 2001.
Support for the Saudi initiative increases in the Gaza Strip (70%) compared to the West Bank (64%), in the Ramallah region (70%) compared to Nablus (61%), Hebron (62%) and Jerusalem (54%), among women (70%) compared to men (62%), among the young (61%) compared to the old (74%), among the illiterates (79%) compared to holders of BA degree (51%), among students (57%) compared to housewives (72%) and retired persons (90%), and among supporters of Fateh (77%) compared to supporters of Hamas (56%). The high level of support for the Saudi initiative among Fateh supporters indicates that the Palestinian national movement remains solidly behind a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict despite 19 months of violence.
2. Armed Confrontations
- Support for bombings inside Israel drops to 52%, but support for armed attacks against soldiers and settlers remain very high (92% and 89% respectively).
- 86% oppose the arrest of those who carry out bombing attacks inside Israel
- 67% believe that armed confrontations have helped achieve Palestinian national rights in ways that negotiations could not
The results show a reduction in the level of support for bombings against Israeli civilians inside Israel from 58% last December to 52% in this poll. This reduction does not seem to be the outcome of street dissatisfaction with the intifada or military confrontations. To the contrary, the street seems more confident in this poll, compared to the one in December, that armed confrontations have helped achieve Palestinian national objectives in ways that negotiations could not, with the percentage rising from 61% to 67%. The results also show a wide-spread opposition to the arrests of those who carry out bombing attacks reaching 86%, compared to 76% last December. The percentage of support for armed attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained as high as it was last December, 92% and 89% respectively.
Support for bombing attacks inside Israel increases in the Gaza Strip (59%) compared to the West Bank (47%), in Tulkarm (60%) compared to Jerusalem (35%), in refugee camps (65%) compared to cities and villages (50%), among the young (61%) compared to the old (43%), among refugees (58%) compared to non-refugees (47%), among holders of BA degree (57%) compared to illiterates (47%), among students (66%) compared to retired persons (25%), among those with the lowest income (55%) compared to those with highest income (28%), and among supporters of Hamas (70%) compared to supporters of Fateh (47%).
3. Evaluation of PA Performance, and the Calls for Reform
- 39% give positive evaluation to the performance of the Palestinian leadership during the latest Israeli incursion
- 65% oppose the agreement to end the siege on the Preventive Security headquarter, 58% oppose the deal on the Nativity Church, and 49% oppose the Muqata'a deal in Ramallah
- 83% believe there is corruption in PA institutions
- 21% give positive evaluation to Palestinian democracy
- 91% support fundamental reforms in the PA, 85% support unification of security services, 95% support the dismissal of ministers accused of mismanagement or corruption, 83% support the holding of elections, and 92% support the adoption of a basic law or constitution
- 48% support and 44% oppose changing the Palestinian political system so that power would reside into the hands of a prime minister making the office of the president ceremonial
- 89% support a democratic system of government
The results show a high level of disappointment with the performance of the PA during the latest Israeli incursion into the West Bank. Moreover, there is a broad disappointment with the perceived corruption in PA institutions and with the status of democracy in Palestine. For example, positive evaluation of the performance of the PA leadership during the Israeli incursion did not exceed 39%, while the performance of the security services received 40% positive rating, and the ministries received 32% positive rating. On the other hand, civil society organization received a much higher positive rating of 72%.
The poll also shows strong opposition to deals made to end the siege on the Preventive Security headquarter in Beitunia (65%), the Nativity Church in Bethlehem (58%), and the Muqata'a (Arafat's headquarter) in Ramallah (49%). The percentage of those who believe there is corruption in PA institutions reached 83%, and the positive evaluation of the status of democracy in Palestine did not exc21%.
This negative assessment of the PA led to an overwhelming demand for reform as indicated by the findings of this pol. The level of support for the internal and external calls for reform stands at 91%. Specifically, a majority of 85% support the calls for the unification of the security services under one command; 95% support the dismissal of ministers accused of mismanagement or corruption; 83% support the holding of general elections for the president and the Legislative Council in the next few months; and, 92% support the adoption of a basic law or constitution. But only 48% support and 44% oppose the call for changing the political system so that power would reside in the hands of a prime minister while the office of the president would become ceremonial.
The poll shows an overwhelming support (89%) for a democratic system of government characterized by the following five main features: periodic political elections (receiving 95% support when standing alone), the election of the head of the state for a limited period only (82% alone), full freedom to form political parties (80% alone), free press with no state censorship (82% alone), and a judiciary independent of the executive (78% alone).
The results indicate that support for changing the Palestinian system of government, so that power would reside into the hands of a prime minister and the position of the president would become ceremonial, increases in the West Bank (51%) compared to the Gaza Strip (43%), in Hebron (60%) and Jerusalem (53%) compared to Ramallah (39%), among men (56%) compared to women (41%), and among non-refugees (53%) compared to refugees (42%). This is the first time that this question has been asked and therefore the results can not be compared to pervious periods.
4. Popularity of Arafat, Fateh, and the Islamists
- 35% would elect Arafat as a president compared to 36% last July and 46% in July 2000
- 19% give support to Marwan Barghouti, 13% to Ahmad Yasin, and 10% to Haidar Abdul Shafi and Sa'eb Erikat
- Fateh has the support of 32% of the street compared to 28% last December and 37% in July 2000
- The Islamist groups have the support of 25%, the same as in December, but compared to 17% in July 2000
The poll shows that Arafat's popularity has remained almost unchanged since December standing at 35%. This represents a significant drop compared to Arafat's popularity before the eruption of the intifada, where it stood at 46% in July 2000. But the popularity of Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Fateh Secretary General currently in an Israeli jail, almost doubled from 11% in December to 19% in this poll. Barghouti's name has never showed up in our surveys prior to the start of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000. In a third place came Ahmad Yasin of Hamas with 13%, followed by Haidar Abdul Shafi and Sa'eb Erikat (10% each), Farouq Qaddoumi (8%), Hanan Ashrawai (6%), Ahamd Qurai' (2%), and Mahmud Abbas (1%).
Fateh improved its position from 28% in December to 32% in this poll while that of the Islamist groups remained unchanged at 25%. Of the Islamists, Hamas is the strongest, with 16%, followed by independent Islamists (5%) and Islamic Jihad (4%). One possible reason for the rise in the popularity of Fateh may have been the public satisfaction with attacks carried out by Fateh's armed wing, al Aqsa Brigades, inside Israel and against Israeli check points in the West Bank since December.