Local Elections Exit Poll
15 December 2005
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted its exit poll for the fourth round of local elections on 15 December 2005. The poll aimed at examining voters’ behavior and predicting the results after the closing of polling stations. The poll was conducted in the four main cities of Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, and al Bireh. Our sample included 60% of all polling centers. These were selected randomly with special attention paid to the geographic locations of the selected centers. One station was randomly selected in each polling center. The total size of the sample for prediction purposes was 2531 and for the purpose of the full poll 819 voters. The total size of the stations was 36 from 36 polling centers. One out of five voters were selected for prediction purposes and one out of 15 for the full poll.
The results of the exit poll in the four large cities show that Hamas’ lists received 59% of the vote compared to 26% for Fateh and 15% for all other lists. But more importantly, the results show that when it comes to voting intentions in the upcoming legislative elections, Hamas will most likely come out victorious with 41% of the vote compared to 21% for Fateh and 15% for all other lists, while 23% remain undecided.
What caused this dramatic change?
(1) The poll shows that most voters in the four cities (56%) believe that their former local councils were corrupt while 93% believe that the newly elected councils will fight corruption. Moreover, the findings show that in the view of the voters, the most important problem confronting the Palestinians today is not occupation, poverty and unemployment, or internal anarchy; rather, it is corruption. The largest percentage believes that the top Palestinian priority should be fighting corruption and implementing reforms followed by improving economic conditions. When selecting their preferred lists in the local elections, 99% of the voters said that the integrity of the candidates in those lists and their incorruptibility was the most important consideration.
(2) The low turnout in the large cities, particularly in the cities of Ramallah and al Bireh (50% for each) benefited Hamas and proved detrimental to Fateh’s interests. This turnout coincided with the split in Fateh and the formation of two separate lists to the legislative elections. When findings of this exit poll are compared to the findings of another PSR poll conducted one week earlier on a representative sample, major differences emerge between the two polls showing greater increase in Hamas support. This difference is explained in part by the low turnout. In other words, the low turnout contributed to Fateh’s poor showing in the local elections and in the intentions regarding voting in the legislative elections.
(3) Hamas’ lists received considerable number of votes from voters who do not consider themselves supporters of Hamas. For example, while 42% in all four cities stated that they support Hamas, the percentage of the actual votes received by Hamas in our poll was 59% as indicated above. By contrast, while 28% of the voters said they support Fateh, only 26% actually voted for Fateh. In other words, about one quarter of the votes received byHamas’ lists came from voters who do not support Hamas, including voters who in fact support Fateh. In Nablus, for example, 20% of the supporters of Fateh voted for Hamas’ list while another 20% voted for lists other than those of Fateh or Hamas. In other words, only 60% of Fateh supporters voted for Fateh’s list. This pattern can be seen in other cities, even if the percentages involved are smaller. Needless to say, Fateh supporters were highly critical of their own lists in the local elections in the four cities, particularly in Nablus.
Voting in the Local Elections Compared to Voting Intentions in the Upcoming Legislative Elections (all results are taken from PSR’s exit poll)
Voting in the local elections
Voting Intentions in the upcoming legislative elections
One should not draw general conclusions regarding the outcome of the legislative elections from the results of this exit poll in the four cities for two reasons:
(1) The percentage of the actual voters does not exceed 4% of the total eligible voters in the legislative elections. Polls as well as the outcome of the local elections have shown that results vary considerably between cities, refugee camps, and rural areas.
(2) Results of this exit poll clearly indicate that despite the high percentage of votes for Hamas’ lists at the local level, this percentage drops considerably when it comes to voting intentions in the legislative elections. This pattern is explained by the different considerations of the voters in the local vs. national elections. At the local level, voters’ concern is focused on corruption and much less on other priorities such as the peace process; at the national level, as in the case of the legislative elections, voters’ top priority is the improvement of economic conditions.