PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 19

28 September 2005

15 April 2006

 

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll

 

On The Eve of the Formation of the New Palestinian Government, Hamas’ Popularity Increases and Fateh’s Decreases, but a Majority of the Palestinians Wants the Continuation of the Peace Process and the Implementation of the Road Map and Supports a New Negotiated, rather than a Unilateral, Israeli Disengagement in the West Bank

 

16-18 March 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 March 16-18, 2006. The poll deals with Palestinian perceptions and the popularity of Fateh and Hamas in the post election period, attitudes towards the peace process after Hamas’ victory, attitudes regarding the Israeli raid on Jericho jail, and several domestic issues. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in the West Bank (809) and the Gaza Strip (463) 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 pcpsr@pcpsr.org.

 

Table of contents:

(1) Hamas and Fateh in the Post Legislative Elections’ Environment

(2) The Peace Process in the Post Hamas’ Victory

(3) Jericho Jail Raid

(4) Domestic Issues

(5) Results in numbers

 

Main Findings

This poll was conducted less than two months after the Palestinian legislative elections which took place on 25 January 2006 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but before Hamas government was presented to the new PLC and gained its vote of confidence. At the time of the poll, the international community was threatening to suspend aid to the PA but no action had been taken at that time.

The results indicate that despite threats of sanctions and despite public expectations that donors will indeed cut off support once a Hamas government is formed, support for Hamas has never been as high as it is today. In fact, support for Hamas today is higher than the support it received on the day of elections. By contrast, Fateh’s popularity decreased significantly compared to where it was before the elections. In fact, support for Fateh today is less than the support it had on the day of elections.

These results indicate that Israeli and Western threats increase rather than decrease public support for Hamas. Support for Fateh is dropping as some Palestinians might be punishing it for the role it seems, in their eyes, to play in bringing about the downfall of Hamas and the undoing of its victory.  

But the increased support for Hamas does not indicate increased support for its views on the peace process. To the contrary, Palestinian public opinion seems today more moderate and willing to compromise than it has been at any time before. Despite public objection to a  Hamas’ recognition of Israel in response to international pressure, a majority wants Hamas to negotiate with Israel and to implement the Road Map. More importantly, a majority supports the two-state solution and in this context supports a mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people in exchange for an Israeli recognition of Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people.

 

 

(1) Hamas and Fateh in the Post Legislative Elections’ Environment

  • Hamas’ popularity continues to increase: 47% would vote for Hamas and 39% for Fateh if new elections are held today
  • Two main reasons are given by the public for Hamas’ victory: the desire to have an authority that would implement Islamic Sharia code and the desire to have an authority that would fight corruption
  • Fateh’s loss is attributed by the public to three main factors: the voters’ desire to punish it for corruption, its divisions and fragmentation, and its failure to enforce law and order
  • Majority expects Hamas’ success in government, donors’ suspension of aid, and Hamas’ success in finding alternative sources of support
  • Majority opposes a Hamas recognition of Israel in compliance with donors’ demands

 

In the estimate of 37% of the respondents, Hamas won the January parliamentary elections because voters wanted first and foremost an Islamist authority that implements the Sharia code. But 36% believe that voters wanted instead a clean government that fights corruption, 9% believe that voters wanted a strong authority that can put an end to anarchy and enforce law and order, and 7% believe that voters wanted a fighting authority that resists occupation. In the estimate of 52% of the respondents, Fateh lost the elections because voters wanted first and foremost to punish it for the spread of corruption in the PA. But 19% attribute the loss to Fateh’s divisions and lack of leadership, 17% to its failure to put an end to anarchy, and 5% to the failure of the peace process.

If new elections are to take place today, 47% of those who would participate say they would vote for Hamas, 39% for Fateh, and 8% for the four other factions represented in the current PLC. When asked about their actual vote in the last parliamentary elections in January, 46% said they voted for Hamas, 44% for Fateh, and 8% for the four other factions. (Actual official results were 44% for Hamas, 41% for Fateh, and 12% for the four other winning factions.) 

Support for Hamas increases in the Gaza Strip (51%) compared to the West Bank (45%). By contrast, support for Fateh increases in the West Bank (40%) compared to the Gaza Strip (37%). Support for Hamas increases in cities (52% compared to 36% for Fateh) and refugee camps (47% compared to 37% for Fateh). The two factions receive equal support in rural areas. Support for Hamas increases among women (51% compared to 36% for Fateh) and decreases among men (43% for Hamas compared to 41% for Fateh). It also increases among refugees (49% for Hamas compared to 37% for Fateh) and decreases among non refugees (45% for Hamas compared to 41% for Fateh). It also increases among the illiterates (57% for Hamas compared to 33% for Fateh), students (48% for Hamas compared to 37% for Fateh), housewives (51% for Hamas compared to 35% for Fateh), religious respondents (54% for Hamas compared to 35% for Fateh), and among those opposed to the peace process (68% for Hamas and 16% for Fateh).

A majority of 70% expects Hamas to succeed in leading and managing the affairs of the PA while 22% expect the opposite. A similar percentage (69%) is not worried about its personal freedom after Hamas’ victory and 30% are worried. The large percentage of those expecting a Hamas success is somewhat surprising given the fact that a similar percentage (68%) believe that the PA can not manage without donor support and that 50% of the respondents believe that aid will indeed be suspended as long as Hamas does not meet donors’ conditions. Despite the strong moderate peace tendencies of the respondents in this poll, a majority of 59% nonetheless believes that Hamas should not recognize the state of Israel in compliance with donors’ demands while 37% believe it should.

 

(2) The Peace Process in the Post Hamas’ Victory

  • 75% want Hamas to negotiate peace with Israel
  • Majority supports the implementation of the Road Map and a majority supports a mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people under conditions of peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state in a two-state solution
  • Sharp divisions over collection of arms from armed groups but an overwhelming majority supports the integration of armed groups into PA security services
  • About three quarters welcome a negotiated Israeli disengagement from the West Bank while only 23% would support the disengagement if it was unilateral
  • 80% would support a declaration of Palestinian statehood if it comes as an outcome of negotiations with Israel and 59% would support it if it was unilaterally declared by the PA

 

Despite Hamas’ electoral victory and despite the added increase in its popularity after the elections, public support for the peace process is on the rise. Public willingness to compromise has increased significantly during the last few months with about three quarters of the Palestinians wanting Hamas to conduct peace negotiations with Israel and only 22% opposing it. A majority of 64% says it supports the peace process while only 14% says it is opposed to it. These percentages stood at 59% and 17% respectively in our exit poll on the day of elections last January. A majority of 53%, compared to 51% in the exit poll) wants the Hamas government to implement the Road Map and 40% oppose that.

But perhaps the most moderate and surprising attitude is the one toward the two state solution and mutual recognition of identity. In this poll, 66% said they would support, and 32% would oppose, the recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people in the context of peace based on a two-state solution and an Israeli recognition of Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people. Support for this solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict stood at 57% and opposition at 41% last December. On the day of elections, only 49% supported this solution and 48% opposed it. As in our December poll, three quarters would support reconciliation between the two peoples under conditions of peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state recognized by Israel.

But divisions remain over how to handle the issue of arms collection. About half (49%) wants the new government to collect the arms of the various armed groups while 21% wants it to do nothing about those arms and 27% prefer to see the new parliament enacting a law that would allow armed groups to keep their arms. Identical results were registered on the day of elections.

Findings show that about three quarters of the respondents (73%) prefer to see a new Israeli disengagement from the West Bank carried out through negotiations while only 23% prefer to see it accomplished unilaterally. Moreover, the poll found that a majority (59%) believes that unilateral steps reduce the chances of eventually reaching permanent settlement to the conflict. Despite this, 59% would support a Palestinian unilateral step such as a PA unilateral declaration of statehood while 37% would oppose that. If the statehood declaration is the outcome of negotiations with Israel, a larger percentage (80%) would support it and only 17% would oppose it.

 

(3) Jericho Jail Raid

  • A semi consensus that both the US and the UK are implicated in the Israeli raid on the Jericho jail
  • 51% support non-violent reactions to protest the US and UK involvement but 46% support in various degrees other steps such as kidnappings or armed attacks

 

Findings show an almost total consensus among the Palestinians (93%) that the US and UK are implicated with Israel in the raid on the Jericho jail which took place few days before the poll was conducted. The raid and the arrest of Ahmad Sa’adat and his colleagues from the PFLP was followed by various types of reaction including demonstrations, attacks and burning of offices and other facilities belonging to the two countries, and kidnapping of foreigners. Findings show that 51% of the respondents supported only peaceful reaction or no reaction at all. Other types of reaction were supported to various degrees. For example, 9% supported attacks on and burning of offices and installations, 12% supported also the kidnapping of foreigners, and 25% supported also armed attacks against nationals from those two countries.

 

(4) Domestic Issues

  • Poverty and unemployment is the most serious problem confronting Palestinians today followed by Israeli occupation and PA corruption
  • Three quarters do not feel safe or secure in the PA
  • 91% believe corruption exists in the PA but two thirds believe it will decrease in the future
  • Large percentage wants to give greater jurisdiction to the new legislative council than the president
  • If new presidential elections are held today, 37% would vote for Mahmud Abbas, 25% for Mahmud Zahhar, and 15% for Mustafa Barghouti from among a closed list
  • If elections are held today for a vice president, 30% would vote for Ismail Haniyyeh, 20% for Marwan Barghouti, 11% for Mahmud Zahhar, 8% for Mohammad Dahlan, 7% for Farouq Qaddoumi, and 6% each for Saeb Erikat and Mustafa Barghouti
  • Support for Fateh drops considerably from 45% in our December 2005 poll to 34% in this poll. Support for Hamas increases from 28% to 37% and for the Islamists in general from 35% to 43% during the same period.

 

The period in the post Hamas’ victory is witnessing a significant change in public priorities. Concern is growing over economic issues such as poverty and unemployment with 44% of the respondents viewing it as the most important problem confronting the Palestinians today while only 25% views the continued occupation as the most important problem and 24% views corruption as the most important problem. On the day of elections only 27% identified poverty and unemployment as the most important problem with corruption coming first with 29% and occupation coming second, like poverty and unemployment, with 27%.

Findings also show that three quarters of the Palestinians do not feel safe in their homes. This finding is identical with that we found on the day of elections. Absence of safety is felt more strongly in the West Bank, which is under semi full Israeli control, reaching 79% compared to 68% in the Gaza Strip, which is under semi full Palestinian control.

The poll shows that Hamas’ victory has also affected public perception regarding the future of corruption in the PA. While 91% believe that corruption exists in PA institutions (the highest level registered since the formation of the PA), findings show that 65% believe that this corruption will decrease in the future. This is the first time that a majority indicated its belief that corruption will decrease in the future. Last December, only 34% believed that corruption will decrease in the future.  

But Hamas’ victory caused no change in public perception regarding the status of Palestinian democracy. Positive evaluation of democracy under the PA reached 34% in this poll compared to an almost identical result (35%) last December.

Despite the fact that 61% of the public are satisfied (and 37% are dissatisfied) with the performance of President Mahmud Abbas, only a small minority of 19% wants to give him more powers than those of the newly-elected PLC. On the other hand, 44% want to give the PLC greater powers than those enjoyed by the president and 32% want both to have equal powers.

Despite this result, the popularity of Fateh’s Abbas (37%) remains higher than that of Mahmud Zahhar of Hamas (25%) and Mustafa Barghouti of other groups (15%). This came in a response to a closed question with respondents asked to choose one of the three. In another closed question on a vote for a vice president, Ismail Haniyyah, the current prime minister, emerged as the most popular with 30% followed by Marwan Barghouti with 20%, Mahmud Zahhar with 11%, Mohammad Dahlan (8%), Farouq Qaddoumi (7%) and Saeb Erikat and Mustafa Barghouti (6% each).

Findings show that support for Fateh has dropped significantly compared to last December while support for Hamas has increased during the same period. Support for Fateh stood at 45% three months ago dropping to 34% in this poll. Hamas’ popularity reached 28% last December rising to 37% in this poll. Support for the Islamists in general (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and independent Islamists) increased from 35% to 43% during the same period.

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