PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 23

PSR Poll No. 23

29.March.2007

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. (23)

 

An Overwhelming Majority is Satisfied with the Make-Up of the National Unity Government but the Public is Split into Two Equal Halves with Regard to its Acceptance of the Quartet Conditions and Almost Three Quarters are in Favor of the Saudi Initiative

 

22-24 March 2007 

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 22-24, 2007. This poll deals with several issues including the national unity government, the peace process, the domestic balance of power, and the Sunni-Shii strife in Iraq. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults, 830 in the West Bank and 440 in the Gaza Strip, 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 pcpsr@pcpsr.org.

 

Table of Contents:

 

 

Main Findings:

Findings show that the Palestinian public is satisfied with the make-up of the national unity government which was formed just one week before the conduct of the poll. The success of Fateh and Hamas in forming a unity government has created hope, optimism, and great expectations particularly regarding the ability of the new government to end infighting, enforce law and order, and reduce international financial sanctions and diplomatic boycott.

But the public is divided on the issue of international or Quartet conditions for resumption of financial assistance and diplomatic engagement. Half of the public wants the government to accept the conditions and the other half does not want it to do so. Despite this split, a clear majority supports the recognition of Israel when this recognition is part of a settlement that creates a Palestinians state and resolves all issues of the conflict. Moreover, an overwhelming majority supports the current ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and wants to see it expanded to include the West Bank.

Moreover, it seems that the formation of the national unity government, the majority belief that this development will lead to more moderation regarding Israel inside Hamas, and the increased talk about reaffirming Arab commitment to it in the March 2007 Arab Summit have increased public support for the Saudi Initiative from about 60% last December to about three quarters in this poll. It is worth noting that support for a permanent settlement, such as the Saudi Initiative, does not preclude support for an interim one. Findings show that more than 70% support the conduct of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on an interim settlement that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the largest part of the occupied territories to be followed by negotiations leading to a comprehensive permanent settlement. 

The formation of the national unity government did not lead to changes in the domestic balance of power between Fateh and Hamas as both have maintained the same levels of popularity as in our poll last December. The same applies to the popularity of PA president Mahmud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh; as in our December poll both receive in this poll almost equal percentage of support.

In this poll, we have examined for the first time public perception of the Shii-Sunni sectarian violence in Iraq. Findings show that a majority of Palestinians view the current violence in Iraq to be partly sectarian in nature. Among those who do see it that way, a majority believes that the PA, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Fateh and Hamas side with the Sunnis while Iran and Hezbollah side with the Shiis. As for Syria, about one third believes it stands with the Sunnis and another third believes it to side with the Shiis. 

 

(1) National Unity Government  

  • 88% are satisfied with the make-up of the national unity government and 11% are dissatisfied.
  • In evaluating the Mecca Agreement between Fateh and Hamas, 62% believe that both sides had to compromise a little while 9% believe that Hamas had to accept Fateh’s position and 4% believe that Fateh had to accept Hamas position.
  • A small minority not exceeding 13% blames Hamas for the failure of its former government to improve Palestinian conditions
  • The largest percentage (43%) wants the enforcement of law and order to be the top priority of the unity government.
  • 69% expect the unity government to last at least until the end of the year while 23% expect it to fall before the end of the year.
  • 48% want the unity government to accept the conditions of the Quartet and 48% does not want it to accept them.
  • In the aftermath of the formation of the national unity government, public expectations are high: a majority ranging between 65% and 71% expect improvements in the ability of the government to pay salaries, the enforcement of law and order, the fight against corruption, the prevention of infighting, the easing of financial sanctions, and the return to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Findings show that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians (88%) is satisfied with the make-up of the national unity government while 11% say they are dissatisfied with it. Among other things, this near consensus may have been caused by the perception of a large part of the respondents (62%) that the Mecca Agreement that led to the formation of the unity government has been the outcome of modification in the positions of the two sides, Fateh and Hamas, with only 9% believing that Hamas had to acquiesce to Fateh’s demands and 4% believing that Fateh had to acquiesce to Hamas’s demands. 20% said neither side had to change its position.

Findings also show that only a small percentage (13%) holds Hamas responsible for the failure of its former government to improve Palestinian conditions. The largest percentage (37%) blames Israel, 25% blame the international community and the US, and 13% blame other Palestinian parties such as Fateh.

The largest percentage (43%) believes that the top priority for the unity government should be the enforcement of law and order while 26% believe that it should be the ending of the current financial sanctions. 17% believe the top priority should be the conduct of political reforms and 13% believe it should be the return to the peace process. One reason for placing the peace process at a low level of importance might be due to public perception that it is not the role of the unity government to negotiate and that negotiation with Israel is the responsibility of the PA president and the PLO. Alternatively, the public might believe that no progress is possible in negotiations any way.

The public is divided into two equal halves regarding how the unity government should respond to the Quartet conditions: 48% want it to accept them and 48% do not want it to accept them. If Israel recognizes the unity government, 49% say the government should in this case recognize Israel and 47% say it should not. Support for the recognition of Israel increases among men (52%) compared to women (47%), among supporters of Fateh (66%) compared to supporters of Hamas (32%), among retired persons (76%) and employees (57%) compared to students (36%), and among people older than 48 years of age (56%) compared to those between 18-22 years of age (38%).

Findings also show high expectations among the majority of Palestinians with 69% expecting the unity government to continue in office at least until the end of the year while 23% expect it to fall before the end of the year. Moreover, 71% expect improvement in the ability of the government to pay salaries, 69% expect improvement in the government’s ability to enforce law and order, 65% expect improvement in economic conditions, 65% expect improvement in their personal safety and security, and 65% expect improvement in the fight against corruption and the implementation of reform measures. 71% expect the chances for infighting to recede while 67% expect the financial sanctions to ease. Almost two thirds (65%) expect return to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in the near future. In fact, 54% expect that formation of the national unity government to lead Hamas to become more flexible and moderate in its position regarding Israel. 18% expect the opposite to happen.  

 

(2) Domestic Conditions  

  • 53% are satisfied with the performance of PA President Mahmud Abbas and 43% are dissatisfied
  • Only 6% view conditions of Palestinians in PA areas are good while 82% view them as bad or very bad
  • Most important problem confronting Palestinians today is unemployment and poverty followed by Israeli occupation and its daily practices
  • 84% believe that corruption exists in the PA and 49% of those believe that this corruption will increase or remain the same in the future
  • 27% say that their personal security and safety is assured while 73% say it is not
  • 51% evaluate the performance of the “Executive Force” as negative, increasing the level of anarchy and lawlessness, while only 29% see it as positive, contributing to the enforcement of law and order
  • In light of the last election experience, 56% see democracy as a viable political system suitable for Palestine while 40% see it as nonviable and unsuitable for Palestine
  • 32% say they believe Hamas’s goal is to establish a state that guarantees rights but where Sharia, or Islamic law, is the only source of legislation and 16% say they believe it seeks to establish a Sharia state similar to Saudi Arabia

 

Findings show significant increase in the level of public satisfaction with the performance of PA president Mahmud Abbas compared to findings in our last poll in December 2006: 53% are satisfied now compared to 40% last December. Dissatisfaction in this poll reaches 43%. Despite this improvement and despite the high level of satisfaction with the make-up of the unity government, only 6% describe current condition of the Palestinians in PA areas as good or very good while 82% describe it as bad or very bad. About one third (32%) believe the most important problem confronting Palestinians today is unemployment and poverty while 24% believe it is the continuation of occupation and its daily measure, 23% believe it is corruption and lack of internal reforms, and 20% believe it is internal anarchy.

Findings also show that 84% believe that corruption exists in the PA and among those 49% believe that this corruption will increase or remain the same in the future. About 42% believe it will decrease. It is interesting to note that only 21% believed last December that corruption will decrease in the future. The change might be due to an increase in the level of optimism generated by a high level of expectations from the national unity government.

Only 27% say that their personal safety and security is assured and 73% say it is not. In this regard, it is worth noting that 51% evaluate the performance of the “Executive Force” negatively viewing it as contributing to lawlessness while only 29% evaluate it positively viewing it as contributing to enforcement of law and order. These findings are identical to those we found in our December 2006 poll which means that the formation of the national unity government did not change public views regarding the performance of this force.

But the formation of the unity government might have positively affected, even if slightly, public evaluation of democracy in light of the outcome of the legislative elections in January 2006. Today, 56% view democracy as a viable political system suitable for Palestine (compared to 53% three months ago) while 40% view it as nonviable and unsuitable for Palestine (compared to 43% three months ago).

Finally, the formation of the national unity government did not affect public reading of Hamas’s goals regarding the nature of the Palestinian state it seeks to create. 21% (compared to 23% six months ago) view Hamas’s goal as the creation of a state that guarantees public liberties and in which Sharia would be one of the sources of legislation. By contrast, 32% (compared to 33% six months ago) view Hamas’s goal as the creation of a state that guarantees public liberties and in which Sharia would be the only source of legislation. Moreover, 16% (compared to 13% six months ago) view its goal as the creation of a state based on Sharia like in Saudi Arabia, and 5% (compared to 7% six months ago) view it as the creation of a state based on Sharia like in Afghanistan under the Taliban. 16%, compared to 15% six months ago, believe Hamas’s goal is the creation of a state like other Arab states in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

 

 (3) Peace Process  

  • A majority of 72% supports the Saudi, or Arab, initiative and 26% oppose it.
  • 63% support and 35% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of all issues of conflict.
  • A majority of 54% supports and 43% oppose a permanent settlement in which Israel withdraws from all occupied territories with the exception of settlement areas in less than 3% of the West Bank which would be subject to territorial exchange
  • 43% support and 55% oppose a permanent settlement in which East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state and Israel annexes Jewish neighborhoods and the Wailing Wall.
  • 43% support and 54% oppose a permanent settlement in which the refugee problem is resolved based on UN resolution 194 but with restrictions on refugee return to Israel which would be subject to an Israeli decision.
  • A majority of 71% support and 27% oppose the conduct of negotiations with Israel that would aim at establishing a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and about 80% to 90% of the West Bank to be followed by negotiations between the Palestinian state and Israel on a permanent settlement.
  • A majority of 85% supports the current ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, 84% support the extension of the current ceasefire to include the West Bank.
  • 47% believe that Hamas’s goal is to reach a long term Hudna or truce with Israel, 24% believe its goal is to insure the continuation of the conflict and 22% believe its aim is to seek permanent peace with Israel.

 

Findings show that about three quarters of the Palestinians (72%) support the Saudi Initiative while 26% oppose it. This finding points to a significant increase in support for this initiative compared to the situation three months ago when support stood at 59% and opposition at 38%. The increase in the level of support might have the result of increased Arab and international interest in the initiative and in light of the plan by the Arab Summit in Riyadh to reaffirm Arab commitment to it. Moreover, the Mecca Agreement, the formation of the unity government, and the public expectation that Hamas will show more moderation regarding Israel might have played a role in increasing public support for the initiative. Support for the initiative increases among supporters of Fateh (82%) compared to supporters of Hamas (63%), among non refugees (76%) compared to refugees (66%), among illiterates (81%) compared to holders of BA degree (70%), among retired persons (87%) compared to students (69%), and among those most willing to buy a lottery ticket (86%) compared to the most unwilling (61%).

Findings show that a majority of 63% supports and 35% oppose a mutual recognition in which Palestinians recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Israel recognizes Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of all issues of conflict. Support for this mutual recognition stood at 58% and opposition at 40% in our poll last December.

Findings show a majority of 54% supports and 43% oppose a permanent territorial solution in which Israel withdraws from all occupied territories with the exception of settlement areas not exceeding 3% of the size of the West Bank which would be exchanged with an equal territory from Israel. Support for this settlement stood at 61% three months ago. With regard to a permanent settlement in Jerusalem -- in which East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state but in which Israel would annex Jewish neighborhoods and the Wailing Wall – 43% would support and 55% would oppose the proposed solution. Three months ago, support for this solution stood at 39%. Similarly, 43% would support and 54% would oppose a refugee permanent settlement based on UN resolution 194 but in which actual return to Israel would be restricted and be subject to an Israeli decision. Three months ago, support for this solution stood at 41% and opposition at 54%.

The poll found a high level of support (71%) for entering negotiations whose objective would be the creation of a Palestinian state in all Gaza and about 80% to 90% of the West Bank to be followed by negotiations on permanent issues to be conducted by the state of Palestine and the state of Israel. 27% opposed entering such negotiations. It is worth mentioning that three months ago we found that 58% would support a Palestinian-Israeli agreement that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state in all Gaza and 80% to 90% of the West Bank to be followed by permanent status negotiations on borders, refugees, and holy places.

As in our last poll three months ago, an overwhelming majority (85%) supports the current ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and a similar percentage (84%) supports extending it to include the West Bank.

Findings show that only 22% consider Hamas’s objective to be the arrival at a permanent settlement with Israel while 47% believe that Hamas aims at reaching a long term Hudna or armistice. About one quarter (24%) believe that Hamas wants to insure the continuation of the conflict with no settlement at all.

 

(4) Domestic Balance of Power 

  • If new legislative elections are held today, 37% would vote for Hamas, 43% for Fateh, 11% for other lists, and 8% remain undecided. These results are almost identical to those obtained in our last poll conducted three months ago in December 2006.
  • If new presidential elections are held today and the only two candidates were PA President Mahmud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh, 47% would vote for Abbas and 46% for Haniyeh. These results are almost identical with those obtained in our last poll three months ago. But if the only two candidates were Marwan Barghouti and Isma’il Haniyeh, Barghouti would receive 52% and Haniyeh 43%. 

 

Findings show that the formation of the unity government did not affect the popularity of the various factions. If elections are held today, Hamas would receive 37% of the vote (compared to 36% last December), Fateh 43% (compared to 42% last December), all other factions 11% (compared to 12% last December),  and 8% remain undecided (compared to 10% last December). It is worth noting however that the popularity of Hamas has finally stabilized after continued but slight decline since June 2006.

If new presidential elections are to be held today with only two candidates, PA president Mahmud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh, competing, the two would receive almost identical percentages of the vote: 47% for Abbas and 46% for Haniyeh. These are almost identical to the results we obtained last December. If the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Isma’il Haniyeh, Barghouti would win with 52% of the vote against 43% for Haniyeh. In our December 2006 poll, we measured the popularity of Marwan Barghouti against that of Khalid Mish’al: Barghouti received 57% of the vote to Mish’al’s 36%.

     

(5) Sunni-Shii Strife in Iraq   

  • 59% agree and 39% disagree that part of the conflict in Iraq is a sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiis
  • Majorities ranging between 50% to 69% believe that Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority take the side of the Sunni Iraqis in their conflict with Shii Iraqis
  • On the other hand, 79% believe Iran takes the side of the Shiis and 74% believe Hezbollah too takes the sides of the Shiis in Iraq.
  • 69% believe Fateh stands with the Sunnis and 76% believe that Hamas too stands with the Sunnis.
  • 75% of the respondents say they stand with the Sunnis of Iraq in their conflict with the Shiis

 

Findings show that a majority of Palestinians (59%) believes that part of the armed conflict in Iraq is a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiis while 39% disagree with that. A majority (ranging between 50% and 69%) of those who do believe that a sectarian conflict exists in Iraq believes that the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia stand on the side of the Sunnis in their conflict with the Shiis. By contrast, 79% believe Iran stands on the side of the Shiis. When asked about Syria, about one third (34%) said it stood on the side of the Sunnis and 31% said it stood on the side of the Shiis.

When asked about the position of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Fateh, findings show that about three quarters believe that Hezbollah stands on the side of the Shiis, but 69% said Fateh stands on the side of the Sunnis and 67% said Hamas too stands on the side of the Sunnis. It is worth mentioning that while only 3% said Fateh stands on the side of the Shiis, 13% said Hamas stands on the side of the Shiis.

Three quarters of those who believe that a sectarian conflict exists in Iraq say they stand with the Sunnis, less that 1% say they stand with the Shiis, 18% say they stand with neither side, and 4% say they stand with both sides. Percentage of those who stand with the Sunnis increases in the Gaza Strip (87%) compared to the West Bank (67%), among those living in refugee camps (84%) compared to those living in villages and towns (71%), and among men (79%) compared to women (71%). But supporters of Fateh and Hamas say equally that they stand with the Sunnis (82% and 80% respectively).

   

    

 

 

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