PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 25

PSR poll 25

10 September 2007

 

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. (25)

 

While Three Quarters of the Palestinians Reject Hamas’s Military Action in the Gaza Strip and While Fateh and President Mahmud Abbas Gain Popular Support as a Result of Hamas’s Step, and While a Majority Supports the Presidential Decree Regarding Election Law and Supports Early Elections, 40% Want the Government of Ismail Haniyeh to Stay in Power and Half of Gazans Feel They and Their Families are Secure and Safe in Their Homes

 

6-8 September 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 September 6-8, 2007. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%. This poll release covers three issues: Hamas’s military action in the Gaza Strip, elections and balance of power, and the peace process. 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 only one fifth of the Palestinians supports Hamas’s military takeover of the Gaza Strip and that Fateh and PA President Mahmud Abbas have benefited from Hamas’s step as their popularity has increased significantly. Moreover, a majority supports the recently released presidential decree regarding election law and supports holding early elections. Findings show that a larger percentage of the public blames Hamas rather than Fateh for the problems confronting the Gaza Strip today. A large percentage accepts the position of the PA president regarding resumption of dialogue with Hamas while a much smaller percentage supports the position of Hamas regarding dialogue. Nonetheless, 40% of the public wants the government of Ismail Haniyeh to stay in office and half of the Gazans say their security and personal safety and that of their families are now assured.

 

These findings indicate that Hamas has failed in convincing Palestinians to accept its narrative regarding the need to carry out its military takeover or the best way to resolve the crisis created by the takeover. Moreover, Hamas has failed to convince the public to accept its narrative regarding the responsibility of president Abbas and Fateh for the problems Gaza confronted after the takeover such as the closure of the Rafah Crossing or the electricity cutoff. For all this, Hamas paid dearly by losing six percentage points in its popularity during the last six months. But Hamas succeeded in enforcing law and order in the Gaza Strip where half of the population feel their security and safety are now assured; a feeling they did not have for years. It is for this reason perhaps that 40% of the public want the Hamas government led by Haniyeh to stay in office.

 

Findings show that Fateh and Abbas’s government have gained more than they have lost as a result of the Hamas takeover. Fateh and the PA government led by Salam Fayad have failed to meet public expectations in two of its most important needs: enforcing law and order and fighting corruption. They have also failed in wining the battle over hearts and minds through the effective use of the media. As importantly, they have failed to positively affect the level of public optimism about the future of the peace process. But Abbas and Fateh succeeded in wining public support for their position regarding the best way out of the current crisis with Hamas and regarding the need to amend the electoral system and the need to introduce eligibility conditions for party and individual nomination for the parliamentary and presidential elections, conditions that are strongly opposed by Hamas. They have also succeeded in convincing the public of the need to hold early elections. For all this, and for the first time since the last parliamentary elections, Fateh managed to increase its popularity by five percentage points during the last three months.  

 

(1) Hamas’s Military Takeover of the Gaza Strip

  • 22% support and 73% oppose Hamas’s military takeover of the Gaza Strip. Support for Hamas’s military action reaches 31% in the Gaza Strip compared to 17% in the West Bank.
  • 40% agree and 52% disagree that Haniyeh’s government should stay in office despite dismissal by the president. 32% evaluate the performance of the Haniyeh government as good or very good and 43% think it is bad or very bad.
  • By contrast, 49% agree and 44% disagree that the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad should stay in office. Positive evaluation of the Fayyad government reaches 44% and negative evaluation 28%.
  • The party most responsible for the closure of the Rafah Crossing is Israel in the eyes of 41% of the Palestinians, Hamas in the eyes of 26%, Fateh in the eyes of 15%, and Egypt in the eyes of 2%. Blaming Hamas for the closure of the Rafah Crossing increases in the Gaza Strip (33%) compared to the West Bank (22%). Similarly, blaming Fateh increases in the Gaza Strip (19%) compared to the West Bank (12%).
  • To end the current crisis between Fateh and Hamas, 27% accept Hamas’s view which calls for unconditional dialogue with President Abbas based on the exiting status quo today and 46% accept Abbas’s and Fateh’s view which calls for a dialogue but only after Hamas transfers control over the security headquarters to its rightful owners and return to the status quo ante.
  • The largest percentage (29%) expects the unification of the two authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within months and 19% expect it within a year or two. On the other hand, 20% believe unification will not take place in the next two years and 22% believe that the separation will become permanent. 

 

Findings show that Hamas’s military takeover in June finds little support among the public with only 22% favoring it and about three quarters (73%) opposing it. Support for the Hamas step increases in the Gaza Strip (31%) compared to the West Bank (17%), among those opposed to the peace process (45%) compared to those supporting it (18%), among Hamas’s supporters (72%) compared to Fateh’s supporters (4%), among refugees (27%) compared to non-refugees (18%), among students (33%) compared to retired persons (14%), laborers (17%), and employees (18%), and among the youth between 18-22 years of age (28%) compared to those over 52 years of age (18%).

Despite the high level of opposition to the Hamas takeover, a large percentage (40%) agrees that the government of Ismail Haniyeh can stay in office despite the fact that it was dismissed by the PA president. Almost a third (32%) evaluates the performance of the Haniyeh government as good or very good while 43% evaluate it as bad or very bad. Support for keeping the Haniyeh government in office increases in the Gaza Strip (44%) compared to the West Bank (38%). Moreover, positive evaluation of the Haniyeh government increases in the Gaza Strip (38%) compared to the West Bank (28%).

 

However, support for keeping the government of Salam Fayyad in office is greater than support for keeping the Haniyeh government in office. About half of the respondents (49%) agrees and 44% disagree with keeping the Fayyad government in office. Findings show no difference on this matter between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the performance of the Fayyad government receives more positive evaluation than that of the Haniyeh government with 44% giving it a positive evaluation and 28% giving it a negative evaluation. Here too we find no differences between residents of the West Bank and those of the Gaza Strip.

These positions toward the two governments affect public perception of their legitimacy with 30% viewing the Haniyeh government as the legitimate PA government and 38% viewing the Fayyad government as the legitimate one; 22% believe both governments are illegitimate and 5% say the two governments are legitimate. Belief in the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government increases in the Gaza Strip (35%) compared to the West Bank (27%), among those who identify themselves as “religious” (34%) compared to those who identify themselves as “somewhat religious” (19%), among those opposed to the peace process (51%) compared to supporters of the peace process (24%), and among supporters of Hamas (80%) compared to supporters of Fateh (4%) .

 

Reluctance from a majority of Palestinians to grant legitimacy to either government is in part explained by the failure of the two governments to win the battle over hearts and minds. Findings show that the largest percentage (45%) does not trust the media of Hamas/Haniyeh or Fateh/Fayyad and only 19% trust the media of Hamas/Haniyeh while 27% trust the media of Fateh/Fayyad. Trust in Hamas/Haniyeh’s media increases in the Gaza Strip (27%) compared to the West Bank (15%). Similarly, trust in Fateh/Fayyad media increases in the Gaza Strip (30%) compared to the West Bank (25%). It is noticeable that while in the West Bank 50% say they do not trust either media, the percentage in the Gaza Strip of those not trusting either side decreases to 37%.

 

Perceptions of legitimacy and media effectiveness affect views regarding responsibility for the problems that plagued the Gaza Strip after the military takeover. The percentage of those blaming Hamas for those problems is higher than the percentage of those blaming Fateh and president Abbas. For example, 26% say that Hamas is responsible for the closure of the Rafah Crossing while only 15% blame Fateh. It is noticeable that the percentage of those blaming Hamas increases in the Gaza Strip (33%) compared to the West Bank (22%) and that the percentage of those blaming Fateh is also higher in the Gaza Strip (19%) compared to the West Bank (12%). However, the largest percentage (41%) blames Israel while only 2% blame Egypt for the closure of the Rafah Crossing. Similar findings are found regarding the recent electricity cutoff with 23% blaming Hamas and 18% blaming president Abbas and the Fayyad government. The largest percentage (43%) blamed Israel and 10% blamed the European Union. Blaming Hamas and Fateh increases in the Gaza Strip (29% and 22% respectively) while blaming Israel increases in the West Bank (49%) compared to the Gaza Strip (32%).

 

Findings show that about one third of the public believes that the top priority for the Fayyad government should be the enforcement of law and order and ending lawlessness followed by conducting political reforms and fighting corruption (22%). Ending international sanctions and returning to the peace process come third and fourth (18% each).

Findings show greater public willingness to accept positions advanced by president Abbas and Fateh to solve the current crisis with Hamas than those advanced by Hamas. For example, 46% say that they accept Abbas/Fateh’s position which calls for dialogue only after Hamas transfers control over the security headquarters to its rightful owners allowing the return to the status quo ante. On the other hand, only 27% say they accept Hamas’s view which calls for unconditional dialogue with President Abbas based on the existing status quo today. Support for Hamas’s position increases in the Gaza Strip (33%) compared to the West Bank (24%). It is interesting to note that support for Abbas/Fateh’s position increases also in the Gaza Strip (50%) compared to the West Bank (44%). About one quarter (24%) opposes both views.

 

Finally, poll findings indicate a strong split among the public regarding the future of the political unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The largest percentage (29%) expects the unification of the two authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within months and 19% expect it within a year or two. On the other hand, 20% believe unification will not take place in the next two years and 22% believe that the separation will become permanent.  In other words, 48% expect unification within the next two years and 42% do not expect unification in the future or near future. Optimism about unification within the next two years increases in the Gaza Strip (59%) compared to the West Bank (42%).

 

(2) Public Evaluation of West Bank and Gaza Conditions

  • Among all respondents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, only 8% evaluate the situation in the Gaza Strip as good or very good while 27% describe conditions in the West Bank as good or very good.
  • West Bank-Gaza Strip public expectations regarding future conditions in the Gaza Strip tend to be pessimistic while expectations regarding future conditions in the West Bank tend to show some optimism.
  • Percentage of those wishing to immigrate to other countries continues to increase from 28% last June to 32% in this poll. The percentage is higher in the Gaza Strip (37%) compared to West Bank (29%).
  • 41% say they feel their security and personal safety and those of their family are assured today and 59% say they are not assured. Feelings of security and safety increases in the Gaza Strip (49%) compared to the West Bank (35%).

 

Findings show that the public is highly pessimistic about current and future conditions in the Gaza Strip and a little optimistic about conditions in the West Bank. Only 8% of all respondents view current conditions in the Gaza Strip as good or very good. This evaluation is shared equally by respondents in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. By contrast, 27% say that current conditions in the West Bank are good or very good. Here, however the evaluation is not shared equally by respondents in the two areas as 40% in the Gaza Strip compared to 20% in the West Bank say that conditions in the West Bank are good or very good.  Similarly, expectations about the future reflect much greater pessimism about conditions in the Gaza Strip than about conditions in the West Bank. For example, while only 21% expect economic conditions to improve in the Gaza Strip, 56% expect these conditions to improve in the West Bank. Moreover, while only 28% expect conditions of democracy and freedom of speech and press will improve in the Gaza Strip, 47% expect these conditions to improve in the West Bank. In general, residents of the Gaza Strip tend to show more optimism regarding conditions in their area as well as in the West Bank while residents of the West Bank tend to show less optimism regarding conditions in both areas.

 

The negative and pessimistic evaluation of conditions today and in the future affects the percentage of respondents’ wish to immigrate to other countries leading to an increase from 28% last June, during the Hamas military takeover of the Gaza Strip, to 32% in this poll. The wish to immigrate increases in the Gaza Strip (37%) compared to West Bank (29%), among residents of refugee camps (39%) compared to residents of cities (30%) and towns and villages (31%), among supporters of Fateh (40%) compared to supporters of Hamas (20%), among holders of BA degree (44%) compared to illiterates (13%), among men (38%) compared to women (27%), among students (53%) compared to farmers (10%) and housewives (25%), and among the youth between ages of 23-27 years (46%) and 18-22 years (44%) compared to those over 52 years of age (8%) and those between 43-52 years of age (26%).  

 

Finally, findings show an increase in the perception of security and safety in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip compared to the situation three months ago. Today, 41% (compared to 26% in mid June) say they feel their security and personal safety and those of their family are assured and 59% say they are not assured. Feelings of security and safety increase in the Gaza Strip (49% compared to 41% three months ago) compared to the West Bank (35% compared to 18% three months ago).

 

(3) Presidential Decree on Elections, Early Elections, and Balance of Power:

  • 58% support and 34% oppose the most recent presidential decree regarding the amendment to the electoral system basing it on proportional representation with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip becoming one electoral district and with the distribution of seats reflecting the percentage of popular vote received in the whole country.
  • Moreover, 62% support and 32% oppose eligibility conditions imposed by the decree on candidate lists wishing to participate in elections including their commitments to the PLO, the Declaration of Independence, and the Basic Law. A similar percentage (61%) accepts and 32% oppose the application of this eligibility condition on candidates for the presidential elections.
  • Support for early elections reaches 62% and opposition 33%. Support increases in the Gaza Strip (65%) compared to the West Bank (60%).
  • Popularity of Hamas drops to 31% losing two percentage points compared to its popularity in mid June and six percentage points compared to mid March. The popularity of Fateh increases from 43% three months ago to 48% in this poll.
  • If new presidential elections took place today and the only two candidates were Mahmud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the percentage of non participation would reach 38%. From among those willing to participate, 59% say they will vote for Abbas, 36% say they will vote for Haniyeh, and 5% remain undecided.
  • Satisfaction with the performance of Mahmud Abbas increases from 36%  last June to 45% in this poll.

 

Findings show that the public supports the presidential decree issued in early September regarding the election law. Support covers two aspects of the decree.  A majority of 58% support, and 34% oppose, changing the electoral system so that it becomes fully based on a proportional representation system; whereby seats are distributed based on percentage of popular vote in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one electoral district. The last legislative elections, conducted in January 2006, were based on a mixed system, proportional representation in a single district and a majority system in 16 district. Findings also show that a majority of 62% supports and 32% oppose eligibility conditions imposed by the decree on candidate lists wishing to participate in elections including their commitments to the PLO, the Declaration of Independence, and the Basic Law. A similar percentage (61%) accepts and 32% oppose the application of this eligibility condition on candidates for the presidential elections.

 

Support for amending the electoral law to proportional representation increases in West Bank (60%) compared to the Gaza Strip (53%), among supporters of the peace process (64%) compared to those opposed to the peace process (33%), and among supporters of Fateh (82%) compared to supporters of Hamas (35%). 

 

Findings also show that a majority of 62% supports and 32% oppose the holding of early presidential and legislative elections. Support for early elections increases in the Gaza Strip (65%) compared to the West Bank (60%), among supporters of the peace process (71%) compared to those opposed to the peace process (26%), and among supporters of Fateh (89%) compared to supporters of Hamas (39%). It is interesting that 32% of the public say that the lists and candidates they have voted for in the last legislative elections no longer represent them while 63% say they still represent them. Of those who voted for the Hamas list and candidates in the last elections, 36% say they no longer represent them while only 28% of Fateh voters say that Fateh and its candidates no longer represent them.

 

If new parliamentary elections are held today, Hamas would receive 31% and Fateh would receive 48%. These findings indicate a drop of two percentage points in the popularity of Hamas compared to its standing in mid June and a drop of six percentage points in its popularity compared to its standing in mid March. For Fateh, the finding indicates an increase of five percentage points compared to its standing in mid June. It is noticeable that this is the first time since the January 2006 elections, when it won 42% of the vote, that Fateh’s popularity has significantly increased. The popularity of all the third parties combined reaches 11%, and 10% remain undecided. Hamas’s popularity increases in the Gaza Strip (36%) compared to the West Bank (28%) and Fateh’s popularity too increases in the Gaza Strip (51%) compared to West Bank (47%).

 

If new presidential elections took place today and the only two candidates were Mahmud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the percentage of non participation would reach 38%. From among those willing to participate, 59% say they will vote for Abbas, 36% say they will vote for Haniyeh, and 5% remain undecided.  If the competition is between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, nonparticipation would drop to 29% and from among those willing to participate, 63% say they will vote for Barghouti, 32% say they will vote for Haniyeh, and 5% remain undecided. These results indicate a significant increase in the percentage of those voting for Abbas compared to the situation in mid June when it reached 49% compared to 42% for Haniyeh. Moreover, vote for Barghouti increases in this poll compared to where it was last June when it stood at 59% compared to 35% for Haniyeh.

 

Satisfaction with the performance of Mahmud Abbas increases from 36%  last June to 45% in this poll.

 

(4) Peace Process

  • Only one quarter (26%) of the public expects the November peace conference called for by the US to succeed and 67% expect it to fail in making progress in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
  • 57% agree and 41% disagree with the proposed two-state solution whereby Palestinians recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Israelis recognize Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the solution of all the issues of the conflict.
  • Similarly, 58% support and 37% oppose conducting negotiations with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 80% to 90% of the West Bank to be followed by negotiations between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel on the permanent issues such as the permanent borders, holy places and refugees.
  • But only 46% would support and 48% would oppose a permanent settlement of the borders of the Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with the exception of settlements in about 5% of the West Bank where a swap would take place with Palestinians receiving an equal amount of territories from Israel proper. Support for this settlement increases in the Gaza Strip (54%) compared to the West Bank (42%).

 

Poll findings show that the public remains highly pessimistic about the chances of success for the international peace conference proposed by the US Administration for November 2007. Only one quarter (26%) of the public expects the November peace conference to succeed and 67% expect it to fail in making progress in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Optimism increases in the Gaza Strip (30%) compared to the West Bank (23%), among supporters of the peace process (31%) compared to those opposed to the peace process (11%), among supporters of Fateh (41%) compared to supporters of Hamas (15%), and among the illiterates (34%) compared to holders of BA degree (22%).

Findings show that a majority of 57% agrees and 41% disagree with the proposed two-state solution whereby Palestinians recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Israelis recognize Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the solution of all the issues of the conflict. Similarly, 58% support and 37% oppose conducting negotiations with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 80% to 90% of the West Bank to be followed by negotiations between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel on the permanent issues such as the permanent borders, holy places and refugees. But only 46% would support and 48% would oppose a permanent settlement of the borders of the Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with the exception of settlements in about 5% of the West Bank where a land swap would take place with Palestinians receiving an equal amount of territories from Israel proper. Support for this compromise increases in the Gaza Strip (54%) compared to the West Bank (42%), among residents of refugee camps (51%) compared to residents of villages and towns (44%), among supporters of the peace process (54%) compared to those opposed to the peace process (24%) and among supporters of Fateh (60%) compared to supporters of Hamas (33%).

 

 

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