PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 6

Survey Research Unit

Results of Poll # 6

WHILE INDICATING IMPORTANT SHIFTS IN PALESTINIAN PUBLIC ATTITUDES TOWARD THE INTIFADA AND THE PEACE PROCESS, PSR POLL SHOWS SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A PRIME MINISTER AND REFUSAL TO GIVE CONFIDENCE IN THE NEW PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT

14-22 November 2002

These are the results of opinion poll # 6, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 14-20 November 2002. The poll deals with the Peace Process, reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, political reform and new Palestinian government, corruption, democracy and constitution, Arafat's popularity and political affiliation. The total sample size of this poll is 1319 from Palestinians 18 years and older, in the West Bank (814) and the Gaza Strip (505) Interviewed face-to-face, in 120 locations. The margin of error is 3%.

Table of Contents:

1) The Peace Process
2) Reconciliation Between Israelis and Palestinians
3) Political Reform and the New Palestinian Government
4) Corruption
5) Democracy and Constitution
6)Arafat's Popularity and Political Affiliation
7) Main Results in numbers

MAIN RESULTS:

1) The Peace Process:

  • 54% support the peace initiative called the "road map," 42% oppose it

  • 76% support a mutual cessation of violence by Palestinians and Israelis; last August only 48% supported a gradual ceasefire between the two sides.

  • 56% support taking measures by the PA to prevent armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence even though 82% are worried that such measures may lead to internal Palestinian strife. This result is similar to the findings of the March 1996 poll in which 59% supported the measures taken by the PA against the Islamists who organized a series of suicide attacks inside Israel in February and March of that year.

  • 73% believe that a return to the peace process would be impeded if the PA failed to take security measures to prevent attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence. This result too is similar to the findings of the March 1996 poll.

  • However, 66% continue to believe that armed confrontations have so far helped achieve Palestinian rights in ways that negotiations could not

  • As in our two previous polls in May and August, 53% support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel while 43% oppose them. But support for attacks against soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza reach 91% and against settlers 89%.

  • Only 16% expect a return to negotiations and an end to armed attacks soon

The poll shows that a significant shift has occurred in Palestinian public attitudes regarding the intifada and the peace process. It shows a majority of 54% supporting the "road map" and 42% oppose it. More importantly, it shows that more than three quarters (76%) support a mutual cessation of violence by both sides. Last August, a PSR poll found only 48% supporting a gradual ceasefire. Another significant shift occurred in attitudes regarding a PA crackdown on those who carry out attacks inside Israel. The poll shows that a majority of 56% support taking measures by the PA against those who continue to resort to attacks against Israelis inside Israel after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence. Our May 2002 survey showed that 86% were opposed to PA measures that included arresting those who organized suicide attacks against Israelis inside Israel.

Two additional findings are remarkable. The majority support for a crackdown is evident despite the fact that 82% of the pubic fears that such a crackdown may lead to internal civil strife. Moreover, the poll shows that a large majority of 73% believes that after reaching a mutual cessation of violence, a PA failure to take security measures to prevent armed attacks on Israelis inside Israel, would impede a return to the peace process.

It is noticeable that the results of this poll are similar to those obtained in a March 1996 survey. At that time, we found that 59% of the public supported the measures taken by the PA against those Islamists who organized the suicide attacks inside Israel in February and March of that year. At that time, and despite their support for it, 74% were worried that the crackdown would lead to internal strife. In the 1996 poll, 75% feared that if the PA failed to crackdown on the militants, the peace process would be halted.

The events of the last months may have played a role in causing this shift in Palestinian public attitudes. The reoccupation of the Palestinian cities dashed the hopes of many that the intifada would bring about a quick Palestinian independence. Concern that a war against Iraq might be exploited by Israel created public fears of deportations and forced expulsions. On the other hand, the gradual evolvement of a political horizon, as in the US call for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the development of a "road map" in that direction, may have created hopes for a possible revival of the peace process. The Israeli decision to hold early elections may have created fears that such elections could strengthen the right wing and radical forces in Israel in the absence of a halt to the violence. The reassessment among the PA old guard and mainstream Fateh leaders of the value of the intifada may have finally filtered down to the public.

However, despite the importance of the changes in public attitudes regarding the mutual cessation of violence and the crackdown on militants, the shift remains fragile. A majority still supports attacks on Israelis and views positively the achievements of the armed confrontations. As in our last poll in August, more than half of the public (53%) supports armed attacks against civilians inside Israel and about 90% support attacks against soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, 66% (compared to 71% last August) believe that the armed confrontations of the intifada had helped achieve Palestinian rights in ways that negotiations could not. As in August, only 16% expect an end to the violence and a quick return to negotiations.

The level of support for the "road map" is affected by gender, education, occupation and political affiliation. Support increases among women (58%) compared to men (50%); among illiterates (64%) compared to those holding a BA degree (41%); among housewives (62%) compared to students (46%); and among supporters of Fateh (72%) compared to supporters of Hamas (48%).

Support for the taking measures against militants who continue to carry out attacks inside Israel is affected by area and place of residence, education, religiosity, income, and political affiliation. Support increases in the West Bank (58%) compared to the Gaza Strip (53%); in Nablus (68%), Jerusalem (65%), Bethlehem (64%) Ramallah (62%) and Gaza city (62%) compared to Rafah (26%), Hebron (50%), and Khanyounis (51%); among those residing in cities (60%) compared to refugee camps (52%); among the illiterates (60%) compared those holding a BA degree (46%); among the most religious (69%) compared to the least religious (50%); among those with the highest income (67%) compared to those with the lowest income (57%) ; and among supporters of Fateh (72%) compared to supporters of Hamas (40%).

2) Reconciliation Between Israelis and Palestinians:

  • 73% support reconciliation between the two peoples after reaching a peace agreement and establishing a Palestinian state. This is similar to our previous findings during the last two years.

  • After reaching a peace agreement, 83% would support open borders between Israel and Palestine and 66% would support joint economic institutions and ventures, but only 27% would support joint political institutions, 37% would support taking legal steps to prohibit incitement against Israel, and 8% would support the adoption of school curriculum that recognizes the state of Israel and does not the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians

  • 40% believe that Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation is not possible ever, while 50% believe that most Israelis bthat reconciliation is not possible ever

  • After peace 37% are ready to invite an Israeli friend to their homes and 37% are willing to visit the home of an Israeli friend

  • 28% believe that permanent peace between Palestinians and Israelis is possible while 23% believe that most Israelis believe that permanent peace is possible

The poll findings indicate no changes in public attitude regarding Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation compared to previous polls during the last two years. Within the context of a peace agreement and the establishment of a Palestinian state, almost three quarters (73%) of the Palestinians would support reconciliation. Moreover, an even larger majority of 83% would support open borders between the two states, while two thirds would support the establishment of joint economic institutions and ventures. However, support for other reconciliation measures decreases when it focuses on social issues, such as inviting an Israeli colleague to one's home or visiting him at his home. Joint political institutions are also unpopular with only 27% supporting the creation of joint political institutions toward a confederation between the two states. Thirty seven percent would support taking legal measures to prevent incitement against Israel and only 8% would support the adoption of school curriculum that recognizes the state of Israel and does not demand the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians.

3) Political Reform and the New Palestinian Government:

  • Only 40% give confidence to the new Palestinian government while 51% refuse to give it confidence

  • Only 37% believe that the new government will be able to carry out the needed political reform; 37% believe it will be able to fight corruption; 38% believe it will be able to improve the economic conditions; and 26% believe that it will be able to properly manage relations with Israel

  • 85% support and 13% oppose internal and external calls for fundamental political reform in the PA

  • 73% Support and 24% oppose the appointment or election of a Palestinian prime minister

  • 47% support and 49% oppose changing the current Palestinian political system to a parliamentary system in which power would reside in the hands of a prime minister while the position of the president would be ceremonial

The findings indicate that the public refuses to give confidence in the new Palestinian government with 51% opposed and 40% supportive. The reason for the lack of confidence is indicated in the public belief that the new government will not be able to carry out political reforms, fight corruption, improve economic conditions, or properly manage the relationship with Israel with the percentage of confidence in the ability of the new government to carry out these tasks ranging between 26% and 38%.

As in our May and August polls, the findings of this one show that a large majority (85%) supports the internal and external calls for political reforms. Support for the appointment or election of a prime minister has increased from 69% in August to 73% in this poll. Support 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 received the support of 47%, compared to 44% last August. Forty nine percent oppose this reform measure.

Willingness to give confidence in the new government increases in villages and towns (43%) compared to refugee camps (35%); among the old (49%) compared to the young (41%); among non-refugees (42%) compared to refugees (37%); among the illiterates (57%) compared to those holding a BA degree (26%); among housewives (46%) compared to employees (31%) and professionals (21%); among those with the lowest income (42%) compared to those with the highest income (24%); and among supporters of Fateh (59%) compared to supporters of Hamas (26%).

 4) Corruption

  • 84% believe that there is corruption in the PA; among those, 62% believe that corruption will increase or remain the same in the future

  • Only 25% are convinced that reform measures taken by the Palestinian minister of finance will be sufficient to put an end to financial corruption in the PA

No significant change has been recorded in public perception of corruption compared to the situation during the past 12 months. A large majority of 84% continues to believe that corruption exists in the PA, while only 8% believe that the PA is free of corruption. The percentage of those who believe that corruption will increase or remain the same in the future increased from 58% last August to 62% in this poll. The percentage of those who are convinced that the reform measures introduced by the new Palestinian minister of finance, Salam Fayyad, will be sufficient to put an end to financial corruption does not exceed 25%, with a drop of five percentage-points compared to our August poll.

5) Democracy and Constitution

  • 88% support and 11% oppose a democratic system with the following characteristics: periodic elections, a president with a limited term in office, freedom to form political parties, free press without censorship, an independent judiciary, and respect for human rights

  • 94% support holding periodic elections, 78% support the election of a president for a limited term only, 76% support complete freedom to form political parties, 74% support freedom of the press with no government censorship, 75% support an independent judiciary, and 98% support respect for human rights

  • Only 19% give PA democracy a positive evaluation and only 17% expect a democratic system in the Palestinian state. But 66% of the Palestinians give a positive evaluation to the status of democracy and human rights in Israel.

  • 69% do not agree, and 23% agree, with the statement that democratic states do not fight each other

  • 54% believe, and 43% do not believe, that people today can criticize the PA without fear

  • 74% support giving priority to freedom of the press and respect for human rights in accordance with the law even if this contradicted with what the PA may see as the national interest

  • 61% are in favor, and 36% are not in favor, of having provisions in the Palestinian constitution guaranteeing equality for women in giving Palestinian citizenship to their children when the husband is not Palestinian

  • 53% are in favor, and 46% are not in favor, of having provisions in the Palestinian constitution guaranteeing equality between men and women so that a woman could become a president of the Palestinian state

  • Only 25% are in favor, and 73% are not in favor, of having provisions in the Palestinian constitution guaranteeing equality for women in divorcing their husbands

  • 35% are in favor, and 62% are not in favor, of having provisions in the Palestinian constitution guaranteeing equality for a Christian citizen in becoming a president of the Palestinian state

As in our August poll, support for a democratic system of government is very high. Eighty eight percent support a democratic system with the following characteristics: periodic elections, a president with a limited term in office, freedom to form political parties, free press without censorship, an independent judiciary, and respect for human rights. The poll also shows that each one of those characteristics enjoys the support of at least three quarters of the public with 98% support for the respect for human rights.

But the public attitude towards equality between men and women and towards equal rights for Christian citizens does not receive comparable levels of support and indeed does not receive the support of the majority in some cases. A majority of 61% is in favor of having constitutional provisions guaranteeing equality for women in giving Palestinian citizenship to their children when the husband is not Palestinian. Also, a majority of 53% is in favor of including provisions in the Palestinian constitution guaranteeing equality between men and women so that a woman could become a president of the Palestinian state. But only a quarter is in favor of having coprovisions guaranteeing equality for women in divorcing their husbands. Moreover, only 35% are in favor of having constitutional provisions equality for a Christian citizen in becoming a president of the Palestinian state.

Despite this fragile support for democracy when it comes to equality, the Palestinian public is willing to support some democratic values even if this entailed contradiction with what the PA may consider as the national interest. For example, 74% would support the upholding of the freedom of the press and respect for human rights even if it comes at the expense of what the PA may define as the national interest.

The street, as in previous surveys during the past few years, shows little admiration for the status of democracy under the PA. Positive evaluation for the status of democracy in Palestine does not exceed 19%, while the percentage of those who expect to see democracy in the Palestinian state is even less at 17%. On the other hand, two thirds of the Palestinians give the status of democracy in Israel a positive evaluation. Yet, despite the positive evaluation of Israeli democracy and the high level of support for democratic values among Palestinians, a majority of 69% does not agree with the statement that democracies do not fight each other.

Support for the right of a woman to divorce increases in the West Bank (32%) compared to the Gaza Strip (15%); in cities (25%) and towns and villages (27%) compared to refugee camps (20%); among women (31%) compared to men (20%); among the young (29%) compared to the old (22%); among non-refugees (28%) compared to refugees (22%); among those holding a BA degree (26%) compared to illiterates (22%); among the unmarried (29%) compared to the married (24%); and among the least religious (31%) compared to the most religious (21%).

Support for the right of a Christian citizen to become a president of the state increases in the West Bank (41%) compared to the Gaza Strip (26%); among men (39%) compared to women (31%); among the old (47%) compared to the young (25%); among those who hold a BA degree (44%) compared to those who have elementary education only (31%); among the retired (63%) and employees (44%) compared to students (27%); among the least religious (64%) compared to the most religious (32%); among those with the highest income (52%) compared to those with the lowest income (33%); and among supporters of Fateh (34%) compared to supporters of Hamas (27%).

6) Arafat's Popularity and Political Affiliation

  • Compared to last August, Yasir Arafat's popularity remains unchanged at 35%

  • Marwan Barghouti receives the second largest support at 21%, followed by Ahmad Yasin (14%), Sa'eb Erikat (9%), Haidar Abdul Shafi (8%), Farouq Qaddoumi (6%), and Hanan Ashrawi (5%)

  • Fateh receives the support of 27%, Islamist groups 25%, PFLP 3%, and 43% are non-affiliated

No significant change has been recorded in the popularity of Palestinian leaders and factions. Arafat's popularity remains the highest at 35% (compared to 34% in August and 35% in May), followed by Marwan Barghouti with 21% (compared to 23% in August and 19% in May). Ahmad Yasin comes third with 14% (compared to 10% in August and 13% in May) followed by Saeb Erikat with 9% (compared to 8% in August and 10% in May), and Haidar Abdul Shafi with 8% (compared to 13% in August and 10% in May). Support for Fateh remained stable at 27% (compared to 26% in August), while the Islamists dropped two percentage points, from 27% in August to 25% in this poll.

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