PSR - Survey Research Unit: Exit Polls - Presidential and Local Elections (Dec. 04 - Jan. 05)
Exit Polls

 

Date: 11.Feb.05

 

Results of PSR Exit Polls

For Palestinian Presidential and Local Elections

December 2004 - January 2005

 

IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, MAHMUD ABBAS WON BECAUSE HE WAS PERCEIVED AS MOST ABLE TO IMPROVE THE ECONOMY AND MAKE PROGRESS IN THE PEACE PROCESS; IN THE LOCAL ELECTIONS HAMAS WON BECAUSE ITS CANDIDATES WERE SEEN AS UNCORRUPT

 

PSR conducted three exit polls during the recent local and presidential elections. The presidential elections’ exit poll was conducted on 9 January 2005 and aimed at understanding electoral behavior of voters and to predict the outcome of the elections. PSR published its predictions immediately upon the closing of election centers. The size of the sample used for prediction purposes reached 8400. The sample used for survey research purposes reached 1545. The local elections’ exit polls were conducted on 23 December 2004 in the West Bank and on 27 January 2005 in the Gaza Strip. Here too, we sought to understand electoral behavior and to predict the outcome of the elections. PSR predicted the outcome of the Gaza elections in a press statement that was issued upon the closure of the voting stations.  For prediction purposes, we interviewed 5400 voters in the West Bank and 3500 in the Gaza Strip; and for survey research purposes we interviewed a randomly selected sample of 1297 voters in the West Bank and 940 in the Gaza Strip.

 

Polls’ findings show that the considerations of the voters in the presidential elections were different from those of the voters in the local elections. In the presidential elections, voters wanted a president who is able to improve the economic conditions and to resume the peace process. In the local elections, the integrity/incorruptibility of the candidates was the primary consideration. In the presidential elections, Mahmud Abbas was the candidate most perceived to meet voters’ requirements. In the local elections, Hamas candidates were perceived by the voters to be most uncorrupt while Fateh’s candidates (with whom voters shared similar views on the need to return to peace negotiations) were abandoned because most voters saw them tainted with corruption.

 

For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki at telephone 02 296 4933 or email at: pcpsr@pcpsr.org.

 

Table of contents:

 

(1) Presidential Elections - Main Findings:

·         Abbas’ Voters vs. Barghouti’s , Table # 1

·         Most Serious Problem Facing Voters:, Figure # 1

·         Most Important Factor in Selecting Candidates, Figure # 2

·         Who Should Make Crucial Decisions?, Figure # 3

·         Balance of Power in the Executive Branch, Figure # 4

·         What Voters Want from the President, Figure # 5

 

(2) Local Elections - Main Findings

·         Most Serious Problem Facing Voters, Figure # 6

·         Most Important Factor in Selecting Candidates, Figure # 7

·         Voting Behavior and the Political Affiliation of the Voters

·         Role of Perception of Corruption in the Election Outcome, Table # 2

·         Voters Want Immediate Return to Negotiations

 

Presidential Elections

 

The sample for the presidential exit poll was selected from 120 polling stations randomly selected from among a total of 3040 stations provided by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (PCEC). The randomly selected polling stations were distributed all over West Bank and Gaza Strip districts in accordance with the size of voters in each district. Polling was coordinated with PCEC in order to insure that PSR work does not influence the election process. The following findings are based on interviews with 1545 randomly selected voters.

 

Main Findings:

 

Abbas’ Voters vs. Barghouti’s

 

Mahmud Abbas received more support in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank. He also received more votes among the less educated, the employees, those working in the public sector, married voters, older people, the more religious, and the most supportive of the peace process and from Fateh. Mustafa Barghouti received more support in the West Bank than in the Gaza Strip. He also received more support among the more educated, students, those working in the private sector, the unmarried, the young, the less religious, the less supportive of the peace process, and among supporters of the PFLP, Hamas, independents, and the non-affiliated.

 

TABLE # 1

Voters of Abbas and Barghouti:

Demographics and other Characteristics

Presidential Elections

Mahmud Abbas

Mustapha Barghouti

More Gazans

More West Bankers

Slightly more refugees

Slightly more non refugees

Less educated

More educated

Employees

Students

More in public sector

More in private sector

More married

More unmarried

Same income

Same income

More over 23 years

More between 18-23 years

More religious

Less religious

More supportive of the peace process

Less supportive of the peace process

More from Fateh,

More from PFLP, Hamas, Independents, and non-affiliated

 

Most Serious Problem Facing Voters:

 

The first and most important problem as defined by 33% of the voters has been poverty and unemployment, while 31% defined continuation of occupation and its daily practices as the first and most important problem, with spread of corruption and lack of reform selected by 26% of the voters. Findings show that Abbas voters give the top priority to poverty/unemployment followed by occupation while Barghouti’s voters place greater emphasis than Abbas’ on corruption and lack of reform.

 

Figure # 1

 

Most Important Factor in Selecting Candidates

 

When selecting their candidate, voters placed great emphasis first on his ability to improve the economic conditions (23% of the voters selected this factor), followed by the ability to reach a peace agreement with Israel (19%), then the ability to enforce law and order (16%). The ability to protect refugee rights in negotiations with Israel came fourth with 14% of the voters selecting it as the most important factor in their decision; the ability to maintain national unity came next with 12%; political affiliation of the candidate was chosen by 10%; and finally the ability to keep the intifada going was chosen by only 4%.  Findings show that Abbas’ voters emphasize the ability to improve the economy and move the peace process forward while Barghouti’s voters emphasize the economy and the enforcement of law and order. Moreover, differences emerge between the two voters regarding the importance of political affiliation (selected by 12% of Abbas voters but only 4% by Barghouti’s), maintenance of national unity (10% vs. 15 respectively), and keeping the intifada going (2% vs. 8% respectively).

 

 

Figure # 2

 

 

Who Should Make Crucial Decisions?

 

Poll findings show that the largest percentage of voters (35%) believe that crucial decisions should be in the hands of the president while 30% believe that such decisions should be in the hands of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC); 12% want it in the hands of the cabinet and the prime minister; 8% prefer the PLO Executive Committee, and 7% prefer the PLO’s Palestinian National Council. In other words, the overwhelming majority of voters (77%) wants crucial decisions in the hands of the Palestinian Authority while only 15% want them in the hands of the PLO. These findings apply to all voters regardless of their preferred candidate. But differences exist between Abbas and Barghouti’s voters regarding the role of the president compared to the PLC, with 37% of Abbas voters giving the power to make crucial decisions to the president while only 29% of Barghouti’s agreed with that. Moreover 29% of Abbas voters, compared to 35% of Barghouti’s, give this power to the PLC.

 

Figure # 3

 

 

Balance of Power in the Executive Branch  

 

When asked who should have more authority, the president or the prime minister, almost two thirds (64%) said they prefer to give more authority to the president, 7% preferred to give more authority to the prime minister, and 23% prefer to give both equal powers. These findings apply to all voters regardless of their preferred candidate. But a larger majority of Abbas voters compared to Barghouti’s (76% vs. 57% respectively) support a strong president and a weak prime minister.

 

 

Figure # 4

 

 

What Voters Want from the President

 

When asked whether they want their preferred candidate to negotiate or not negotiate the Israeli disengagement plan, to implement or not implement the Road Map, and to end or not end the militarization of the intifada, the majority gave affirmative answers to the first two questions but voters were split in half regarding the third one. More than three quarters of the voters (76%) want their president to negotiate the Israeli disengagement plan while 19% does not want him to do so; 61% want him to implement the Road Map and 26% oppose that; and 46% want him to end the militarization of the intifada and 46% does not want him to do so. Support for negotiations, for the implementation of the Road Map and for ending the militarization of the intifada increases among Abbas’ supporters (80%, 69%, and 54% respectively) and decreases among Barghouti’s voters (69% and 44%, and 13% respectively).

 

Figure # 5

 

 

Local Elections

 

The exit polls for the local elections were organized in the West Bank on 23 December 2004 and in the Gaza Strip on 27 January 2005. In the West Bank, we selected 11 out of 26 local council, focusing on those with the largest population. We selected 27 voting centers in the 11 localities. In each center we randomly selected one voting station. For survey purposes we randomly selected 1297 West Bank voters. In the Gaza Strip, we selected the four largest localities out of the ten that took part in the elections. These were: Deir Al Balah, Bani Suhaila, Beit Hanoun, and El Maghazi. We selected all the voting centers in the four localities and then randomly selected one station in each center. Voters were interviewed as they left the voting hall. The total size of the sample for survey purposes was 940 voters. The surveys were conducted in cooperation with the Palestinian elections commission in charge of the local elections. The following findings are based on interviews with all the voters in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, i.e., with 2237 randomly selected voters.

 

MAIN FINDINGS

 

Most Serious Problem Facing Voters

Poll findings show that voters in the local elections were not significantly different from voters in the presidential elections with regard to defining the most important problem confronting the Palestinians today. The largest percentage (35%) went to poverty and unemployment, followed by occupation and its daily practices (34.5%), and finally corruption and the absence of reform (23%).  Voters in the West Bank emphasize occupation more than Gazan voters (37% vs. 31%) while Gazan voters show more interest than those in the West Bank in the spread of corruption (26% vs. 20%).

 

Figure # 6

 

 

Most Important Factor in Selecting Candidates

 

Voters in the local elections consider candidates integrity and incorruptibility as the most important factor with 71% selecting “uncorrupt” as “very important” in their decision to selecting their candidates. Gazan voters put more emphasis on this factor than West Bankers (78% vs. 66%). The second most important factor is the candidates’ level of education (64%), followed by their religiosity (51%). The percentages for these two factors increase in the Gaza Strip reaching 70% for education and 58% for religiosity (compared to 59% for education and 46% for religiosity in the West Bank). The fourth factor is the position of the candidate regarding the peace process (41%) followed by his political affiliation (26%), family relations (18%) and the voter’s personal relations with the candidate (16%).

 

Figure # 7

 

 

Voting Behavior and the Political Affiliation of the Voters

 

While the results of the exit polls clearly indicate that a majority of Gaza voters elected candidates affiliated with Hamas (and in the West Bank a large part of the voters gave their votes to Hamas candidates but more voted to Fateh candidates) voters’ political sympathies were not necessarily identical to those of the candidates they have voted for. For example, while the exit poll showed Hamas receiving more than 60% of the seats in the elected local councils in Gaza, only 27% of the Gazan voters indicated that they support Hamas while 37% indicated that they support Fateh. In the West Bank, sympathy for Fateh among voters in the local elections reached 39% compared to 20% for Hamas. When asked to identify names of the individuals they have voted for, voters’ answers provided relatively accurate prediction of the election outcome. But when asked to identify the political affiliation of those same candidates, 30% said they have voted for Fateh and only 19% said they have voted for Hamas. In reality, Hamas received much more votes than Fateh in the Gaza Strip (68% vs. 20%) and a little less than Fateh in the West Bank (38% vs. 35%). In other words, the political affiliation of the candidates was not important (and in many cases was unknown to the voters). What was important to the voters was the personal attributes of the candidates, as seen in the pervious section, with special emphasis on their integrity and incorruptibility.   

 

Role of Perception of Corruption in the Election Outcome

 

The findings show that voters’ perception of corruption was the decisive factor in the voting choices. This factor has been the most important as we have shown earlier. Moreover, when asked if corruption existed in their appointed councils, 61% responded in the affirmative (the percentage rise to 73% in the Gaza Strip compared to 52% in the West Bank). When asked if they believe that the councils they have just elected will fight corruption, 93% responded in the affirmative.

 

Table # 2

 

Existing Councils

Elected Councils

WB

GS

WB

GS

Performance: very good

9%

6%

44%

58%

                       Good

49%

33%

48%

37%

Corruption exists

52%

73%

--

--

Will fight corruption

--

--

92%

94%

 

 

Voters Want Immediate Return to Negotiations

 

Findings show widespread support (70%) for an immediate return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations among voters in the local elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while only 27% oppose it. As indicated earlier, candidates’ position on the peace process was not the most important factor in determining voters’ choices, while incorruptibility of candidates came first, the position on the peace process came fourth.

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