PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 15

 

Survey Research Unit

Results of Poll # 15

 

WHILE A MAJORITY SUPPORTS A SEARCH FOR A PREMANENT SETTLEMENT AND OPPOSES INTERIM DEALS AND AT A TIME WHEN HAMASí SUPPORT INCREASES AND FATEHíS DECREASES, THE POLL FINDS A SHARP DECREASE IN SUPPORT FOR SUICIDE BOMBINGS INSIDE ISRAEL AND SATISFACTION WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF ABU MAZIN

 

10-12 March 2005

 

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 between March 10-12, 2005. The poll deals with the peace process, Sharonís disengagement plan, Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation, and internal Palestinian matters. Total size of the sample is 1319 adults interviewed face to face in the West Bank (835) and the Gaza Strip (484) in 120 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3% and rejection rate 2%.

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

 

Table of Contents:

(1) Peace Process

(2) Sharonís Disengagement Plan

(3) Reconciliation between the Two Peoples

(4) Internal Palestinian Conditions

(4) Main Results in Numbers.

 

MAIN RESULTS:

The poll finds a significant change in public attitudes regarding violence, particularly suicide attacks. Support for such attacks has dropped sharply to its lowest level in seven years. This public rejection of a return to violence at this time reflects continued and widespread public support for mutual cessation of violence, and a desire to return to normal life and to allow the newly elected president, Abu Mazin, a chance to revive the peace process. But the public is opposed to steps taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to crackdown on those who are carrying out attacks against Israelis, such as arrests. This opposition might reflect public perception that the future of the peace process is still uncertain and that Israel might not be serious about or willing to end its occupation and that therefore the PA should maintain the option of returning to violence if the need arise in the future.

The findings indicate also that the public prefers a see negotiations leading to a permanent agreement rather than a new interim one. This attitude reflects public belief that the Oslo process has failed in part due to its interim and partial nature. The public seems more willing than any time before to pay the price of a permanent settlement as the findings show greater levels of support for reconciliation between the two peoples once a permanent settlement is reached.

Three quarters of the public view, as the case has been during the past year, the Israeli disengagement plan as a victory for armed struggle. Despite that, two thirds would oppose continued armed attacks against Israelis from the Gaza Strip once the Israelis fully withdraw.

Internally, the findings show a rise in the popularity of Hamas and a decline in the support for Fateh. The public believes that Hamasí victory in the December 2004 and January 2005 local elections has been due to incorruptibility of its candidates while Fateh and the PA are perceived as corrupt. The public also believes that the unity and discipline within Hamas vs. the fragmentation and lack of discipline within Fateh has been a second reason for Hamasí victory.

(1) Peace Process

      Support for bombing (or suicide) attacks inside Israel drops from 77% last September to 29% in this poll. But support for arrest of the perpetrators of suicide attacks does not exceed 40%.

      84% support return to negotiations and 59% prefer a permanent, rather than interim agreement. 59% believe that it is possible to reach a compromise agreement with the Israeli leadership.

      59% support the Road Map and 35% oppose it.

      79% support the participation of Hamas in the negotiations with Israel while 79% prefer to see more active American involvement in the search for a peace agreement.

      A majority believes that the Oslo peace process failed because Israel was not forthcoming and continued to build Israeli settlements. Similarly, a majority blames Israel for the failure of the Camp David Summit believing the Israeli offer was insufficient.

Findings show that support for the Tel Aviv night club suicide attack, which took place about three weeks ago, reaches 29% compared to 77% for the Bir Shiba suicide attack in September 2004 and 75% for the Maxim Restaurant suicide attack in Haifa in October 2003. Opposition to the Tel Aviv attack reaches 67%. But support for the steps taken by the PA to punish the perpetrators, such as arrests, does not exceed 40% while 57% oppose them. Public opposition to a crackdown on those who commit violence against Israelis might reflect belief that the peace process has not yet been revived. For example, only 44% view positively the achievements of Sharm al Sheikh summit in reviving the peace process. In other words, the public seeks to maintain the option of returning to violence if diplomacy fails.

Opposition to the Tel Aviv suicide attack increases in the Gaza Strip (70%) compared to the West Bank (65%), among holders of BA degree (71%) compared to illiterates (61%), among retired individuals and among employees (86% and 75% respectively) compared to students (62%), among the eldest (69%) compared to the youngest (61%), among individuals willing to buy lottery tickets (74%) compared to those unwilling to buy them (64%), and among supporters of Fateh (75%) compared to supporters of Hamas (53%).

In the current Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, the public organizes its short term priorities as follows: release of prisoners is on top followed by three issues having the same exact importance: freezing settlement construction, stop building the separation barrier inside the West Bank, and return of laborers to work inside Israel. The next priority is the removal of Israeli checkpoints. In the West Bank alone, the list of priorities puts stopping the barrier in second place after release of prisoners, then the freeze of settlement construction, and the removal of checkpoints. In the Gaza Strip, release of prisonersí is also the top priority but it is followed by return of laborers to work inside Israel.

The poll also examined Palestinian preferences concerning the next steps that should be taken in the course of the peace process. 84% of the Palestinians support a return to negotiations on a comprehensive settlement and 59% prefer immediate return to final status negotiations on all issues in dispute at once, while 31% prefer a gradual step by step approach. Despite these preferences, 51% of the Palestinians say they will support their leadership decision to proceed in the peace process with the approach they prefer less, and 41% will not support their leadership decision in such a case.

59% of the Palestinians believe that it is possible to reach a compromise settlement with the other sideís current leadership while 41% donít think it is possible. 62% believe the Palestinian leadership is strong enough to convince its constituency to accept such an agreement. Moreover, 65% of the Palestinians believe that the Israeli leadership is strong enough to convince its public to accept such a compromise.

Palestinians were further asked to assess the reasons for the Oslo process and the Camp David summit failures. A majority of the Palestinians (54%) put the blame mainly on Israel for not being forthcoming enough and continuing to build settlements. Only 5% of the Palestinian believe that the main reason for why the Oslo process failed was because the Palestinians were not forthcoming enough and maintained the use of violence. 33% blame the step by step approach for the failure. As to the Camp David summit, 50% of the Palestinians believe it failed because Barak yielded much less than he claimed he did. Only 5% believe that it failed because Arafat did not seriously intend to reach a final and comprehensive settlement with Israel.36% of Palestinians think the problems were too numerous and the differences too big to be solved all at once.

59% of the Palestinians support the Quartetís Roadmap plan compared to 35% among Palestinians who oppose it. Moreover, 79% support the participation of the Hamas in the negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel compared to 19% who oppose it. Despite this, an identical percentage (79%) believe that the US should increase its involvement in trying to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict, while 15% say it should decrease its involvement.

 

(2) Sharonís Disengagement Plan

      Three quarters see Sharonís disengagement plan as victory for armed struggle against Israeli occupation.

      Only 30% believe the PA has high capacity to control things in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal.

      Two thirds oppose continued armed attacks against Israelis from the Gaza Strip after a full Israeli withdrawal from it.

Three quarters of the Palestinians see Sharonís plan to evacuate the Israeli settlements from Gaza as a victory for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, while 23% do not see it as such. Despite that, only 29% of the Palestinians support and 68% oppose the continuation of armed attacks against Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip after full Israeli disengagement.30% of the Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Authority has high capacity to control matters in the Gaza Strip after Israelís disengagement, 43% of think it has reasonable capacity and 23% think it has low or no capacity.

 

(3) Reconciliation between the Two Peoples

      81% support reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples after reaching a peace agreement with Israel.

      Increase in the levels of support for various reconciliation measures: 89% support open borders between the two states; 73% support joint economic ventures and institutions; 40% support building joint political institutions; 42% support taking legal measures against incitement; and 13% support adopting school curriculum that recognizes Israel and teaches school children not to demand return of all Palestine to the Palestinians

With Arafatís departure from the scene and with the renewed political activity, expectations and support for reconciliation following a comprehensive solution increased in a meaningful way for the first time. 24% of the Palestinians expect full reconciliation to be achieved in the next decade or in the next few years compared to 15% last June. 81% of the Palestinians support reconciliation today compared to 67% last June.

More important however is the consistent across the board increase in support for a list of specific reconciliation steps 89% of the Palestinians will support open borders to free movement of people and goods after a comprehensive settlement is reached, compared to 82% who said so last June. 73% support joint economic institutions and ventures compared to 66% and 66% respectively last June. 40% will support joint political institutions designed eventually to lead to a confederate system given a comprehensive settlement compared to 26% who said so last June. 42% support taking legal measures against incitement directed towards Israelis compared to 35% who said so in June 2004. 13% of the Palestinians will support adoption of a school curriculum that recognizes the sovereignty of the other state and educates against irredentist aspirations. In June 2004, only 4% of the Palestinians thought so.

(4) Internal Palestinian Conditions

      Three quarters are satisfied with the performance of President Mahmud Abbas in the peace process and 62% think he is serious about fighting corruption.

      Only 45% give confidence to the new cabinet headed by Abu Alaí.

      80% view success in holding the presidential elections as a step forward toward democracy in Palestine, but only 35% give positive evaluation of the current status of Palestinian democracy.

      Three quarters support a quota system for women whereby they are guaranteed 20% of the seats of the parliament. But the public is divided on the preferred electoral system: a district-based majority system, a proportional representation system, or a mixed system.

      Hamasí victory in local elections in December 2004 and January 2005 is attributed by the public to incorruptibility of its candidates and to the unity and disciple of its members while Fatehís loss is attributed to the corruption within the PA and the lack of the discipline within that movement.

      Support for Fateh drops to 36% and increases for Hamas to 25%.

Findings show that 80% of the Palestinians believe that the successful January elections for presidency could be seen as a step forward towards democracy in the PA, while 17% donít see the elections as such. 35% think there are slim chances that a democratic system will be established in the PA or a future Palestinian State. 44% think there are medium chances for that, and 19% give it high chances. Despite the appreciation of the role of the presidential elections in bringing about a possible democratic transition, only 35% evaluate the current state of democracy in the PA as good or very good, 34% think it is fair and 29% think democracy is in bad or very bad condition.

Three quarters are satisfied with Abu Mazinís performance with regard to steps taken to revive the peace process, such as the ceasefire and release of prisoners. 70% are satisfied with his dismissal of senior security officers, and 62% believe that Abu Mazin is serious about fighting corruption in the PA.On the other hand, only 45% give confidence in the new cabinet headed by Abu Alaí. Despite that, 71% believe the new cabinet will be able to return to the peace process; 57% believe it will be able to improve economic conditions; 52% believe it will be able to control the security situation including the enforcement of a ceasefire; a similar percentage believes the new cabinet will be able to fight corruption; and 49% believe it will be able to carry out political reforms.

With regard to the current debate on the election law, 75% support a women quota of 20% guaranteed seats in the legislative council. But the public is split on the electoral system with 39% supporting the current district-based majority system, 26% supporting a proportional representation system, and 25% supporting a mixed system combining elements of the two other systems.

With regard to reform, 91% support internal and external calls for fundamental political reforms in the PA, and 87% believe there is corruption in the PA, and 51% believe this corruption will increase or remain the same in the future.

Support for Fateh reaches 36% (compared to 40% last December) and for Hamas 25% (compared to 18% last December). The public expects close results for Fateh and Hamas in the upcoming May local elections and a victory for Fateh in the legislative elections scheduled for July 2005. But in the Gaza Strip, the public expects a major victory for Hamas in the local elections and a victory for Fateh in the legislative elections. The public believes that Hamasí victory in the previous local elections has been due firstly to the integrity and incorruptibility of its candidates and secondly to the unity and discipline within the movement. Fatehís loss is attributed firstly to the spread of corruption in the PA and Fateh and secondly to divisions and lack of discipline in the movement.

Support for Hamas increases in the Gaza Strip (33%) compared to the West Bank (21%), in refugee camps (29%) compared to villages and towns (21%), among women (29%) compared to men (21%), among students and housewives (28% and 31% respectively) compared to employees and merchants (18% and 13% respectively), among those with the lowest income (32%) compared to those with the highest income (23%),among the youngest (30%) compared to the eldest (20%), among those who would strongly refuse to buy lottery tickets (37%) compared to those who would buy such tickets (14%), and among the most religious (28%) compared to the least religious (6%).

 

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