PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 16

Poll 16

22 June 2005

 

 

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll

 

 

DESPITE NEGATIVE EVALUATION OF PALESTINIAN CONDITIONS SINCE THE ELECTION OF ABU MAZIN, AND DESPITE THE CONTINUED RISE IN THE POPULARITY OF HAMAS, EXPECTED ELECTIONSí OUTCOME GIVES FATEH 44% AND HAMAS 33% OF THE SEATS OF THE NEXT PLC

 

9-11 June 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 June 9-11, 2005. The poll deals with public evaluation of Palestinian conditions since the election of Abu Mazin, expected outcome of the next parliamentary elections, the participation of Hamas in the political process, and the disengagement plan. Total size of the sample is 1320 adults interviewed face to face in the West Bank (825) and the Gaza Strip (495) in 120 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:

(1) Public Evaluation of Palestinian Conditions since the Election of Abu Mazin

(2) Popularity of Factions and Expected Outcome of Next Parliamentary Elections

(3) Hamasí Participation in the Political Process

(4) Domestic Conditions: Reform, Democracy, Corruption, and PA Performance

(5) Peace Process and the Disengagement Plan

(6) Results of the poll in numbers

 

MAIN FINDINGS

 

Focus in this poll has been placed on domestic matters, especially the balance of power between factions and the popularity of leaders as well as public evaluation of conditions since the election of Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazin) as president of the PA. Three findings emerge from the poll:

(1) The competition between Fateh and Hamas is becoming fierce. The poll was conducted soon after the second round of local elections which were dominated by the two factions. Despite the impressive ability of Hamas to increase its popularity during the past six months, Fateh remains stronger, particularly in the West Bank. But Fateh lacks a majority support and needs to forge a coalition with other forces in order to be able to govern. Hamasí strength lies in the public belief that it is clean and most able to fight corruption. Moreover, many of Hamasí supporters believe that its decision to participate in the parliamentary elections is a sign of moderation. Fatehís strength lies in the public belief that it is most able to bring about a peace agreement, improve the economy, and enforce law and order.

(2) Poll findings show that in the competition among Palestinian leaders for public support, Marwan Barghouti emerges as the most popular followed by Mahmud Abbas and Ahmad Qurai. In the second line of leadership, six figures are prominent, two of which are Hamas leaders, Mahmud Zahhar and Ismail Haniyyeh, and four are nationalists: Mohammad Dahlan, Saeb Erekat, Farouq Qaddoumi and Mustafa Barghouti. These results demonstrate one of Hamasí weaknesses: the inability, due to Israeli assassination policy, to put forward popular and charismatic leaders.

(3) Despite the negative public assessment of Palestinian conditions since the election of Abu Mazin, a significant part of the public does not necessarily blame him for that. Most Palestinians probably put the blame on Israel. Nonetheless, it is likely that Fateh and Abu Mazin will suffer the consequences for the deterioration of Palestinian conditions as the public tends to believe that it is Fateh, not Hamas, which is able to change these conditions. With Fateh seen impotent, it loses its advantage over Hamas in delivering better outcomes with regard to the peace process, the economy, and the enforcement of law and order.††

 

(1) Public Evaluation of Palestinian Conditions since the Election of Abu Mazin

         Majority sees conditions deteriorating or remaining the same since the election of Abu Mazin

         But 60% say they are satisfied with Abu Mazinís performance and 35% say they are unsatisfied

         The public is evenly split over Abu Mazinís decision to postpone the elections and only 39% see the outcome of his visit to the US as beneficial to the national interest

 

From among eight major areas of public concern, a majority believes that things have either stayed the same or became worse in six areas and improved in one area, while the public is divided in half over one other area. Conditions are the same or worse in the following areas: settlements, economic conditions, democracy and human rights, enforcement of law and order, fight against corruption, and internal relations among Palestinian factions. The only area in which progress is seen is the release of prisoners by Israel. The area in which the public is divided is related to occupation measures such as closures and checkpoints. Overall, only 3% believe that things in general have improved a lot since the election of Abu Mazin while 45% believe that things improved a little, 38% believe things remained the same, and 12% believe that things have worsened. Despite this negative assessment, 60% are satisfied and 35% are unsatisfied with Abu Mazinís performance since his election. Satisfaction increases in cities (65%) compared to refugee camps (56%), among illiterates (67%) compared to holders of BA degree (53%), among housewives (65%) compared to students (53%), among those most willing to buy a lottery ticket (73%) compared to those most unwilling to buy a lottery ticket (46%), and among supporters of Fateh (77%) compared to supporters of Hamas (45%).

39% believe Abu Mazinís latest visit to Washington has been beneficial to Palestinian interests while the rest is divided between those who think it has not been useful (30%), neither useful nor un-useful (17%), and those with no opinion (14%). Moreover, 44% are satisfied and 46% are not satisfied with Abu Mazinís decision to postpone legislative elections.

 

(2) Popularity of Factions and Expected Outcome of Next Parliamentary Elections

         Support for Fateh and Hamas increases

         In the next parliamentary elections, 44% will vote for Fateh and 33% for Hamas

         Perception of corruption plays a significant role in electoral behavior

         Fateh is most able to deliver on most requirements of voters

         Marwan Barghouti is the most popular Palestinian leader

 

Findings show continued increase in the popularity of Hamas standing today at 30%, compared to 25% last March and 18% last December. Fatehís popularity stands at 41% compared to 36% last March and 40% last December. Fatehís popularity is the same in the Gaza Strip (41%) as in the West Bank (42%). But Hamasí popularity is greater in the Gaza Strip (35%) compared to the West Bank (27%), among women (34%) compared to men (26%), among students (36%) compared to merchants (19%), among the most religious (34%) compared to the least religious (13%), among the most willing to buy a lottery ticket (46%) compared to the most unwilling to buy a lottery ticket (22%), and among those employed in the private sector (29%) compared to those employed in the public sector (22%).

Findings show that the level of participation in the next legislative elections will be 77% and the outcome of those elections will be as follows: 44% for Fateh, 33% for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, 3% for the left, and 8% for independent lists. 12% are undecided. If the contest is between two lists only, one for Fateh and headed by Marwan Barghouti and one for Hamas and headed by Mahmud Zahhar, 47% would vote for Fateh and 38% for Hamas. 15% would vote for neither list or do not know to whom they would give their vote. Fatehís list wins over Hamasí in nine electoral districts: Toubas, Salfit, Jericho, Jenin, Bethlehem, Hebron, Khanyounis, Dier al Balah, and Rafah. Hamas wins in three districts: Tulkarm, Jabalia, and Gaza City. In the remaining four districts, Fateh wins with a slight advantage over Hamas.

The most important consideration in voting for individual candidates in the next legislative elections is going to be the integrity and lack of corruption of the candidate.†† From among eight considerations in voting for election lists, number (1) is the ability to fight corruption, (2) ability to reach a peace agreement with Israel, (3) ability to improve economic conditions, (4) ability to maintain national unity, (5) ability to protect refugee rights in negotiations, (6) the name or affiliation of the list, (7) ability to enforce law and order, and finally (8) ability to insure the continuation of the intifada.

Fateh receives greater appreciation (compared to Hamas, left, or independent and new parties) for its ability to deliver on five of seven considerations while Hamas receives greater appreciation for its ability to deliver on two. Fateh is more able to improve the economy (46% for Fateh and 34% for Hamas), to reach a peace agreement with Israel (65% for Fateh and 22% for Hamas), to protect national unity (43% for Fateh and 37% for Hamas), to protect refugee rights (44% for Fateh and 36% for Hamas), and to enforce law and order (52% for Fateh and 32% for Hamas). Hamas is more able to fight corruption (47% for Hamas and 37% for Fateh) and to insure the continuation of the intifada (64% for Hamas and 23% for Fateh).

Major public concerns are organized in the following order of importance: (1) poverty and unemployment (34%), (2) occupation measures (33%), (3) corruption (24%), (4) internal anarchy and chaos (8%). After legislative elections, the public would like to see the following order of priorities: (1) improve the economy, (2) fight corruption, (3) reach a peace agreement with Israel, (4) enforce law and order, and finally, (5) maintain national unity.

In an open question, Marwan Barghouti receives the greatest level of support to lead Fatehís election list in the next legislative elections receiving the support of 14% of respondents followed by Mohammad Dahlan (5%), Ahmad Quarai and Farouq Qaddoumi (4% each), while 57% have not decided yet or do not know.

If presidential elections were held today, Abu Mazin, in an open question, receives the largest percentage ofsupport (24%) followed by Marwan Barghouti (12%), and Mahmud Zahhar (8%). 36% have not decided or do not know. In an open question regarding nomination for vice president, Marwan Barghouti receives the largest percentage of support (11%), followed by Ahmad Quarai (5%), Mustafa Barghouti and Mohammad Dahlan (4% each), Mahmud Zahhar and Saeb Erikat (3% each), and Ismail Haniyyeh and Farouq Qaddoumi (2% each).52% have not decided or do not know.For the position of prime minister after the next legislative elections, Ahamd Qurai, in an open question, receives the largest percentage of support (9%) followed by Marwan Barghouti (7%), Mahmud Zahhar (5%), Mohammad Dahlan and Mustafa Barghouti (3% each). 56% have not decided or do not know.

 

(3) Hamasí Participation in the Political Process

         40% believe that the willingness of Hamas to participate in the next parliamentary elections means that the movement is more willing today to embrace the peace process but 20% believe it means the opposite

         If Hamas wins the majority of PLC seats, 40% believe the peace process will be stopped or slowed down and 30% believe it would have the opposite effect

         44% believe economic conditions will become better and 22% believe they will become worse if Hamas wins a parliamentary majority; moreover, 44% believe the status of democracy will get better and 21% believe it will get worse if Hamas wins a parliamentary majority

 

Findings show that a large percentage (40%) sees in Hamasí willingness to participate in the next parliamentary elections a sign of moderation on the part of the Islamist movement, including a more willingness to accept the peace process. Only 20% believe that Hamasí decision means the movement is adopting a more hard line position on the peace process. One third believes it reflects no change at all. Despite these findings, 39% believe that if Hamas actually wins a parliamentary majority in the next elections, the peace process will suffer while 30% believe it will benefit and 24% believe it will not be affected.

Findings also show that 44% do not believe that a Hamas parliamentary majority would have negative effects on economic conditions or the future of Palestinian democracy. It is noticeable that while Fateh and Hamas supporters agree (39% each) that Hamasí participation in elections is a sign of moderation, Fateh supporters are worried about the future of the peace process, economic conditions, and the future of democracy if Hamas wins a majority. Hamas supporters on the other hand are highly optimistic about the future of the economy and democracy and cautiously optimistic about the future of the peace process if Hamas wins a majority.

 

(4) Domestic Conditions: Reform, Democracy, Corruption, and PA Performance

         94% support internal and external calls for reform, and 63% believe that the PA is currently implementing fundamental reform measures while positive evaluation of PA democracy rises to 37%

         But perception of corruption is still very high reaching 87% and only 39% believe that those responsible for corruption are often charged while 95% believe public hiring is done through wasta (connections) and only 36% feel safe and secure.

         Positive evaluation of the performance of the presidency stands at 47%, police and justice system at 42% each, cabinet at 40%, PLC at 36%, and opposition groups at 51%

 

Findings indicate an increase in the level of positive evaluation of Palestinian democracy from 24% in June 2004 to 37% in this poll. But the percentage of support for reform calls remains very high (94%) despite the fact that a majority of 63% believes that the PA is currently implementing fundamental reforms.

But PA reform efforts do not seem to include a fight against corruption as 87% believe that corruption exists in the PA and 95% believe that wasta (or connections) is essential in public hiring. The call for reform seems to include a demand for the enforcement of law and order as only 36% say they feel that their safety and security and that of their families are guaranteed these days.

Findings indicate an increase in the positive evaluation of PA performance compared to the situation in September 2004. For example, positive evaluation of the presidency has increased from 42% to 47%, for the cabinet from 33% to 40%, for the PLC from 30% to 36%, for the judiciary from 39% to 42%. A slight decrease in the positive evaluation of the performance of opposition groups has been registered from 53% to 51% during the same period.

 

(5) Peace Process and the Disengagement Plan

         Short term negotiationsí priorities are organized as follows: release of prisoners, stopping the building of the barrier, return of laborers to work inside Israel, freezing of settlement construction, and removal of checkpoints

         Sharonís disengagement plan is viewed by 72% as victory for armed resistance and 66% believe that armed confrontations have helped Palestinians achieve national rights; but only 28% believe the PA has high capacity to control conditions in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli disengagement

         Two thirds oppose continuation of armed attacks against Israelis from the Gaza Strip if the Israeli withdrawal is complete; but 52% believe that settlement building will increase in the West Bank in the coming years

         Despite strong support for the current ceasefire (77%), a majority of 60% opposes collection of arms from Palestinian factions and armed groups

Findings show that release of prisoners is the main short term negotiating issue on the mind of Palestinians followed by the need to stop the separation barrier, the return of laborers to work inside Israel, the freezing of settlement construction, and the removal of checkpoints. Interest in the issue of prisoners increases in the Gaza Strip (40%) compared to the West Bank (30%), while the issue of the barrier is more important to West Bankers (28%) than Gazans (16%) whose second most urgent issue is the return of laborers to work inside Israel (21%).

Findings also show that a majority of 72% view the Israeli disengagement plan as victory for armed resistance. Moreover, two thirds of the public continue to view armed confrontations as helping achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not. These results are similar to those obtained by PSR during the last two years. But findings also show thata minority of 28% believe that the PA has a high capacity to control conditions in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal.

If the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is complete, two thirds would oppose and 30% would support the continuation of armed attacks from the Strip. Opposition to such attacks in case of a complete withdrawal stood at 59% on June 2004, 60% on December 2004, and 66% last March. It is noticeable that opposition to armed attacks from Gaza after a complete withdrawal is similar in the West Bank to that of the Gaza Strip (65% and 68% respectively). But the poll found that 52% believe that settlement construction will increase in the West Bank during the coming years. It is probably due to this reason that despite the widespread support for the current ceasefire (77%), a majority of 60% oppose collection of arms from armed factions.

Support for collection of arms in the Gaza Strip (37%) is similar to that in the West Bank (39%). Support increases in cities (41%) compared to refugee camps (32%), among holders of BA degree (42%) compared to illiterates (26%), among the most willing to buy a lottery ticket (48%) compared to those most unwilling to buy a lottery ticket (25%), and among supporters of Fateh (50%) compared to supporters of Hamas (26%).††

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