PSR - Survey Research Unit: Public Opinion Poll # 27

PSR poll 27 full analysis

24 March 2008

 

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (27)

 

With Increased Dissatisfaction with the Performance of Mahmud Abbas and with the Government of Ismail Haniyeh Seen as Having Greater Legitimacy and Better Performance than the Government of Salam Fayyad, and with Confidence in the Negotiations with Israel Collapsing, Hamas’s and Haniyeh’s Popularity Increase  and Fateh’s and Abbas’s Decrease While Support for Rocket Launching and Suicide Attacks Increase

 

13-15 March 2008   

 

These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 13 and 15 March 2008. This period witnessed a limited lull that prevailed between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the Israeli incursion into Gaza in early March that left more than 130 Palestinians dead and after the bombing attack in West Jerusalem that led to the death of 8 Israeli religious students.  The poll examines the following topics: the domestic balance of power, the performance and legitimacy of two governments, that of Ismail Haniyeh and Salam Fayyad, and the peace process. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults , 830 in the West Bank and 440 in the Gaza Strip, interviewed face to face in 127 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:

 

Main Findings

Peace Process

Performance and Legitimacy of Two Governments

Domestic Balance of Power

Main Findings in numbers

 

 

Main Findings:

 

Findings indicate that a major shift, in Hamas’s favor, had occurred during the last three months with about 10% of the population shifting their attitudes and perceptions. The change included increased popularity of Hamas and its leadership, increased support for its positions and legitimacy, and greater satisfaction with its performance. These changes might have been the result of several political developments starting with the breaching of the Rafah border with Egypt during the last week of January and first week of February, followed by the Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip leading to a large number of Palestinian causalities and an increase in the number of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns such as Sderot and Ashkelon, the two suicide attacks in Dimona and Jerusalem leading to the death of nine Israelis, and ending with the failure of the Annapolis process in positively affecting daily life of Palestinians in the West Bank, in stopping Israeli settlement activities, or in producing progress in final status negotiations. These developments managed to present Hamas as successful in breaking the siege and as a victim of Israeli attacks. These also presented Palestinian President Abbas and his Fateh faction as impotent, unable to change the bitter reality in the West Bank or ending Israeli occupation through diplomacy.

 

Findings also show that the increase in the intensity of Palestinian-Israeli confrontations during the last few months has left an important impact on public attitudes regarding the peace process and armed attacks. While support for compromise and a two-state solution remain stable, findings show significant increase in support for armed attacks, particularly suicide attacks against Israelis. Moreover, the failure of diplomatic contacts to change daily life in the West Bank or in stopping settlement activities or making progress in final status issues is pushing Palestinians to pessimism with sweeping lack of confidence in the Annapolis peace process and opposition to Abbas-Olmert talks.

 

Domestic Balance of Power:

 

  • The gap between the standing of Fateh compared to the standing of Hamas decreases significantly in three months from 18 percentage points to 7. If new parliamentary elections were to take place today, Hamas would receive 35%, Fateh 42%, other electoral lists combined 12%, and 11% remain undecided. This represents a significant increase in Hamas’s popularity compared to December 2007 when it received 31% compared to 49% to Fateh, 10% to other lists and 11% undecided.
  • Hamas is more popular in the Gaza Strip reaching 40% compared to 31% in the West Bank. Fateh’s popularity is slightly greater in the Gaza Strip, reaching 43% compared to 41% in the West Bank.
  • The gap between the standing of Abbas compared to the standing of Haniyeh decreases significantly in three months from 19 percentage points to almost zero. If new presidential elections were to take place today, Mahmud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December.
  • However, if the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former would receive 57% and the latter 38%. Moreover, the percentage of non-participation would decrease from 34% (if the competition was between Abbas and Haniyeh) to 24% (if the competition was between Barghouti and Haniyeh).

 

Findings show that Hamas has managed to regain the initiative and won back those among public opinion it lost last June after its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. Our poll last December indicated that Hamas’s popularity has stabilized after six months of continued decline. Our current poll shows that the gap between the standing of Fateh compared to the standing of Hamas decreases significantly in three months from 18 percentage points to 7. If new parliamentary elections were to take place today, Hamas would receive 35%, Fateh 42%, other electoral lists combined 12%, and 11% remain undecided. This represents a significant increase in Hamas’s popularity compared to December 2007 when it received 31% compared to 49% to Fateh, 10% to other lists and 11% undecided. It is worth noting that Hamas’s popularity increased to 34% during the breaching of the Rafah border with Egypt during the last week of January while Fateh’s popularity dropped to 46%. PSR conducted a special poll during that period of late January-early February 2008 during the breaching of the Rafah borders with Egypt. 

 

Hamas is more popular in the Gaza Strip reaching 40% compared to 31% in the West Bank. Fateh’s popularity is slightly greater in the Gaza Strip, reaching 43% compared to 41% in the West Bank. Hamas is also popular among women (37%) compared to men (33%), in refugee camps (43%) and cities (36%) compared to towns and villages (30%), among the religious (42%) compared to the “somewhat religious” (29%), among those opposed to the peace process (72%) compared to those supportive of the peace process (25%), among those who would be strongly opposed to buying a lottery ticket, the most traditional, (55%) compared to those most willing to buy a lottery ticket, the most untraditional, (12%), and among those between the ages of 38 and 47 years (42%) compared to the young, 18-27 years of age, (31%).

 

The gap between the standing of Abbas compared to the standing of Haniyeh decreases significantly in three months from 19 percentage points to almost zero. If new presidential elections were to take place today, Mahmud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. It is worth mentioning that during the breaching of the Rafah border with Egypt, Abbas’s popularity dropped to 51% and Haniyeh’s increased to 43%. Haniyeh’s popularity today is the highest ever registered since Hamas’s electoral victory in January 2006.

 

Haniyeh’s popularity compared to that of Abbas increases in the Gaza Strip (49% to Haniyeh and 46% to Abbas), among women (50% to 42%), in refugee camps (57% to 38%), among the religious (50% to 42%), among those opposed to the peace process (88% to 7%), among supporters of Hamas (97% compared to 2%) and Islamic Jihad (61% to 28%), PFLP (68% to 29%), and independent Islamists (67% to 13%), among holders of BA degree (48% to 41%) among the unemployed (52% to 39%), among those with least incomde (55% to 36%), and among those between the ages of 38 and 47 years (53% to 41%).

 

However, if the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former would receive 57% and the latter 38%. Moreover, the percentage of non-participation would decrease from 34% (if the competition was between Abbas and Haniyeh) to 24% (if the competition was between Barghouti and Haniyeh). Last December, Barghouti’s popularity stood at 63% compared to 32% for Haniyeh; in other words, the gap between Barghouti and Haniyeh has decreased from 31 percentage points to 19 percentage points in three months. During the breaching of the Rafah borders with Egypt, Barghouti’s popularity dropped to 60% and Haniyeh’s increased to 35%.

 

Performance and Legitimacy of Two Governments:

 

  • Findings show continued decrease in the level of satisfaction with the performance of Abbas and a greater positive evaluation for the performance of Haniyeh’s government over the performance of Fayyad’s government.
  • Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as prime minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September.
  • Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. 9% say both governments are legitimate and 24% say both are illegitimate. Last December, belief that Fayyad’s government was legitimate stood at 38% and belief that Haniyeh’s government was legitimate stood at 30%.
  • Despite the fact that the majority continues to reject Hamas’s June 2007 violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, only a small minority believes that Hamas alone is responsible for the continued political split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • Perception of personal and family security and safety diminishes considerably in the West Bank declining from 44% last December to 32% in this poll.

 

Findings show continued decrease in the level of satisfaction with the performance of Abbas and a greater positive evaluation for the performance of Haniyeh’s government over the performance of Fayyad’s government. Satisfaction with the performance of Abbas stands today at 41% and dissatisfaction at 56%. Satisfaction with Abbas’s performance stood at 50% last December and 46% during the breaching of the Rafah border with Egypt. Moreover, only 30% say that the performance of the Fayyad government is good or very good and 42% say it is bad or very bad. By contrast, 39% say the performance of the Haniyeh’s government is good or very good and only 34% say it is bad or very bad.

 

Similarly, findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as prime minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. 9% say both governments are legitimate and 24% say both are illegitimate. It is noticeable that Haniyeh’s government receives greater public legitimacy both in the West Bank (32% to Haniyeh’s compared to 26% to Fayyad’s) and the Gaza Strip (37% to Haniyeh’s compared to 34% to Fayyad’s). It is also worth mentioning that this is the first time that Haniyeh’s government has received greater public legitimacy than Fayyad’s. Last December, belief that Fayyad’s government was legitimate stood at 38% and belief that Haniyeh’s government was legitimate stood at 30%.

 

Belief that the government of Haniyeh is more legitimate than the Fayyad government increases in the Gaza Strip (37% for Haniyeh’s and 34% for Fayyad’s), among women (33% to 25%), in cities (35% to 30%), in refugee camps (38% to 29%), among the religious (38% to 28%), among those opposed to the peace process (65% to 4%), among supporters of Hamas (82% to 2%), among holder of BA degree (36% to 26%), among the unemployed (45% to 29%), among those working in the private sector (35% to 23%), among those with the lowest income (42% to 26%), and among those between the ages of 38 and 47 (41% to 27%).

 

Despite the fact that the majority continues to reject Hamas’s June 2007 violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, only a small minority believes that Hamas alone is responsible for the continued political split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Rejection of Hamas’s violent takeover stands today at 68% and acceptance of the takeover at 26%. Rejection of the takeover stood at 73% last September. Acceptance of Hamas’s takeover increases in the Gaza Strip reaching 33% compared to 23% in the West Bank. However, only 17% believe that Hamas alone is responsible for the continued split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and in fact 21% say Fateh alone is responsible for the continued split. A majority of 54% believes that both Hamas and Fateh are responsible for the continued split. The tendency to avoid blaming Hamas alone for the continuation of the split reflects a change in public perception regarding the positions of the two factions regarding return to dialogue as an exit from the current crisis. Support for Fateh’s and Abbas’s position, which demands a return to the status quo ante as a precondition to dialogue drops from 46% last September to 39% in this poll. Support for Hamas’s position, which calls for unconditional dialogue, increases from 27% to 37% during the same period.

 

Perception of personal and family security and safety diminishes considerably in the West Bank declining from 44% last December to 32% in this poll. Perception of security and safety improved greatly in the West Bank in December 2007 compared to September when it stood at 35%. In the Gaza Strip, perceptions of personal and family security and safety diminish somewhat from 52% to 46% between December 2007 and March 2008.

 

Peace Process:

 

  • 66% support and 32% oppose the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation to Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state.
  • 55% support and 44% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people as part of a permanent status agreement.
  • But 80% believe that the negotiations launched by the Annapolis conference will fail while 14% believe it will succeed.
  • Moreover, 68% believe that the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state during the next five years are non-existent or weak and 30% believe chances are fair or high.
  • 75% believe that the meetings between Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are not beneficial and should be stopped while only 21% believe they are beneficial and should be continued.
  • 64% support and 33% oppose launching rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon.
  • An overwhelming majority of 84% support and 13% oppose the bombing attack that took place in a religious school in West Jerusalem. Support for this attack increases in the Gaza Strip (91%) compared to the West Bank (79%).

 

Findings show that despite the significant shift in the balance of power in favor of Hamas and despite the increased belief in the legitimacy of the Hamas government and its superior performance, public attitude regarding a political settlement based on a two-state solution remained stable during the last three months. Findings show that two thirds of the public support the Saudi peace initiative which calls for Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in secure borders and normalization of relations with it after it withdraws from the Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of the refugee problem in a just and agreed upon manner. 32% oppose this initiative. Last December, support for the Saudi initiative stood at 65% and opposition at 32%.

 

More importantly, findings show an increase in the level of support for a settlement in which there would be a mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people as part of a permanent settlement. Support for such mutual recognition of identity stands today at 55% compared to 49% and opposition at 44% compared to 49% last December.

 

But the findings show total lack of confidence in diplomacy with 80% saying that negotiations launched by the Annapolis conference will fail while only 14% believe it will succeed. Similarly, findings show that more than two thirds (68%) believe that the chances for the creation of an independent  Palestinian state living next to Israel in the next five years are none-existent or weak while 30% believe chances are medium or high. Belief that chances are none-existent or weak increases in the West Bank (72%) compared to the Gaza Strip (62%), among those opposed to the peace process (85%) compared to supporters of the peace process (61%), and among supporters of Hamas (71%) compared to supporters of Fateh (57%).

 

This pessimism regarding the future of the diplomatic process pushes three quarters of the public to believe that the meetings between Abbas and Olmert are not beneficial and should be stopped while only 21% believe they are beneficial and should be continued. Pessimism about diplomacy also leads people to search for alternative means to end the occupation with findings showing about two thirds (64%) supporting the continued launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon while only 33% oppose that. A poll conducted by PSR in December 2006 (#22) found that 48% of the public at that time believed that launching rockets at Israeli towns was useful for Palestinians while an identical percentage believed it was not useful.

 

Finally, findings show a significant increase in the level of support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel with 67% supportive and 31% opposed. Average support for such attacks on Israeli civilians stood at 40% in 2005 and 55% in 2006. Findings also show wide-spread support for the suicide attack that took place in the Israeli town Dimona and led to the death of one Israeli woman, with support standing at 77% and opposition at 19%. The armed attack on a religious school in West Jerusalem which led to the death of eight Israeli students is supported by 84% and opposed by 13%. Support for similar suicide attacks inside Israel dropped significantly during 2005 with only 29% supporting a suicide attack that took place in Tel Aviv and 37% supporting another one in Beersheba. But support for such attacks increased in mid 2006 as a suicide attack in Tel Aviv at that time received the support of 69% and the opposition of 27%.   

 

 

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This PSR survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah

 

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