PSR - Survey Research Unit: Poll No. 39  - Press Release


PSR Poll # 39 - Press release

 

22 March 2011  

PRESS RELEASE

 

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (39)

 

Youth revolts in the Arab World pose a threat to Hamas and its government in the Gaza Strip while al Jazeera leaks of PLO documents recording Palestinian-Israeli negotiations pose a threat to Fateh and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank

 

17-19 March 2011    

 

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 17-19 March 2011. The poll was conducted during a period of turmoil and revolt in the Arab World leading to regime change in Egypt and Tunisia. Moreover, the Palestinian areas witnessed demonstrations demanding end of the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Before that, al Jazeera satellite TV news station released leaked Palestinian documents pertaining to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. These documents were leaked from the PLO negotiations department. This press release covers issues related to the events in the Arab World, the leaks on al Jazeera, Palestinian domestic conditions, the performance of the governments of Salam Fayyad and Ismail Haniyeh, the internal balance of power between Fateh and Hamas, the future of reconciliation and reunification, and the views of the public on the most vital Palestinian goals and the most serious problems confronting Palestinians today. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%. While this press release covers domestic Palestinian issues, other issues related to the peace process and Israeli-Palestinian relations will be covered in a separate joint Palestinian-Israeli press release and later in our more detailed report on the poll.

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

 

Main Findings:

 

Findings of the first quarter of 2010 highlight a number of internal developments that came in response to external events. Two of the most significant events of the period under consideration were the publication of PLO documents related to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and the eruption of youth demonstration in the Arab World demanding regime change in their countries.  Palestinians were affected differently by these events. For example, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leadership were negatively affected by al Jazeera leaks as findings show a decrease in support for Fateh and a similar decrease in the level of satisfaction with the performance of president Mahmud Abbas. Several factors led to this outcome: al Jazeera remains the most watched TV news station in the Palestinian areas and the most credible one. While the PA leadership in the West Bank defended itself by accusing al Jazeera of conspiring against it, a large majority of Palestinians believed that al Jazeera goal was to seek the truth and not to conspire against the PA. Moreover, in responding to the leaks, the PA’s case remained unconvincing in the eyes of a large majority of Palestinians. Above all else, and based on the leaks, half of the public concluded that the PA’s negotiating position was not committed to the vital goals and interests of the Palestinian people.

 

By contrast, the events in the Arab World and particularly the youth demonstrations seem to pose a threat to Hamas in the Gaza Strip rather than to Fateh in the West Bank. For example, findings show that two thirds of Gazans believe that there is a need for demonstrations in the Gaza Strip demanding regime change in the Strip. More seriously for Hamas, half of Gazans indicate that they might participate in such demonstrations. In the West Bank, the picture is different: only one third believes there is a need to demonstrate and demand West Bank regime change and only one quarter indicate willingness to participate in such demonstrations.

 

Finally, findings show that if demonstrations were to erupt in the Gaza Strip, demands and slogans will focus not only on ending the West Bank-Gaza Strip split, but also on the absence of freedoms. By contrast, if demonstrations erupt in the West Bank, demands and slogans will focus on the two issues of ending the split and ending occupation.  

 

(1) Youth demonstrations in the Arab World and in Palestine:

 

  • An overwhelming majority of 92% sympathizes with the demonstrators in Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen; 7% do not sympathize with the Arab demonstrators.
  • 41% believe that the first basic demand of the demonstrators in Egypt is to end the state of poverty and unemployment, 38% believe it is freedom from oppression of the ruling regime, 11% believe it is to end corruption, 5% believe it is to replace the Egyptian regime with an Islamist one, and 3% believe the demonstrators want to express opposition to Egypt’s pro Western policies.
  • About two thirds (64%) expect the developments in the Arab World to have a positive impact on Palestinian conditions, 17% believe they will have a negative impact, and 15% believe they will have no impact.
  • Two thirds (66%) expect the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt to lead to permanent opening of the Rafah international crossing with Egypt and 27% do not expect that.
  • But a majority of 54% believes the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel in the next five years will not change as a result of the developments in the Arab World, 21% believe such chances will increase and 23% believe the chances will decrease.
  • 47% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip believe that there is a need for similar demonstrations in the West Bank demanding regime change and 50% believe no need exists. However, among West Bankers, only 36% believe there should be demonstrations demanding West Bank regime change.
  • By contrast, 52% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip believe there is a need for similar demonstrations in the Gaza Strip demanding regime change in that area and 40% believe no need exists. However, among Gazans, belief in the need for regime-change demonstrations in the Gaza Strip increases to reach 67%.
  • When asked about their possible participation in such regime-change demonstrations in their respective areas, major differences emerged between West Bankers and Gazans: while 50% of Gazans are ready to participate in demonstrations to demand regime change in the Gaza Strip, only 24% of West Bankers are ready to participate in demonstrations demanding regime change in PA in the West Bank.
  • When asked about the most preferred slogan to raise in Palestinian demonstrations, a majority of 51% opted for “people want to end the split,” followed by “people want to end occupation” (24%), and “people want to end corruption” (14%). Four other slogans received 2% each: “people want to end negotiations,” “people want to end Oslo,” “people want an end to security coordination,” and “people want to return to the intifada.”

 

(2) Al Jazeera Publishes leaked PLO negotiations’ documents:

 

  • 78% say they have seen or heard, on al Jazeera or other media outlets, about leaked documents published by al Jazeera news TV channel.
  • 79% believe in the truthfulness of all or some of what has been published by al Jazeera regarding concessions made by Palestinian negotiators and 19% do not believe any of it. 
  • About half (49%) believes that the Palestinian negotiating position, as revealed by al Jazeera, was not committed to vital Palestinian goals and interests and 44% believe it has been committed to vital goals and interests.
  • A majority of 59% believes that the goal of al Jazeera in publishing the leaked documents was to uncover the truth, but 36% believe the aim was to conspire against the Palestinian leadership.
  • A majority of 62% believes that the PA response to al Jazeera leaks of the negotiations’ documents was not convincing and 33% believe it was convincing.

 

(3) Domestic Conditions:

 

  • 21% describe conditions in the Gaza Strip as good or very good and 56% describe them as bad or very bad. In our last poll, three months ago, in December 2010, 17% described conditions in the Gaza Strip as good or very good and 62% said they were bad or very bad. By contrast, 33% describe conditions in the West Bank as good or very good and 33% describe them as bad or very bad. Three months ago, these percentages stood at 35% and 31% respectively.
  • 70% say there is corruption in the PA institutions in the West Bank while only 59% say there is corruption in the institutions of the dismissed government in the Gaza Strip. These percentages are similar to those obtained three months ago.
  • 65% say there is, or there is to some extent, press freedom in the West Bank and 31% say there is no such freedom in the West Bank. By contrast, 46% say there is, or there is to some extent, press freedom in the Gaza Strip while 42% say there is no such freedom in the Gaza Strip.
  • 33% say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, only 19% say people in the Gaza Strip can criticize the authorities in Gaza without fear. These findings reflect an improvement in the situation in the West Bank and lack of change in the Gaza Strip. Since the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in June 2007, these percentages have witnessed gradual and significant decrease. As the table below shows, belief that people can criticize the authorities in the West Bank without fear stood at 56% while 52% believed that people can criticize the authorities without fear in the Gaza Strip.

 

Table: Gradual decrease in belief about the ability to criticize authorities in the West Bank or Gaza Strip since the spilt between the two areas

 

Date

Ability to criticize authorities in the West Bank

Ability to criticize authorities in the Gaza Strip

March 2011

33%

19%

December 2010

27%

19%

September 2010

30%

24%

March 2009

37%

29%

August 2008

47%

42%

September 2007

56%

52%

  

  • Perception of safety and security stands at 54% in the West Bank and 67% in the Gaza Strip.
  • Positive evaluation of the performance of the governments of Ismail Haniyeh stands at 31% and Salam Fayyad’s at 39%. Three months ago, these percentages stood at 36% and 43% respectively.
  • Findings show that the percentage of Gazans who say that political, security, and economic conditions force them to seek immigration to other countries stands at 37%; in the West Bank, the percentage stands at 21%.
  • Percentage of satisfaction with the performance of President Abbas stands at 46% while 51% say they are dissatisfied with his performance. These percentages reflect a decrease in the level of satisfaction with the performance of the president, which stood at 50% three months ago while the level of dissatisfaction stood at 45%. Satisfaction with the performance of the president stands at 39% in the Gaza Strip and 51% in the West Bank.
  • 23% say the government of Haniyeh is the legitimate Palestinian government and 25% say the Fayyad government is the legitimate one. 37% say both governments are illegitimate. These results indicate a decrease in the percentage of those who view the Fayyad government as legitimate.

 

(4) West Bank-Gaza Strip split and how to end it:

 

  • A majority of 52% opposes and 43% support Salam Fayyad’s proposal to end the West Bank-Gaza Strip split by an immediate unification of the two areas, the formation of a national unity government under the premiership of a prime minister acceptable to Fateh and Hamas, and the maintenance of the status quo regarding security conditions in the Gaza Strip (under Hamas’s control) and the West Bank (under Fateh).
  • Fateh and Hamas together are responsible for the continuation of the split as seen by 62% of the public, but 15% blame Hamas alone and 15% blame Fateh alone. But when asked about the future of the split if Hamas won new presidential and parliamentary elections, 46% said it would be consolidated, but in a scenario in which Fateh would win such elections, only 25% said the split would, as a result, be consolidated.
  • After the events in Egypt and the cessation of the Egyptian role in Fateh-Hamas reconciliation, 21% believe that unity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will resume soon, 50% believe unity will resume but only after a long time, and 21% believe that unity will never return. These results reflect a significant decrease in the percentage of those who believe that the split is permanent (which stood at 39% three months ago), perhaps due to the increased public and youth demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip demanding an end to the split.
  • In order to end the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 43% believe that the regimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should fall, while 16% believe that ending the split requires the downfall of the regime in the Gaza Strip only, and 15% believe it requires the downfall of the regime in the West Bank only. 18% believe that ending the split does not require the downfall of either regime.
  • In order to end the split, 33% support and 61% oppose a proposal whereby president Abbas would accept Hamas conditions for unification even if such a step would lead to the return of international sanctions and boycott. Findings show that 69% view such a step by the president as posing a threat to their own interests and those of the Palestinian people. A majority of 52% believe the chances for the president to take such a step are small or very small while 42% believe chances are high or medium.
  • By contrast, a larger percentage (47%) support and 46% oppose a different proposal whereby Hamas would end the spilt by accepting international conditions imposed after it won the elections back in 2006, including accepting peace agreements with Israel. The lesser opposition to this proposal than to the previous one seems to be due to the fact that a much lower percentage (43%) perceive such Hamas shift as a threat to their interests or to the interests of the Palestinian people. But as in the previous proposal, 53% believe the chances Hamas would take such an initiative are small or very small and only 41% believe the chances are high or medium.   

 

(5) Presidency and Legislative Elections:

 

  • If new presidential elections are held today, and only two were nominated, Abbas would receive the vote of 55% and Haniyeh 38% of the vote of those participating. The rate of participation in such election would reach 58%. These results are similar to those obtained in our pervious poll three months ago. In the Gaza Strip, Abbas receives in this poll 53% and Haniyeh 42% and in the West Bank Abbas receives 56% and Haniyeh 35%.
  • If the presidential elections were between Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, the former would receive 64% and the latter would receive 31% of the participants’ votes. The rate of participation in this case would reach 67%. In the Gaza Strip, Barghouti receives 59% and Haniyeh 36% and in the West Bank Barghouti receives 66% and Haniyeh 28%. These results are similar to those obtained three months ago.
  • Most popular figures selected by the public as possible vice presidents from a list of five provided to respondents are Marwan Barghouti (selected by 30% of the public), Ismail Haniyeh (18%), Salam Fayyad (14%) Mustafa Barghouti (11%) and Saeb Erekat (2%).  These percentages are similar to those obtained by PSR three months ago.
  • If new legislative elections are held today with the participation of all factions, 71% say they would participate in such elections. Of those who would participate, 26% say they would vote for Hamas and 40% say they would vote for Fateh, 12% would vote for all other third parties combined, and 22% are undecided. These results are similar to those obtained three months ago with the exception of the likely vote for Fateh which dropped by four percentage points. Vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip in this poll is 33% and in the West Bank 21%. Vote for Fateh in the Gaza Strip is 42% and in the West Bank 39%.

 

 (6) Local elections: