PSR Poll No. 43 - Press release
19 March 2012
Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (43)
PA's financial crisis, the exchange of rockets with Israel, pessimism about reconciliation, and the slowdown in the UN bid leave a negative impact on the governments of Fayyad and Haniyeh, Fateh and Hamas, and the status of president Abbas: all come out losers
15-17 March 2012
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 15-17 March 2012. This poll was conducted immediately after a ceasefire went into effect in the Gaza Strip after more than 20 people were killed in Israeli missile attacks that came in response to rocket attacks launched from Gaza by resistance forces in retaliation for an Israeli assassination of the top commander of the Popular Resistance Committees. The period preceding the poll also witnessed talks by the Fayyad government about increasing taxes. It also witnessed the signing of the Doha agreement between Khalid Mish'al and Mahmud Abbas for the formation of a reconciliation government to be headed by Abbas. Ismail Haniyeh declared from Cairo his support for the Syrian revolt in what seemed to be the first statement by a Hamas leader on the subject. Security conditions in the West Bank somewhat deteriorated as a result of settlers' attacks or due to Israeli measures, such as setting more checkpoints, that came in response to the escalation in the Gaza Strip. This press release covers Palestinian attitudes regarding the PA financial crisis, the Doha Agreement, the performance of the governments of Salam Fayyad and Ismail Haniyeh, the internal balance of power between Fateh and Hamas, and the views of the public on the most vital Palestinian goals and the main problems Palestinians confront 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first quarter of 2012 brings bad news to the governments of Fayyad and Haniyeh, to Fateh and Hamas, and to president Abbas. Findings show a significant drop in the positive evaluation of the performance of the Fayyad government, particularly in the West Bank. The drop is probably due to anticipated fallout from the PA's financial crisis and in response to government talk about a tax increase and/or a reduction in the size of the public sector, two measures clearly rejected, as findings show, by a majority of respondents. The financial crisis, the slowdown in the UN bid, and pessimism about the chances for reconciliation might also be some of the factors behind the decline in the popularity of Fateh and the dissatisfaction with Abbas, especially in the West Bank.
Findings also indicate a significant decline in the popularity of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and a decrease in the positive evaluation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, probably due to Hamas' behavior, standing on the sideline, during Gaza's rocket war with Israel and due to the prevailing pessimism about the chances for reconciliation, particularly given the outspoken criticism of the Doha agreement by some of Hamas' Gaza leaders at a time when the agreement receives massive public support from all sectors of the public. Perhaps the only positive sign for Hamas is the significant increase in the popularity of Ismail Haniyeh in the West Bank, which might have come as a result of his visibility lately during his travels to Arab and Islamic countries and as a result of his public support for the popular revolt in Syria, a revolt that receives the overwhelming support of the Palestinian public. It is worth noting in this context that a majority of the public does not believe that Hamas supports the Syrian revolt or simply does not know Hamas' real position regarding that revolt.
(1) PA's Financial Crisis:
- We asked the public about its view on how to deal with the financial crisis facing the PA, a crisis that might constrain its ability to pay salaries: 48% opposed solving PA's financial deficit by increasing taxes or forcing some public sector employees to take early retirement. Only 9% came in favor of a tax increase and 29% came in favor of the early retirement solution. 11% favored adopting both options, the tax increase and the early retirement.
- When we asked the public for alternative solutions to the financial crisis, other than the tax increase and the early retirement, a majority of 52% selected the option of returning to negotiations with Israel in order to obtain greater international financial support while 27% selected the option of dissolving the PA altogether. 21% selected various other options or could not come up with any. It is worth noting that about half of those who favor return to negotiations oppose unconditional return that does not insure an Israeli settlement freeze and an acceptance of the 1967 borders.
- When we asked the public about its expectations regarding the ability of the PA to survive for long given the current financial crisis, the continuation of occupation and settlement construction, and the suspension of peace negotiations, about one third (34%) said it can survive for ten or more years, 26% said it can survive for three to ten years, 14% said it can survive for a year or two, and 16% said it can survive for a year or less.
(2) The Doha Agreement and Reconciliation:
- An overwhelming majority of 84% supports the Doha Agreement signed by Mahmud Abbas and Khalid Mish'al and calling for the formation of a reconciliation government to be headed by Abbas and to be tasked with conducting elections and starting Gaza reconstruction. 12% oppose the agreement. Findings show that 93% of Fateh supporters and 81% of Hamas supporters are in favor of the Doha Agreement.
- The public is split over the chances for reconciliation in the aftermath of the Doha Agreement with 46% expecting the two sides to succeed in implementing the agreement and 49% expecting them to fail. Worse yet, only 16% believe that a reconciliation government will be formed within weeks while 46% believe it will be formed after a long time and 31% believe that it will never be formed. Moreover, only 30% believe that Gaza and West Bank parliamentary and presidential elections will take place as scheduled in May or a little after that, 57% believe they will not take place, and 13% do not know. It is worth mentioning that three months ago 43% believed that elections will indeed take place on schedule or a little after that.
- If parliamentary and presidential elections were to take place now, 40% expect Fateh to win and 23% expect Hamas to win. The rest expects others to win or does not know.
- A majority of 62% believe that a new reconciliation government should abide by the peace policy of Abbas and the PLO while only 20% believe it should abide by the peace policy of Hamas.
- If a reconciliation government, headed by Abbas, is established, 57% expect, and 35% do not expect, the return of international boycott, financial sanctions and aid cuts.
- Half of the public (49%) believes that internal disagreements between Hamas leaders regarding the Doha agreement and the appointment of Abbas as prime minister for the reconciliation government are major and fundamental disagreements while 43% believe they are minor and marginal.
- In the context of the role played by Qatar in facilitating the Doha Agreement, a large majority of 69% welcome, and 27% do not welcome, a Qatari role in Palestinian affairs.
(3) Domestic Conditions:
- 13% describe conditions in the Gaza Strip as good or very good and 70% describe them as bad or very bad. In our last poll, three months ago, 26% described conditions in the Gaza Strip as good or very good and 47% described them as bad or very bad. It seems clear that the rocket war between Israel and resistance groups, which took place just before the conduct of the poll, has been responsible for the decrease in the positive evaluation of conditions in the Gaza Strip. By contrast, 31% describe conditions in the West Bank as good or very good and 36% describe them as bad or very bad.
- 73% say there is corruption in the PA institutions in the West Bank while only 62% 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. In the context of the recent step by the PA in the West Bank to submit corruption cases to courts, we asked the public if it thinks the PA is serious about fighting corruption: 53% said it was serious and 43% said it was not serious.
- 66% of the public 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, 50% say there is, or there is to some extent, press freedom in the Gaza Strip while 40% say there is no such freedom in the Gaza Strip.
- 30% of the public say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, 22% of the public say people in the Gaza Strip can criticize the authorities in Gaza without fear.
- Perception of safety and security deteriorates in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank due to the war in the Gaza Strip and due to the deterioration of security conditions in the West Bank. It stands today at 51% in the West Bank (compared to 59% three months ago) and 47% in the Gaza Strip (compared to 69% three months ago).
- Positive evaluation of the performance of the Haniyeh government stands today at 36% and positive evaluation of the performance of the Fayyad government stands at 34%. These findings indicate a decline in the positive evaluation of the performance of the two governments compared to the situation three months ago when it stood at 41% for the Haniyeh government and 44% for the Fayyad government. The decline, in the case of the Hamas government, might be due to the position taken by Hamas during the recent war in the Gaza Strip. In the case of the Fayyad government, the decline might be attributed to the talk about increasing taxes and reducing public expenditure as means of dealing with the PA's financial crisis. It is worth noting in this context that the positive evaluation of the Fayyad government has declined considerably in the West Bank from 48% three months ago to 33% in this poll while the positive evaluation of the Hamas government declined in the Gaza Strip from 37% to 31% during the same period.
- Findings show that the percentage of Gazans who say they seek immigration to other countries stands at 45%; in the West Bank, the percentage stands at 22%. Three months ago, these figures stood at 43% and 24% respectively.
- Percentage of satisfaction with the performance of President Abbas stands at 55% while 43% say they are dissatisfied with his performance. Three months ago, these figures stood at 60% and 38% respectively. Satisfaction with the performance of the president stands in this poll as 48% in the Gaza Strip and 60% in the West Bank. Three months ago, 67% of West Bankers were satisfied with the performance of the president. The decline in the West Bank might be due to the slowdown of the UN bid, a bid that had been responsible, three months ago, for the increase in public satisfaction with Abbas in the first place. It is also possible that the public is unhappy with Abbas for accepting to take part in the exploratory negotiations in Amman early in the year despite continued Israeli refusal to suspend settlement construction or accept the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations.
(4) Presidency and Legislative Elections:
- If new presidential elections are held today, and only two were nominated, Abbas would receive the vote of 54% and Haniyeh 42% of the vote of those participating. The rate of participation in such election would reach 61%. Three months ago, Abbas received the support of 55% and Haniyeh 37%. In the Gaza Strip, Abbas receives 55% and Haniyeh 40% and in the West Bank Abbas receives 53% and Haniyeh 42%. These results indicate a considerable increase in Haniyeh's popularity in the West Bank compared to the situation three months ago when he received only 33%. The increase in Haniyeh's popularity in the West Bank might be due to his visibility during his recent visits to Arab and Islamic countries and due to his support for the Syrian popular revolt.
- If the presidential elections were between Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, the former would receive 64% and the latter would receive 32% of the participants’ votes. The rate of participation in this case would reach 72%.
- 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, 27% say they would vote for Hamas and 42% say they would vote for Fateh, 10% would vote for all other third parties combined, and 20% are undecided. Vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 27% indicating a significant decline of eight percentage points compared to the situation three months ago. This decline might reflect public dissatisfaction with Hamas' behavior during the recent war in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, vote for Hamas stands at 27% compared to 25% three months ago. Vote for Fateh in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 46% and in the West Bank at 40%. These results indicate a decline in Fateh's popularity in the West Bank by four percentage points, probably due to government talk about a tax increase and a reduction in expenditure.
- In a question about the favored Fateh candidate to replace Abbas as a president, assuming Abbas would not run, a majority of 55% selected Marwan Barghouti, followed by Saeb Erekat, Nasir al Qidwa, and Mahmud al Aloul (3% each). Abu Mahir Ghnaim and Ahmad Qurie’ received 2% each, Azzam al Ahmad and Jibril al Rojoub received 1% each. When we asked the public to select a candidate from a list that did not include Marwan Barghouti, a large part of the vote went to Saeb Erikat (18%) followed by Nasir al Qidwa (9%), Mahmud al Aloul, Ahmad Qurie' and Abu Mahir Ghnaim (7% each), Azzam al Ahmad (5%), Jibril al Rojoub (4%), and finally Salim al Za'noun (2%).
(5) Most vital Palestinian goals and the main problems confronting Palestinians today:
- 45% believes that the first most vital Palestinian goal should be to end Israeli occupation in the areas occupied in 1967 and build a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. By contrast, 32% believe the first most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 14% believe that it should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings, and 8% believe that the first and most vital goal should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians. These findings reflect continued stalemate in the UN bid, a bid that pushed the statehood goal to 59% six months ago at the peak of the UN drive. This percentage dropped to 48% three months ago and dropped an additional three percentage points in this poll.
- The most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today is the spread of poverty and unemployment in the eyes of 28% of the public while 25% believes the most serious problem is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities, 23% say it is the absence of national unity due to the West Bank-Gaza Strip split, 14% believe the most serious problem is corruption in some public institutions, and 9% believe it is the siege and the closure of the Gaza border crossings.
(6) The Syrian Popular Revolt and Hamas' and Hezbollah's attitudes:
- Findings show that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public (83%) supports the Syrian demonstrators seeking to bring down the Syrian regime led by president Assad. Only 9% support the Assad regime.
- But only 42% of the public believe that Hamas supports the Syrian demonstrators while 23% believe the movement supports the Assad regime, 5% believe it supports both sides, 7% believe it supports neither side, and 24% say they do not know Hamas' position.
- With regard to Hezbollah's position on the Syrian revolt, only 27% of the public believe that it supports the Syrian demonstrators while 44% believe it supports the Assad regime, 4% believe it supports both sides, 3% believe it supports neither side, and 21% say they do not know Hezbollah's position.
- But Palestinian public support for the Syrian popular revolt does not necessarily mean it supports external military intervention to bring down the Assad regime: 50% oppose such intervention and 46% support it.
- In the context of the Syrian revolt and the talk about the departure of Hamas leaders from Damascus, findings show that the largest percentage of the public (41%) wants Hamas to make the Gaza Strip the headquarter for its leadership while 19% selected other locations: 19% selected Doha, 17% selected Cairo, and 14% selected Amman.
* This survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah.
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