Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No 39 (March 2011)
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Youth revolts in the Arab World pose a threat to Hamas and its government in the Gaza Strip while al Jazeera leaks of Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) documents recording Palestinian-Israeli negotiations pose a threat to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Different external influences affect leaderships in Gaza and West Bank.
Findings of the first quarter of 2011 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. An overwhelming majority of 92% of the population sympathizes with the demonstrators in Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. Only 7% do not sympathize with the Arab demonstrators.
Palestinians themselves were affected differently by these events. For example, the Palestinian Authority and its leadership were negatively affected by al Jazeera leaks as findings show the percentage of satisfaction with the performance of President Mahmud 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%. 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 majority of 59% believes that the goal of al Jazeera in publishing the leaked documents was to uncover the truth, whereas 36% believe the opposite.
Moreover, in responding to the leaks, the PA’s case remained unconvincing in the eyes of a large majority of 62% of the Palestinians. Above all else, and based on the leaks, 49% 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 Fatah in the West Bank. For example, findings show that 67% of the people in Gaza believe that there is a need for demonstrations in the Gaza Strip demanding regime change. More seriously for Hamas, 50% of the Gazans indicate that they might participate in such demonstrations. In the West Bank, the picture is different: only 36% of the Palestinians there believe there is a need to demonstrate and demand West Bank regime change and only 24% 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.
Most interesting results:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Fatah 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 Fatah).
- Fatah 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 Fatah 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 Fatah would win such elections, only 25% said the split would, as a result, be consolidated.
- 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 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 Fatah, 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 Fatah 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 Fatah in the Gaza Strip is 42% and in the West Bank 39%.
- 60% evaluate the performance of their local councils during the past five years as good or very good and 34% as bad or very bad.
- The largest percentage (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, 27% believe the first most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return to refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 17% believe that it should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings, and 10% believe that the first and most vital goal should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians.
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. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This poll was produced with support from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Ramallah.
Palestinian Territories, March 22, 2011