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Public Opinion Poll September 2004

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Poll No. 13

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Palestinian Public Opinion Poll


23-26 September 2004

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 September 23 and 26, 2004. Total size of the sample is 1319 adults interviewed face to face in 120 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3% and rejection rate 2%.

For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki or Ayoub Mustafa, at tel 02-296 4933 or e-mail

Findings of the poll show high level of Palestinian frustration with national conditions as well as internal political conditions. There is an overwhelming sense of personal and family insecurity and serious concerns about the future in light of the perceived domestic power struggle and the perceived inability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to control the internal situation. Doubts exist about the seriousness of the PA in holding elections, implementing reform, or dealing with corruption; the public therefore views PA performance in very negative terms. Facing entrenched occupation and very difficult security conditions, the public finds itself in the middle of a contradiction. On the one hand, it gives big support for the bombing attack in Beer Shiva in early September and for rocket attacks against Israel and its settlements and increasingly views the Israeli disengagement plan as victory for armed resistance. On the other hand, it shows an increased and wide spread support for mutual cessation of violence and for the Egyptian Initiative; it also raises questions about the effectiveness of armed attacks in confronting Israeli settlement expansion. Facing the deteriorating domestic situation, the public seems to be clear on what it wants: fundamental political reform and the resignation of the current government of Ahmad Qurai’ (Abu Ala’).


(1) After Four Years of Intifada

  • 86% of the Palestinians feel a loss of personal security and safety. This percentage stood at 77% only three months ago. Despite this feeling, the largest percentage (41%) views unemployment and the spread of poverty as the most important problem confronting the Palestinians today followed by the continuation of the occupation and its daily practices (35%), the spread of corruption and lack of reform (15%), and finally, internal chaos (8%).
  • Despite widespread support for bombing attacks (77% for the attack at Beer Shiva) and despite the belief of 64% that armed confrontations have helped the Palestinians achieve their national rights in ways that negotiations could not, the overwhelming majority (83%) wants mutual cessation of violence and a large percentage (59%) says it will support taking measures to prevent attacks on Israel when an agreement is reached on a mutual cessation of violence.
  • Moreover, despite the widespread support for armed attacks against Israelis, only 48% see them effective in confronting Israeli settlement expansion and 49% support nonviolent steps (such as a ceasefire and a return to negotiations) instead. If a peace agreement is signed by the two sides, three quarters would support reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
  • From among a list of ten controversial intifada practices, the poll found that four are unacceptable to more than 90% of the public, three are acceptable to more than three quarters, and three are acceptable to a percentage ranging between a quarter to half of the public. In the first group, the unacceptable practices, we find the following: assassinations or attempted assassinations of pubic figures or journalists, the burning of PA headquarters or the offices of its security services, shootings in demonstrations and funerals, and the kidnapping of foreigners working or residing in Palestinian areas. In the second group, the acceptable practices, we find the following: firing of rockets into Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, firing of rockets from Beit Hanoun into Israel, and the “liquidation” of Palestinians accused of being Israeli spies. Practices that have some support, even if limited are: the kidnapping of officials accused of corruption (50% support), the appearance of masked men in pubic streets and squares (34% support), and the organization of armed marches in public streets and squares (28%). It is interesting to note that while firing rockets from Beit Hanoun receives support from a majority of the Palestinians (75%), 59% of the residents of Beit Hanoun reject this intifada practice.
(2) The Egyptian Initiative and the Israeli Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip

  • Support for the Egyptian initiative increases from 64% last June to 69% in this survey while opposition decreases from 34% to 27%. Support for sending Egyptian security trainers and personnel to the Gaza Strip increases from 53% to 57% during the same period. Support for the unification of the Palestinian security services under the control of the cabinet reaches 79% and support for the appointment of an empowered minister of interior reaches 85%. Moreover, 70% of the public supports the Egyptian efforts to arrange for a ceasefire through a dialogue with the different factions.
  • The percentage of those who view Sharon’s Plan as victory for armed struggle increased from 66% in March to 74% in this poll. But if the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is complete, a majority of 54% would oppose the continuation of violence from the Gaza Strip.
  • A majority of 64% (compared to 59% last June) is worried about the possibility of an internal Palestinian power struggle in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal and only 25% (compared to 30% last June) believe the PA has a high capacity to control the situation after the Israeli withdrawal.
(3) Voter Registration and Voting Intentions

  • 39% say they have already registered to vote and 61% say they have not. Two thirds of those who have not registered say they intend to register. If this proves correct, a total of 80% would be expected to register if given sufficient time to do so. The current low level of registration may be due to the fact that only 56% believe that the PA is serious about holding national elections in the near future. If national or local elections take place in the near future, 72% say they will participate in them and 25% say they will not.
  • If local elections were to take place in the near future and if they were fair, 25% (compared to 34% last June) say they believe Fateh candidates would win them and 27% (as in last June) say they believe Hamas and Islamic Jihad candidates would win them. 16% say the winners would be independent candidates and 13% say they would be candidates of families. As to how the respondents themselves would behave, 22% (compared to 28% last June) say they will vote for Hamas and Islamic Jihad candidates, 21% (compared to 26% last June) for Fateh’s, 16% for independents, and 14% for family candidates. In the Gaza Strip, 30% will vote for Hamas and Islamic Jihad candidates, 18% for Fateh’s, 14% for independents, and 10% for family candidates.
(4) Gaza’s Chaos and Disturbances

  • 54% (compared to 63% last March) hold Israel responsible for the internal chaos and anarchy and 36% (compared to 25% last March) believe it is the responsibility of the PA leadership and security services.
  • Gaza’s July disturbances can be traced to internal factors in the eyes of 37% of the public and to external factors in the eyes of 18%. In the Gaza Strip, the belief in the internal causes reaches 43% and in the external causes 13%. 41% believe that the disturbances had internal and external causes at the same time.
  • A majority of 62% explains the disturbances as internal power struggle while only 30% view them as a call for reform.
(5) Reform and the Performance of Abu Ala’s Government and other PA Institutions

  • An overwhelming majority of 93% supports inside and outside calls for fundamental political reforms in the PA. But only 51% of the public believe the PA is serious about implementing the reforms called for by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The largest percentage (42%) believes that the PA (with its government, leadership and ministries according to 30% and President Arafat himself according to 12%) is the one that impedes the process of reform while 39% see Israeli occupation as the party responsible for impeding reform.
  • Percentage calling for the resignation of Abu Ala’s government increases from 39% last March to 49% in this poll. 39% do not want him to resign. An overwhelming majority believes that he did not succeed in achieving what he promised when he was first appointed.
  • A majority refuses to give positive rating to the performance of all PA institutions. The least positive rating goes to the PLC (30%), the cabinet (33%), security services (35%), judicial authority and courts (39%), and the PA presidency (42%). But the opposition forces receives the highest level of positive evaluation (53%)
  • 88% believe that corruption exists in the institutions of the PA, and among those two thirds believe that this corruption will remain the same or increase in the future. Corruption can be found in PA ministries and offices according to 84% of the public, in the PLC according to 73%, and in the PA presidency according to 64%.
  • Positive evaluation of the status of democracy in the Palestinian areas does not exceed 29%, but two thirds believe that people today can criticize the PA without fear.

(6) Popularity of Yasir Arafat, Marwan Barghouti, and Political Factions

  • In a race for the office of the president involving Yasir Arafat, Marwan Barghouti, and Mahmud Zahhar, Arafat receives the vote of 35%, Zahhar 15%, and Barghouti 13%. 25% say they will not vote for any of the three. PSR selected the three names after asking the public to provide us with the names of their preferred candidates in an open question in its June poll. The names of the candidates who received 2% or more were used to form a closed list of presidential candidates in this poll. In the race for the office of a vice president, Marwan Barghouti came first with 22%, followed by Mahmud Zahhar and Haidar Abdul Shafi with 12% each, Saeb Erekat with 6%, Mohammad Dahlan with 4%, Ahmad Quari with 3% and Mahmud Abbas with 2%.
  • The popularity of Fateh stands at 29% and Hamas at 22%. Fateh popularity stood at 28% and Hamas at 24% three months ago. The poll found major differences between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ popularity dropped in the West Bank from 21% last June to 17% in this poll while remaining stable at about 30% in the Gaza Strip. Fateh’s popularity on the other hand increased in the West Bank from 28% to 31% and dropped in the Gaza Strip form 27% to 24% during the same period. The total support for all Islamists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and independent Islamists) dropped in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 35% to 32%.

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