Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No 74 - While optimism about the prospects for holding elections rises and a majority thinks that they should be held regardless of the Israeli position on East Jerusalem’s participation
By Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR)
December 19, 2019
While optimism about the prospects for holding elections rises and a majority thinks that they should be held regardless of the Israeli position on East Jerusalem’s participation, half of the public thinks elections, if they were to take place, will neither be free nor fair; indeed, a majority does not have faith in the integrity or neutrality of the police forces, in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in protecting the election process and a large majority believes that whoever loses the elections will reject the results. On the peace process, two thirds view the US announcement about the legality of Israeli settlements as destructive to the two-state solution and will lead to an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank
11-14 December 2019
This poll has been conducted in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Ramallah
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 11-14 December 2019. The period before the conduct of the poll witnessed several developments including the announcement by the Palestinian Election Commission and President Abbas that all factions have agreed to the holding of legislative elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But no decree was issued by Abbas during the period of the data collection. The period also witnessed a debate among Palestinians over the decision of the PA Attorney General to ask the court to block public access to more than 50 Palestinian media websites. Hamas allowed the construction of an American field hospital on the borders of the Gaza Strip with Israel. Power was cut by the Israeli Electric Corporation to central West Bank for two hours every day in many locations served by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company due to unpaid bills. On the Israeli side, prime minister Netanyahu was indicted for corruption and Israeli political parties failed to form a government coalition leading to a decision to hold a third parliamentary election in a single year. The US government declared a new position regarding Israeli settlements in which it disputed the illegality of these settlements from an international law standpoint. In the meanwhile, the US Congress started an on-going effort to impeach president Trump for the use of the presidency to attain personal gains. This press release addresses many of these issues and covers other matters such as Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, general conditions in the Palestinian territories, the peace process and the future possible directions for Palestinians in the absence of a viable peace process. Total size of the sample is 1200 adults interviewed face to face in 120 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.
Findings of the fourth quarter of 2019 show a small majority indicating optimism about the holding of legislative elections in the near future. Moreover, the poll shows that majority is in favor of holding these elections even if Israel does not allow them in East Jerusalem; in case of Israeli opposition, the public says that East Jerusalemites should vote wherever they can, in Jerusalem and outside it. The bad news however, is that half of the public believes that these upcoming elections will not be free or fair. Furthermore, only half of the public trusts the ability of the Palestinian Election Commission (PEC) to manage the election process with integrity and less than half has confidence in the ability of the police, whether in West Bank and the PA or in the Gaza Strip under Hamas, to provide protection to the election process and the ballot boxes with integrity and without bias. Indeed, a majority believes that Hamas will not be able to conduct its election campaign in the West Bank, and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, without restrictions and interference. These findings indicate a diminished public trust in the entire election process, due probably in part to a distrust in PEC, as indeed supported by the findings, and in the PA public institutions in both areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Worst of all, a large majority believes that if Hamas wins the elections, Fatah, in the West Bank, will not accept the outcome and if Fatah wins the elections, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, will not accept the outcome. This finding demonstrates beyond any doubt the absence of public confidence in the democratic credentials of the two major political parties, Fatah and Hamas, and raise a big question about the extent of the damage and political corruption that have been generated by the absence of democratic life and by the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 2007.
On the ability of a newly elected legitimate government to dissolve the armed groups in the Gaza Strip and collect their arms, a large majority indicates opposition to such measure. Indeed, the majority believes that protecting or keeping the arms of the armed groups has greater legitimacy than that of the electoral legitimacy of the government. These findings reveal that the public does not take the election and its legitimacy seriously (which might be an outcome of the problems identified above) and that in the absence of a viable peace process, the public puts its trust, first and foremost, in armed struggle.
Findings show that if elections take place today, Fatah would receive the biggest share of the vote, followed by Hamas, existing third parties, newly created third parties, and finally an electoral list loyal to Mohammad Dahlan. With this range of options, only a small percentage of participating votes remains undecided. Needless to say, the formation of an electoral list loyal to Dahlan will significantly weaken the size of Fatah’s share of the vote and might threaten its ability to emerge as the biggest party. This problem, unique to Fatah, can be exacerbated by its persistent lack of discipline, as demonstrated by the elections of 1996 and 2006, if, for example, other unofficial Fatah lists were formed by disgruntled senior party members who fail to make it to a realistic spot in the party’s election list. This means that Fatah might find itself competing against itself thereby ending up with greater fragmentation and great many lost votes. But the greatest threat to a Fatah electoral victory would be its failure to integrate Marwan Barghouti and his supporters in its electoral list. In such a case, as temporarily happened in the 2006 elections, he might form his own electoral list thereby splitting Fatah’s vote and insuring that Hamas would receive the greatest share of the vote.
On other domestic political issues, findings indicate that a plurality in the West Bank thinks that Hamas should have participated in the recent exchange of rocket fire between Israel and Islamic Jihad. But the situation in the Gaza Strip is different as a greater plurality thinks that Hamas’ decision of refraining from participation has been the correct decision. We also found a large majority views the decision of the PA Attorney General to seek court authorization to block Palestinian media websites as an attack on freedom of speech and therefore he should not stay in his office because he apparently does not believe in free speech. We also found an overwhelming majority supporting the PA government decision to raise the marriage age to 18 years.
Two thirds of the public view the US decision recognizing the legality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as destructive the two-state solution. A majority views the decision as destructive also to the one-state solution and that one of its outcomes will be to push Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Valley. This American position led to a significant increase in the percentage of Palestinians, standing today at three quarters, who demand that the Palestinian leadership reject the American peace plan, or the Deal of the Century, out of hand, without even looking at its substance while 70% indicate opposition to a restoration of PA dialogue with the Trump Administration.
Finally, findings show that a majority is opposed to the two-state solution, but support for it remains higher than the support for the one-state solution. They also indicate a slight increase in support for armed struggle or a return to armed intifada. It is noticeable however that a majority of the public thinks that the indictment of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu will soon lead to his removal from power. Similarly, a majority is optimistic about the ability of the US Congress to impeach President Trump and a similar majority is optimistic that he will lose the upcoming US presidential elections. This public betting on the dynamics of domestic Israeli politics and on the workings of the US Congress might be one of the reasons why we still find more public support for the two-state solution compared to other alternative solutions to the conflict with Israel.
(1) A new legislative election?
- A majority of 52% of the public expects general elections to take place in the Palestinian territories in the near future; 37% believe no elections will take place. Three months ago, only 38% expected that elections will take place soon.
- 44% support the holding of simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections and oppose a separation between the two, while 23% say they support the holding of parliamentary elections to be followed few months later by presidential elections, and 22% want simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections but do not oppose separating them by few months.
- A majority of 56% (65% in the West Bank and 41% in the Gaza Strip) says that if Israel prevented Palestinian legislative elections in East Jerusalem, voting should be made possible for the residents in any polling station in the West Bank; 35% disagree and say that no election should take place if Israel prevents it in East Jerusalem.
- Only 50% trust and 44% do not trust the integrity and capacity of the Palestinian Election Commission to successfully manage the election process.
- Moreover, only 48% trust, and 46% do not trust, the ability of the West Bank Palestinian police to protect the election process and the ballot boxes with integrity and without bias. Similarly, only 47% trust, and 41% do not trust, the ability of the Gaza Strip police to protect the election process and the ballot boxes with integrity and without bias.
- A majority of 64% say that it will not be possible, and 29% say it will be possible, for all candidate lists, especially Hamas’, to conduct their election campaigns in the West Bank without restrictions or interference from the Palestinian security services.
- Similarly, a majority of 56% says that it will not be possible, and 37% say it will be possible, for all candidate lists, especially Fatah’s, to conduct their election campaigns in the Gaza Strip without restrictions or interference from the Gaza security services.
- Only 42% believe, and 50% do not believe, that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be free and fair.
- The public is divided into two equal halves (43% each) in calling for taking away the jurisdiction of Palestinian courts, especially the Constitutional Court, in annulling the outcome of the legislative elections because of the fear that these courts might do so if the opposition to Abbas and Fatah were to win the elections.
- We asked the public about its expectations regarding the outcome of the upcoming elections: 40% (47% in the West Bank and 30% in the Gaza Strip) expect Fatah to win the upcoming legislative elections while only 25% (19% in the West Bank and 35% in the Gaza Strip) expect Hamas to win.
- We also asked the public about its willingness to participate in the upcoming elections and if so, to whom it will vote. If new legislative elections were held today with the participation of all factions, 68% say they would participate in such elections. Of those who would participate, 32% say they will vote for Hamas and 40% say they will vote for Fatah, 10% will vote for all other third parties combined, and 20% are undecided. Three months ago, vote for Hamas stood at 29% and Fatah at 38%. Vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands today at 41% (compared to 39% three months ago) and for Fatah at 32% (compared to 31% three months ago). In the West Bank, vote for Hamas stands at 24% (compared to 20% three months ago) and Fatah at 46% (compared to 43% three months ago). It should be noted that among Fatah voters, as we see in another question, some are loyalists to Mohammad Dahlan, a former senior Fatah official. If these Dahlan loyalists are removed from Fatah’s share, it would drop to 35%.
- We asked again about the voting intentions, but this time with the assumption that other newly created electoral lists, ones that have not participated in the previous elections in 2006, added to the list of candidates. In this case, the participation rate would increase from 68% to 72% and the share of the undecided would drop from 20% to only 6%; Fatah share would rise from 40% to 44% (including Dahlan loyalists); Hamas share (32%) would remain unchanged; share of third parties (10%) would also remain unchanged; and 8% would vote for the newly created electoral lists. If Dahlan loyalists are removed from Fatah’s share, it would drop to 39%.
- More than two thirds (68%) believe that if Hamas wins the upcoming elections, Fatah will not accept the results and will not allow it to form a government with full jurisdiction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; 25% think Fatah will indeed allow Hamas to do so.
- Similarly, 59% believe that if Fatah wins the upcoming elections, Hamas will not accept the results and will not allow it to form a government with full jurisdiction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; 34% think Hamas will indeed allow Fatah to do so.
- A majority of 59% say that after the upcoming elections and the formation of a new government, such a government does not have the right to dissolve existing armed groups in the Gaza Strip and collect their arms because maintain the arms of these groups is more important than electoral legitimacy; 33% say that the newly elected government does indeed have the legitimacy to do so. Regardless of the policy of a newly elected government on the armed groups, two-thirds (67%) say that it would be wrong, and 26% say it would correct, to dissolve Gaza’s armed groups and collect their arms.
- If new parties or movements were to be created to take part in the upcoming elections, 13% of the participants say that while they have not yet made up their mind, they will be willing to consider supporting a new party or movement. Also, 12% of committed voters are willing to shift support to a new party or movement. Nonetheless, the largest percentage of participating voters says they will not shift vote to a new party or movement.
- The overwhelming majority (79%) encourages, and 18% discourage, the participation of independent youth lists in the upcoming elections.
- The top priority that should be the aim of the upcoming elections is the unification the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the eyes of 36% of the public while 18% think it is the improvement of economic conditions, 17% say the ending of Gazan blockade and siege, 13% say fighting corruption, 7% say creating a democratic political system, and 6% say strengthening the resistance to occupation and settlements.
- The largest percentage (32%) believes that Fatah is the most able of all factions to succeed in realizing the top priority it has selected; 24% say Hamas is the most able, and 20% believe that none of the existing or newly created factions will be able to succeed in achieving the top priority they have selected.
(2) Presidential elections:
- 61% of the public want president Abbas to resign while 34% want him to remain in office. Three months ago, 61% said they want Abbas to resign. Demand for Abbas’ resignation stands at 52% in the West Bank and 73% in the Gaza Strip. Three months ago, demand for Abbas resignation stood at 49% in the West Bank and 74% in the Gaza Strip.
- Level of satisfaction with the performance of president Abbas stands at 37% and dissatisfaction at 59%. Level of satisfaction with Abbas stands at 43% in the West Bank and 27% in the Gaza Strip. Three months ago, satisfaction with Abbas stood at 37% (43% in the West Bank and 29% in the Gaza Strip).
- Only 31% think president Abbas is the best Fatah candidate for the presidency while 41% think that Fatah has better candidates; 29% say they do not know or have no opinion on the matter.
- If new presidential elections were held today and only two were nominated, Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the former would receive 49% and the latter 44% of the vote (compared to 48% for Abbas and 46% for Haniyeh three months ago). In the Gaza Strip, Abbas receives 37% of the vote (compared to 39% three months ago) and Haniyeh receives 56% (compared to 57% three months ago). In the West Bank, Abbas receives 58% (compared to 56% three months ago) and Haniyeh 34% (compared to 36% three months ago). If the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti receives 62% and Haniyeh 34%.
- We asked about potential Abbas successors: If president Abbas does not nominate himself in a new election, 37% prefer to see Marwan Barghouti replacing him, while 21% prefer Ismail Haniyeh. Mohammad Dahlan is preferred by 6% (2% in the West Bank and 12% in the Gaza Strip), Mustafa Barghouti by 5%, and Khalid Mishal and Salam Fayyad by 4% each.
(3) Blocking websites, the justice system, the electricity crisis, the American field hospital, the Shtayyeh government, and other domestic conditions:
- 60% of the public view the decision by the attorney general to ask the court to block access to more than 50 Palestinian media websites as imposing restrictions on free speech, a right guaranteed by the Basic Law; but 33% think the decision to do so is correct as it seeks to implement the law.
- In light of his decision to block more than 50 media websites, 53% think the attorney general should not stay in his position because he apparently does not believe in free speech. But 38% think that he should stay in his position because he simply implemented the law.
- A majority of 54% (59% in the West Bank and 45% in the Gaza Strip) believes that it will not receive a fair trial if it finds itself in a Palestinian court while 39% (34% in the West Bank and 48% in the Gaza Strip) believe that will receive a fair trial.
- A majority of 55% (60% in the West Bank and 48% in the Gaza Strip) thinks that the Palestinian judiciary is rules according to whims and interests; 42% disagree and believe that it rules according to the law.
- In light of the current electricity crisis in central West Bank, 61% think that refugee camps should be exempted from paying their electricity bill and the PA should cover the cost; 35% disagree and think that refugee camps should pay their bills like everybody else.
- If refugee camps are indeed exempted from paying for their electricity, 89% want the PA to cover the cost while only 5% think that other paying customers should cover the cost.
- The largest percentage (36%) says that it supports, and 32% say they oppose, the construction of the American field hospital on the borders of the Gaza Strip with Israel; 28% say they have not heard about it.
- Positive evaluation of conditions in the Gaza Strip stands at 6% and positive evaluation of conditions in the West Bank stands at 25%.
- Perception of safety and security in the Gaza Strip stands at 70% and in the West Bank at 60%. Three months ago, perception of safety and security in the Gaza Strip stood at 65% and in the West Bank at 52%.
- 24% of the public say they want to emigrate due to political, security, and economic conditions. The percentage rises in the Gaza Strip to 31% and declines in the West Bank to 20%.
- Only 35% of the West Bankers say that people can criticize the authority in their area without fear and 62% say that they cannot. In the Gaza Strip, 51% say that people in the Gaza Strip can criticize Hamas authority without fear and 46% say they cannot.
- Perception of corruption in PA institutions stands at 82% while perception of corruption in the institutions controlled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands at 67%.
- The public is divided over its assessment of the PA: 50% view it as a burden on the Palestinian people while 45% view it as an asset for the Palestinian people.
- With more than eight months passing since the formation of the Shtayyeh government, findings indicate that a majority, or a plurality, of the public views its performance as similar to that of the previous government in matters of security (49%), the economy (39%), the reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (53%), the preparation to hold general elections (47%), and the protection of liberties and human rights (51%). But a percentage ranging between 24% and 45% indicates that it believes the performance to be worse than that of the previous government while a percentage ranging between 12% and 24% indicates that the performance of the Shtayyeh government is better than that of the previous government. These findings indicate a slight improvement in public’s positive evaluation of the of the Shtayyeh government compared to our findings three months ago.
- Responding to a question about expectations regarding the ability of the Shtayyeh government to make progress in reconciliation and reunification, 58% expects failure; only 33% expects success.
- In a similar question about the ability of the new government to organize legislative or legislative and presidential elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a plurality of 48% expects failure and 44% expect success.
- In another question about the ability of the new government to improve economic conditions, a majority of 55% expects failure and 37% expects success.
- An overwhelming majority of 77% supports, and 22% oppose, the government decision to raise the marriage age to 18 years.
- We asked the public about its viewership habits in the last two months. Findings indicate that Al Jazeera TV viewership remains the highest, standing at 19%, followed by Al Aqsa TV (15%), Palestine TV and Maan TV (13% each), Palestine Today TV (9%), al Al Arabiya and al Mayadeen (4% each).
(4) Reconciliation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad:
- 36% are optimistic and 59% are pessimistic about the success of reconciliation. Three months ago, optimism stood at only 30%.
- 44% are optimistic, and 51% are not optimistic, that the upcoming legislative elections will contribute to the reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
- An overwhelming majority (78%) demands that the PA immediately lift all the measures taken against the Gaza Strip, such as public sector’s salary deductions and the reduction in access to electricity; only 20% say that such measures should be removed only after Hamas fully hands over control over the Strip to the PA government.
- A majority of 52% (down to 44% in the Gaza Strip) believes that the chances for a Hamas-Israel agreement on a long term hudna or cessation of violence are slim while 36% believe the chances are medium and only 10% believe the chances are high.
- Given Hamas’ position during the latest round of fire exchange in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Islamic Jihad, the largest percentage, standing at 39% (43% in the West Bank and 34% in the Gaza Strip), believes that Hamas should have participated in the exchange of rocket fire against Israel while 32% (22% in the West Bank and 46% in the Gaza Strip) think Hamas made the correct decision by not participating, and 16% think that Hamas did in fact participate.
(5) US declaration of settlements’ legality, the Trump peace plan, and Trump impeachment:
- 66% view the US declaration of the legality of Israeli settlements according to international law as destructive to the two-state solution while 18% think it will have no impact and 10% think that it will in fact strengthen the two-state solution.
- Similarly, 57% view the same decision as have a weakening impact on the one-state solution while 23% think it will have no impact and 9% think it will in fact strengthen the one-state solution.
- Almost three quarters (74%) think the US decision will lead to an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Valley, while 20% think it will have no such impact
- We asked the public if Palestinian acceptance of the Trump peace plan would lead to the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank: 85% say no; only 10% say yes it would.
- When asked if the Trump peace plan permits Israel to annex a large part of the West Bank, a large majority of 75% of the public says it does and only 21% say it does not.
- We asked the public what should the Palestinian leadership do about the US peace plan: 74% indicate that the Palestinian leadership should reject out of hand the US “deal of the century” if the US presents its plan because it must be bad for the Palestinians; 16% want the PA to examine the substance of the plan before accepting or rejecting it; and 6% believe the leadership should accept the plan out of hand because it will certainly be better than the status quo. Three months ago, 69% said the PA should reject the plan out of hand.
- A majority of 69% is opposed and 19% is not opposed to a resumption of dialogue between the Palestinian leadership and the Trump Administration. Official contacts between the PA and the US government were suspended by the PA after the US, in December 2017, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- A majority of 60% expects US president Trump to lose the next US presidential election and 53% expect the US Congress to succeed in impeaching him.
(6) The peace process:
- Support for the concept of the two-state solution stands at 42% and opposition at 55%. No description or details were provided for the concept. Three months ago, support for the concept stood at 42%. 38% of the public believe that a majority of the Palestinians supports this solution and 54% believe that the majority opposes it.
- A majority of 61% believes that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements while 35% believe that the solution remains practical. Moreover, 75% believe that the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistence while 24% believe the chances to be medium or high.
- The most preferred way out of the current status quo is “reaching a peace agreement with Israel” according to 29% of the public while 39% prefer waging “an armed struggle against the Israeli occupation.” Only 14% prefer “waging a non-violent resistance” and 15% prefer to keep the status quo. Three months ago, 32% said that they prefer reaching a peace agreement with Israel and 37% said they prefer waging an armed struggle.
- When asked about the most effective means of ending the Israeli occupation, the largest group (47%) chose armed struggle, 26% negotiations, and 20% popular resistance. Three months ago, 44% chose armed struggle and 24% chose negotiations.
- In light of the suspension of peace negotiations, Palestinians support various alternative directions: 60% support popular non-violent resistance; 52% support a return to an armed intifada; 42% support dissolving the PA; and 28% support abandoning the two-state solution and demanding the establishment of one state for Palestinians and Israelis. Three months ago, 50% said they prefer a return to armed intifada and 40% said they prefer to dissolve the PA.
- A majority of 58% expects the indictment of Netanyahu in corruption charges to his ouster from leadership in Israel soon while 34% expect him to succeed in staying in power despite the indictment.
(7) Arab uprisings, Turkish incursion into Syria, and visit of Saudi football team:
- 57% of the public are in favor and 37% are not in favor of the current uprisings in the Arab world, in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
- But 65% do not expect, and only 31% expect, these uprisings to spread to Palestine.
- Similarly, 65% do not wish to see these uprisings spreading to the West Bank and a little more (70%) do not wish to see them spreading to the Gaza Strip.
- Nonetheless, 63% reject, and 26% accept, Hizbollah’s position which is opposed to the Lebanese uprising.
- A majority of 51% (60% in the West Bank and 38% in the Gaza Strip) views the Turkish incursion into the northern border area of Syria as unacceptable aggression while 40% (31% in the West Bank and 53% in the Gaza Strip) view it as a legitimate temporary incursion.
- A majority of 63% say that visits from Arab countries, such as that of the Saudi football team, should be encouraged while 34% say such visits should not be encouraged.
(8) Most vital Palestinian goals and the main problems confronting Palestinians today:
- 44% believe 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, 33% believe the first most vital goal should be to obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages, 13% believe that it should be to build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings, and 9% believe that the first and most vital goal should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians.
- The most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today in the eyes of 28% of the public is the continuation of occupation and settlement activities followed by poverty and unemployment and the spread of corruption in public institutions (26% each); 17% say it is the siege of the Gaza Strip and the closure of its crossings.