How did the Gaza war affect Palestinian public opinion?
How did the Gaza war affect Palestinian public opinion?
Monday, February 9,2009 03:54
By Marc Lynch

I"ve just seen the first public opinion survey carried out in the West Bank and Gaza since the war, and the results are about what you"d expect:  Hamas has gained politically and Fatah has declined.  Since I haven"t seen it reported anywhere yet, here are the main findings of the survey carried out by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center between January 29-31:

  •  Who won?  9.8% said Israel, 46.7% said Hamas, and 37.4% said neither.  Interesting: Gazans were more likely to say "neither" (48.4%) and West Bankers more likely to say "Hamas" (53.3%)
  •  Were Palestinians convinced by the Israeli argument that Palestinian civilians were killed because Hamas was hiding among them? No. Only 5.1% in the West Bank and 5.9% overall agreed with that, while 72% blamed Israel for targeting civilians.
  • Who is to blame?  76.8% say that Israel was planning to launch the war, and that Palestinians could not have avoided it.
  • What about America"s role?  2.8% were satisfied, within the 3% margin of error.   
  • Will Obama make a difference? 28.1% are more optimistic since the inauguration, 18.9% more pessimistic, and 48.2% say it will make no difference.
  • The winners in inter-Arab politics: Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. The most popular Arab actor by far was Qatar:  68.3% were satisfied with its role.  Iran, by comparison, satisfied only 55.9% -- and did better in the West Bank (64.4%) than in Gaza (41.4%), while Turkey satisfied 89.6% (consistent with the pro-Erdogan demonstrations in Gaza the other day). 57.6% were satisfied with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.   
  • The less winners in inter-Arab politics: Egypt and Jordan (and presumably Saudi Arabia). 35.1% were satisfied and 64% were dissatisfied with Egypt"s role;  41.7% were satisfied with Jordan"s role. Amazingly, the survey did not report findings about satisfaction with Saudi Arabia for reasons which may be self-evident but are all the more worth speculating about.
  • Palestinian winners and losers?  Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas didn"t fare well:  13.2% very satisfied, 49.9% very dissatisfied;  adding in the "somewhat" responses gives Mahmoud Abbas a rating of 33.6% satisfaction.  Gazans were marginally more satisfied than West Bankers (39.7% to 30%).  Isma"il Haniya of Hamas is now the most trusted figure in Palestinian politics, with 21.1%, followed by Abbas with 13.4%. But perhaps the main tell:  "Don"t trust anyone" is the runaway winner with 31.1%. If Parliamentary elections were held today, Hamas now enjoys a slim lead over Fatah, 28.6% to 27.9%.  Hamas support is up from 19.3% last April.   
  • And of course, the violence.  Support for using locally-made rockets has increased from 39.3% in April to 50.8%, and support for military operations against Israeli targets is up from 49.5% to 53.5%. 41% now oppose peace negotiations, compared to 34.7% last year. 

Arguments may now proceed along predictable lines as to the validity of the survey research in such a difficult environment, its importance, and the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.