In September 2006, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted its regular quarterly survey. The poll dealt with public evaluation of the performance of the Hamas government, views on the national unity government, attitudes towards peace and violence in the aftermath of the Lebanon War, and the domestic balance of power. The total size of the sample was 1,270 adults interviewed face-to-face in 127 randomly selected locations and the margin of error was 3%.
Six months after the establishment of the Hamas government, poll findings show widespread public dissatisfaction with its performance, especially in the economic areas of salaries and poverty as well as the enforcement of law and order. This dissatisfaction leads the majority to support the formation of a national unity government that is not under the full control of Hamas. The largest percentage supports the formation of a government in which Hamas and Fateh would enjoy equal weight.
But the dissatisfaction with the performance of the government does not lead to a reduction in the popularity of Hamas compared to where it was three months ago. Moreover, Fateh does not benefit from Hamas's lack of performance, with its popularity remaining essentially stable. Apparently, a majority of the public does not, at this moment, view Fateh as a viable alternative to Hamas. Moreover, despite the criticism of the performance of the government, two-thirds of the public does not believe that Hamas should recognize Israel as required by the international donor community. This view does not reflect a hardening of public attitude toward the two-state solution. Rather it reflects public rejection of recognition of Israel as a precondition for negotiations. Poll findings show that a majority of Palestinian support recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people but only as part of a settlement that creates a Palestinian state alongside Israel and resolves all other issues of the conflict.
Poll findings also show widespread public acceptance of Hizbullah's narrative regarding the origin and outcome of the war in Lebanon. The war, in the public eye, has been a premeditated Israeli plan and its outcome a victory for Hizbullah. Moreover, a clear majority reach hard-line conclusions regarding war lessons. For example, on the one hand the majority look positively at the need to emulate Hizbullah's methods of using rockets and taking soldiers prisoner in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority also conclude that the use of force has its limits and that Palestinians must reach a political settlement with Israel, and that they need the understanding and support of the international community.

Domestic Conditions, Governmental Performance, and Views on a National Unity Government

Poll findings show that 54% of the public are dissatisfied with the overall performance of the Hamas government and 42% are satisfied. The rate of satisfaction is at its lowest with regard to performance in economic issues, such as providing salaries and alleviating poverty, with only 26% satisfied and 69% dissatisfied. Satisfaction is at its highest with regard to performance regarding fighting corruption, with 46% satisfied and 49% dissatisfied.
Satisfaction with the overall performance of the Hamas government is higher in the Gaza Strip (45%) compared to the West Bank (40%), in cities (44%) compared to villages and towns (40%), among the most religious (44%) compared to the least religious (39%), among supporters of Hamas (75%) compared to supporters of Fateh (17%), and among those most unwilling to buy a lottery ticket1 (51%) compared to those most willing (27%).
Poll findings show that a strong correlation exists between satisfaction with the overall performance of the Hamas government and those willing to vote for Hamas if new elections were held today: 90% of the highly satisfied would vote for Hamas (compared to 4% for Fateh) and 4% of those who are not satisfied at all would vote for Hamas (compared to 66% for Fateh).
To find a way out of the current crisis, the largest percentage (46%) supports the formation of a national unity government in which Fateh and Hamas would enjoy equal weight. A quarter supports the formation of a national unity government in which Hamas would dominate, while a similar percentage (24%) prefers a non-political government made up of professionals. With regard to the priorities of the future national unity government, the public is divided, with about one-third (32%) focusing on fighting lawlessness by enforcing law and order, a quarter focusing on renewing the peace process, and a similar percentage (23%) focusing on ending the current financial and political sanctions. Only 18% want the top priority to be fighting corruption.
Findings show a deeply negative view of existing conditions, with 84% describing current conditions as bad or very bad and only 5% describing them as good or very good. Moreover, 80% say they and their families do not feel secure and safe in PA areas. The percentage of those who believe that corruption exists in PA institutions is at its highest (89%), while 72% believe that jobs today can be obtained largely through wasta, or personal connections.
This gloomy perception may be the reason why the largest percentage (46%) does not view the strike by public employees and teachers as a political strike targeting the Hamas government, but instead as motivated by professional consideration, a protest against the existing miserable conditions. Only 36% view it as an attack against the Hamas government.

The Lebanon War

Findings show a large degree of consensus among the public (86%) that Hizbullah has emerged victorious from the war in Lebanon, while only 2% believe that Israel came out the winner. Moreover, the overwhelming majority (90%) does not share the views expressed by some Arab countries that the war in Lebanon was an uncalculated risk by Hizbullah, with about two-thirds (65%) believing that the war was a planned Israeli measure because Hizbullah had become a threat to Israel. The percentage of those who believe that the war had Syrian and Iranian origins did not exceed 5%. In brief, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians accept Hizbullah's, rather than Israel's, narrative regarding the origin and outcome of the war in Lebanon.
With regard to lessons learned from the war and their implications for the Palestinian-Israeli situation, findings show apparent inconsistency. On the one hand, 73% believe that the war has strengthened the armed resistance option in Palestine and, in light of the war, 75% would support taking Israeli soldiers prisoner in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners. Moreover, 63% believe that the Palestinians should emulate Hizbullah's methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.
On the other hand, three-quarters agree with the view that Palestinians cannot depend on armed action alone and must reach a political settlement with Israel. A similar percentage believes that Palestinians cannot count on themselves alone and that they need the help and understanding of the international community.
One reason for this apparent inconsistency is that 84% believe that there is a need to establish a Palestinian state soon in order to prevent a future a war between Palestinians and Israel similar to the war in Lebanon, while almost two-thirds (64%) believe that Israel will never allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In other words, while the Palestinians recognize the need for a political settlement acceptable to Israel and the international community, they do not believe that Israel would agree to a settlement that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state; therefore, most Palestinians support armed confrontations.

The Peace Process and Olmert's Realignment Plan

Findings show that two-thirds of the public do not believe that Hamas should accept the international demand to recognize the State of Israel in order to end the current financial and political sanctions. This view does not mean that the public opposes a future Palestinian recognition of Israel, as 63% support the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, but only as part of a package of permanent-status that would resolve all issues of the conflict and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state recognized by Israel as the state for the Palestinian people. Moreover, about three-quarters (74%) want President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to conduct permanent-status negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A majority of 59% (compared to 70% last June) support Hamas's engagement in peace negotiations with Israel. But expectations that such negotiations would succeed are not high: 44% if conducted by Abu Mazen and 36% if by Hamas.
Findings show that 52% support the Road Map while 42% oppose it. But only 44% support the collection of weapons from armed groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as required by the Road Map. However, if the collection of arms is restricted to the Gaza Strip (now, after the Israeli disengagement) support increases to 64%. If the solution to the arms and the armed men and militias can be found in merging them into the Palestinian security services, the overwhelming majority (82%) would support that.
Support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians remains as high as it was three months ago, at 57%, with those opposing at 41%. Findings also show that three-quarters believe that the Israeli evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip has been a victory for armed struggle, while 57% believe that armed confrontations have helped achieve national rights where negotiations had failed, and 40% disagree.
Most Palestinians have not heard about Olmert's Realignment Plan for the evacuation of some settlements in the West Bank and the relocation of settlers to settlement blocs near the separation wall. Findings show that 70% do not welcome the plan, while only 26% welcome it. Given the war in Lebanon and the continuation of armed confrontations in the Gaza Strip, the majority (65%) does not believe that the plan will be implemented, while only 20% think it will.

Domestic Balance of Power

Findings show that despite the dissatisfaction with the Hamas-led government, the popularity of Hamas has not dropped compared to where it stood three months ago. Thirty-eight percent say they would vote for Hamas if new elections were held today, compared to 39% last June and 47% last March. Support for Fateh remains relatively stable, with a slight increase in this poll compared to three months ago. Forty-one percent would vote for Fateh if elections were held today, compared to 39% in March 2006 and again in June 2006.
Findings show that satisfaction with the performance of Abu Mazen stands today at 55% compared to 53% last June and 61% last March. But if new elections for the presidency were held today and five candidates competed, Abu Mazen would receive 31%, followed by Ismail Haniyeh, the current prime minister, with 24%, Marwan Barghouti (13%), Mustafa Barghouti (5%) and Mahmoud al-Zahhar (3%).
If elections were held for the office of vice president and seven candidates competed, Ismail Haniyeh would receive the largest percentage (20%), followed by Mahmoud al-Zahhar (16%), Marwan Barghouti (15%), Mohammad Dahlan (9%), and Saeb Erekat, Farouq Qaddoumi, and Mustafa Barghouti (7% each).

1 Playing the lottery is condemned by the Qur'an and hence is an indication of the degree of religiosity among the respondents.