PSR survey findings on the political impact of the “Palestine papers”

Posted: March 22, 2011 by Rex Brynen in Gaza, Palestine papers, West Bank

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research has just released the results of its latest public opinion survey, conducted 17-19 March. Among the questions are several that examine the effect of al-Jazeera’s “Palestine papers” leak of NSU negotiating documents:

  • 78% say they have seen or heard, on al Jazeera or other media outlets, about leaked documents published by al Jazeera news TV channel.
  • 79% believe in the truthfulness of all or some of what has been published by al Jazeera regarding concessions made by Palestinian negotiators and 19% do not believe any of it.
  • About half (49%) believes that the Palestinian negotiating position, as revealed by al Jazeera, was not committed to vital Palestinian goals and interests and 44% believe it has been committed to vital goals and interests.
  • A majority of 59% believes that the goal of al Jazeera in publishing the leaked documents was to uncover the truth, but 36% believe the aim was to conspire against the Palestinian leadership.
  • A majority of 62% believes that the PA response to al Jazeera leaks of the negotiations’ documents was not convincing and 33% believe it was convincing.

PSR suggests that this has negatively affected the popularity of Fateh and the PA:

…the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leadership were negatively affected by al Jazeera leaks as findings show a decrease in support for Fateh and a similar decrease in the level of satisfaction with the performance of president Mahmud Abbas. 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 large majority of Palestinians believed that al Jazeera goal was to seek the truth and not to conspire against the PA. Moreover, in responding to the leaks, the PA’s case remained unconvincing in the eyes of a large majority of Palestinians. Above all else, and based on the leaks, half 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 Fateh in the West Bank. For example, findings show that two thirds of Gazans believe that there is a need for demonstrations in the Gaza Strip demanding regime change in the Strip. More seriously for Hamas, half of Gazans indicate that they might participate in such demonstrations. In the West Bank, the picture is different: only one third believes there is a need to demonstrate and demand West Bank regime change and only one quarter indicate willingness to participate in such demonstrations.

PSR hasn’t yet published the full data for the survey (#39)—I’ll update this blog post when they do. However, data elsewhere in their press release suggests that the political impact of the “Palestine papers” is actually quite small: a 4% drop in Fateh popularity (with no corresponding increase in Hamas support), and virtually no effect at all on Abbas’ share of the vote in hypothetical presidential elections.

The PSR findings differ somewhat from data presented by Near East Consulting back in January, which suggested that 68% of Palestinians didn’t believe the al-Jazeera leaks. It isn’t clear whether the variation is due to differences in sampling time (January versus March) or quality, but I’m inclined to put greater weight on the PSR results.

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