Support for Hamas has surged while the Palestinian Authority’s standing among Palestinians has fallen since the end of the Gaza conflict last week, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCR). The poll shows shifting attitudes among Palestinians, who just three months ago favored Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over rival Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas.
Palestinians now favor Hamas in part because the group gained a “psychological victory” from the Gaza conflict, according to Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. “Nobody expected Hamas to stand up for so long,” he said.
Nearly 80 percent of Palestinians polled believe Hamas won the war in Gaza with Israel, while only 3 percent thought Israel won and 17 percent believed both sides were losers. The poll surveyed 1,270 Palestinian adults from Aug. 26-30 and has a margin of error of 3 percent.
If Palestinian elections were held today, Haniyeh would win with 61 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Abbas, the first time the Hamas leader has held a lead over the president since the PCR asked about Haniyeh’s popularity eight years ago. The Hamas leader polled at just 41 percent in June, while Abbas was at 53 percent, said the Associated Press.
Abbas’ descent isn’t just a function of the war. Failed diplomatic efforts with Israel before the Gaza conflict also hurt him, Telhami said.
“He really had no place to go. The public was disillusioned,” Telhami said. “He had been losing a lot of support because a lot of people in Gaza and the West Bank didn’t know what tactics he would use. Abbas is really in trouble with public opinion.”
That could change if Palestinians see a “political horizon” that ends in a Palestinian state or a news development that creates contempt for Hamas, Telhami said.
“Abu Mazen [a nickname for Abbas] can hope that in the weeks ahead there will be some frustration, but I don’t see a profound shift in this behavior,” Telhami said.