Poll: Support for Hamas on the rise among Palestinians, now double Fatah’s

Survey finds backing for armed struggle increasing, and for Oct. 7 attack still high; also shows widespread opposition to Arab security forces in Strip postwar

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

File: Palestinians raise the flag of the Hamas terror group during a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron, on December 1, 2023. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
File: Palestinians raise the flag of the Hamas terror group during a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron, on December 1, 2023. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

A poll released Wednesday found rising support for the Hamas terror group among Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in Gaza.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) between May 26 and June 1, found that overall support for Hamas in the Palestinian territories stood at 40%, a six-point increase from the previous survey three months ago. Only some 20% support the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which governs Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

Before the war, overall support for Hamas stood at 22% and support for Fatah stood at 26%.

Support for armed struggle is also on the rise, registering an overall eight-point increase compared to March. Armed struggle is considered by a little over half of Palestinians (54%) to be the preferred option to end Israeli rule and establish a Palestinian state, while only a quarter chose negotiations, and 16% opted for “nonviolent resistance.”

In the West Bank, 41% of residents said they support Hamas (compared to 35% three months ago), while 17% support Fatah (compared to 12% three months ago).

In the Gaza Strip, support for Hamas today stands at 38% (34% three months ago) and support for Fatah at 24% (25% three months ago).

Some 8% of respondents selected other groups, and 33% said they did not support any group or didn’t know.

Palestinians lift flags during a rally marking the 59th anniversary of the Fatah movement foundation in Ramallah in the West Bank on December 31, 2023. (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

More West Bankers than Gazans want Hamas to remain in power

The survey, which sampled 1,570 adults divided almost equally between the West Bank and Gaza, found that a significant percentage of people in the West Bank (79%) believe that Hamas will emerge victorious from the war and want the terror group to rule Gaza after the conflict (71%). The percentage of those predicting that Israel will win the war was close to nil.

In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, only 48% expect the terror group to win, an 8-point decrease from three months ago, while 25% predict that Israel will prevail. Forty-six percent of Gazans want the terror group to remain in power after the war.

PCPSR director Khalil Shikaki attributed the discrepancy over the predicted outcome of the war to the different sources of information Palestinians have at their disposal in the two territories.

While “Gazans can see for themselves” military developments on the ground and know that many of Hamas’s military capabilities have been dismantled, his poll found that 83% of West Bankers get their news updates from Al Jazeera, and therefore “seem to come to certain conclusions that are somewhat different than those in Gaza,” Shikaki told The Times of Israel.

The Qatari-owned outlet has come under attack in Israel for its ostensibly skewed coverage of the war on its Arabic-language flagship network, including its concealment of atrocities committed by Gazan terror groups on October 7.

Al Jazeera’s broadcasts in Israel were taken off the air on May 5 and its website was taken offline, its equipment seized and its offices sealed, in accordance with an emergency law allowing for foreign outlets deemed to be violating national security to be temporarily blocked. Israeli courts have established that Al Jazeera content serves Hamas’s goals “and does significant harm to state security.”

Police raid the Al Jazeera offices in East Jerusalem on May 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Beside Hamas, the next option preferred by Palestinians for Gaza’s next ruler is a “revitalized” PA with a newly elected president, parliament and government (16%) or the current PA under Abbas (6%). The octogenarian ruler remains deeply unpopular, with an overwhelming majority of Palestinians (94% of West Bankers and 83% of Gazans) wanting him to resign.

Only 1% of respondents said they wanted the Israeli army to be in control of the coastal Strip, 2% chose the UN, and 1% chose one or more other Arab states. The deployment of an Arab security force in Gaza finds widespread opposition among the Palestinian public, even if it were only to assist Palestinian forces, with 75% of respondents saying they object to it.

According to a report in the Financial Times from mid-May, Egypt, the UAE, and Morocco have been weighing a US plan to to create a postwar Gaza peacekeeping force, on condition that the US formally recognizes a Palestinian state.

While the Biden administration supports efforts to reach a two-state solution, it has come out against the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, arguing that such declarations in a vacuum don’t advance the effort in practice.

Other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have rejected the US proposal to participate in a peacekeeping force, not wanting to be seen as collaborating with Israel, according to the Financial Times.

Egyptian army soldiers man an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) deployed near the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024 (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Support for October 7 onslaught down, but still strong

The PCPSR poll also found that two-thirds of the overall Palestinian public continue to support the October 7 attack – 73% in the West Bank and 57% in Gaza (compared to 71% in both territories three months ago).

PCPSR posited that the high level of backing for the brutal assault was likely tied to the belief that it had brought long-sought global attention to the Palestinian struggle for statehood, and did not necessarily reflect support for the atrocities unleashed by Hamas on Israeli civilians. However, it did not provide a basis for that suggestion.

Palestinians appear to have little faith in the possibility that the Israeli war against Hamas can be halted in international courts. Three-quarters of respondents said they expected the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to fail to stop a large-scale invasion of Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion, because the US would protect Israel from the court’s decisions.

In an emergency ruling in late May as part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide, judges at the ICJ issued Israel an ambiguous order to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The verdict was seen by Israeli officials and by four ICJ judges as a limited order instructing Israel to abide by the Genocide Convention during its activities in Rafah, but not requiring a complete halt to military operations there.

The International Court of Justice hears oral arguments over South Africa’s application asking the court to order Israel to halt its military campaign against Hamas, May 17, 2024. (International Court of Justice)

As for the decision by the prosecutor general of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, to request arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with top Hamas commanders, pollsters found that the vast majority of Palestinians (71%) believe that neither Israeli nor Hamas leaders will be arrested or prosecuted.

The PCPSR noted that it nearly doubled the sample size in the Gaza Strip to better reflect the relative size of the population in the two Palestinian regions.

In the coastal enclave, surveys were conducted in residential areas and shelters for displaced persons (such as schools or encampments) in parts of Rafah, Khan Younis, al-Mawasi, Deir al-Balah and other areas in the central Gaza Strip, where no active combat was ongoing at the time of the survey (May 26 – June 1), to ensure the safety of data collectors. The margin of error was +/-3%.

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