Haniyeh, Hamas popularity rise, poll shows

NEW YORK (JTA) — Hamas’ prime minister would defeat Mahmoud Abbas in a presidential election, a new poll showed.

The survey published Monday giving Ismail Haniyeh an edge over the Palestinian Authority president also showed that Hamas’ popularity has increased among Palestinians in the aftermath of Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh received a 47 percent popularity rating among the more than 1,270 Palestinians surveyed March 5-7 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 45 percent for Abbas. A similar poll in December had Haniyeh at 38 percent and Hamas at 48 percent.

Meanwhile, the poll showed that jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would easily defeat Haniyeh, 61 percent to 34 percent.

Hamas’ popularity increased to 33 percent, a 5 percent rise from December. Fatah, however, remained the more popular faction with 40 percent of support, compared to 42 percent three months ago.

"Despite the visible increase in the popularity of Hamas and Haniyeh," the pollsters reported, the overwhelming majority, 71 percent, believes Palestinians are worse off than they were before Israel’s Gaza operation.

The poll, which was conducted by the West Bank-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, had a margin of error of 3 percent.

The findings were released as Hamas and Fatah negotiators arrived in Cairo for talks aimed at ending their differences and forming a unity government. Hamas won a Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip the next year after fighting with Fatah. 

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