New poll shows Hamas popularity up but Fatah still ahead

Palestinians skeptical on unity deal

RAMALLAH - Hamas's popularity rose among the Palestinian public after a prisoner swap deal with Israel but its Fatah rival remains favourite to win the next elections, a poll has shown.
And the public is divided over whether the two rival factions will make good on a landmark reconciliation deal they signed last May, with 50 percent expressing optimism and 46 percent saying it would fail.
The findings were laid out in a quarterly survey carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) that was released late on Tuesday.
Following its successful conclusion of a landmark prisoner swap deal with Israel late last year, more than a third of the public -- 37 percent -- said their support for the Islamist movement Hamas had increased, while only 10 percent said it had fallen.
However, it was unlikely to change people's voting patterns at the ballot box, the figures showed.
If elections were held today, 43 percent said they would vote for Fatah -- a drop of two percentage points since the previous quarterly survey -- while a stable 29 percent said they would chose Hamas; other parties would secure 11 percent while 17 percent remain undecided.
Some 60 percent said they were satisfied with the performance of president Mahmud Abbas who heads the secular Fatah, compared with 52 percent in the previous survey which was conducted before his historic bid to seek full state membership at the United Nations in September.
Most respondents were deeply sceptical that Hamas and Fatah would manage to set up an interim government of independents as called for in the reconciliation deal.
Only one in five people -- or 21 percent -- expected they would set up a caretaker cabinet by the stated deadline of the end of January, while 46 percent said they would not manage it on time.
And more than a quarter -- or 27 percent -- said they did not think it would happen at all.
The poll was carried out on 15-17 December among a representative sample of 1,270 adults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and had a margin error of 3.0 percent.