Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, And Polls

With apologies to Mark Twain, when US foreign policy in Israel is dictated not by common sense but by opinion polls, then it behooves the US to do their homework. Condoleeza Rice has consistently claimed that both Israeli and Palestinian Arab public opinion back up whatever US policy De Jure she is pushing that day.

It may be that the election of Hamas was due in part to the US believing polls indicating that Fatah was going to win big--particularly the polls of one particular person:
The problem with [Khalil] Shikaki lies in another realm altogether: his polls of Palestinian opinion. Shikaki runs something called the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which gets money from foreign governments and foundations to conduct opinion surveys. They've earned Shikaki the moniker of "respected pollster," and he's always running off to Washington or a European capital to present his findings.

Shikaki conducted three crucial polls that affected perceptions in Washington, in the early parts of June, September and December 2005. They showed Fatah well ahead of Hamas, by a comfortable and growing margin:
June 2005: "Findings show that the level of participation in the next legislative elections will be 77% and the outcome of those elections will be as follows: 44% for Fateh, 33% for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, 3% for the left, and 8% for independent lists. 12% are undecided."

September 2005: "Findings show that 74% of the Palestinians will participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in January 2006. Voting intentions among the likely participants indicate an increase of Fateh’s support from 44% last June to 47% in this poll and a drop in Hamas’ support from 33% to 30% during the same period. 11% will vote for other factions and groups and 11% remain undecided."

December 2005: "If elections are held today, findings show that 78% of the Palestinians would participate (compared to 74% last September). Among those intending to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, 50% will vote for Fateh, 32% for Hamas, 9% for other factions and groups including independents, and 9% remain undecided."
With each new Shikaki poll, U.S. policymakers grew more lax when it came to setting conditions for Hamas participation. Robert Satloff and Dore Gold both sharply criticized the U.S. drift that allowed entry of a gun-toting, terrorist-talking Hamas into the electoral arena. They were disregarded because of certainty at the State Department and the White House that Fatah would win anyway, and that Abu Mazen would be in a stronger position to discipline Hamas after the victory. A lot of that certainty derived from Shikaki's polls.
Funny that Shakaki "gets money from foreign governments and foundations to conduct opinion surveys"--it reminds me of Peace Now that is also supported by foreign governments. And sure enough
Shikaki's polls have become a font of conventional wisdom. Whenever you hear someone say that a majority of Palestinians accept a two-state solution, or a majority of Palestinian refugees don't really want to return to Israel proper, or the Palestinians hate corruption more than Israel, it's a remote echo of one of Shikaki's polls. Complicating the picture is the fact that Shikaki isn't only a pollster. He's a political analyst, and even a political activist, which is why Americans for Peace Now have rallied to him in the Brandeis row. From Peace Now to the State Department, Shikaki is admired and feted because he tells peace processors what they want to hear--not just with emotion and analysis, but with numbers. [emphasis added]
So Europe is not only funding the PA in an effort to keep their dream-state afloat, they are also funding the pollsters to provide evidence of a desire of peace by the Palestinian Arabs as well as funding the groups to force Israel to act as if those findings were actually accurate.

This makes Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall look like amateurs.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

[Hat tip: Noah Pollack]

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Anonymous said...

Wow! Just Wow!
It must be great to live in such a fantasy world, where everything is made to tailor your conception of reality.
What insanity!

Daled Amos said...


Even if you think I am wrong--and you have unfortunately left me without the benefit of your insight as to where I have gone astray--do you actually think it is great to live in a world where Israel can do no right and the Palestinian Arabs can do no wrong?

Batya said...

Making policy according to polls is like a cat chasing its tail.