On October 25, 2023, Foreign Affairs published an article summarizing the Gaza results of the bi-annual Arab Barometer Survey. Interviews with randomly selected respondents had ended on October 6, only hours before the deadly Hamas attack on Israeli neighborhoods and soldiers.
The survey suggested that Gazans were profoundly mistrustful of the Hamas government, with 44% of respondents saying they had “no trust at all,” and 23% reporting “not a lot of trust.” The poll also suggested the public did not strongly prefer Hamas as a political party, with 27% saying they supported the Islamists, compared to 30% who favored the Palestinian secular nationalist party, Fatah.
Similarly, Fatah-affiliated presidential candidates polled relatively well, with 32% of respondents saying they would vote for Marwan Barghouti in a presidential election and 12% saying they would vote for Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also from Fatah. Compare this to the 24% who said they favored Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.
Survey respondents did not seem eager for a fight with Israel; 73% said they favored a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while 20% favored a military solution. Presented with three scenarios, 54% of respondents chose a two-state solution based on the 1967 ceasefire borders, 10% supported an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, and 9% supported a single state with equal citizenship for Arabs and Jews.
Today, after over a month of fighting, these numbers will likely have shifted in Hamas' favor, as the public often coheres around existing leaders in times of war, at least for a while.
Hamas had all kinds of reasons for provoking this firestorm, but declining political support in Gaza was likely one of them.