Manfred Gerstenfeld: ELECTION POLLS INDICATE CITIZENS’ CONCERNS, BUT WILL THE NEW GOVERNMENT RESPOND?

 

 

 

 

Polls conducted during previous elections campaigns for the most part asked respondents which party they would vote for. In the latest election campaign, however, polls also included a variety of other questions.

As much as the formation of a new government may appear to be a difficult task, the government needs to respond and provide solutions to the issues and concerns of the general public, which were rendered evident through these polls. Some polls may help us analyze past elections. More importantly, others will enable us to compare what the public wants with which new policies the new government intends to implement. A series of examples will illustrate both issues.

One poll conducted during the most recent election campaign asked whether voters were satisfied with the party for which they had voted in the previous elections of 2013. On the average, 36% of the voters were dissatisfied.  The main dissatisfaction concerned parties such as Yesh Atid, Shas, Likud-Beiteinu, and the Arab Balad party. About half of those who had voted for these parties were dissatisfied. The percentage of dissatisfied Labor voters was 26%, Habayit Hayehudi voters, 21%, while among those who had voted for United Torah Judaism only 5% were dissatisfied.

An Israel Hayom poll of December 3rd, 2014, found that 49% of the respondents believed that in view of the crises between coalition partners, elections for a new Knesset should be held, while 42% thought that this was not the case.

A Panels Research poll, also held in early December, indicated the major public disaffection with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Sixty percent of those polled said that they did not want him to continue as prime minister, 34% said they would, and 6% were unsure. In an imaginary head-to-head election between Netanyahu and Kahlon, 46% favored Kahlon and 36% preferred Netanyahu. Between Netanyahu and former Likud interior minister Gideon Saar, 43% chose Saar and 38% preferred Netanyahu.

In imaginary run-offs against other party leaders, however, Netanyahu appeared to win in each case. Against Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu would win by 1%, against Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, by 12%, against Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid by 17%, and against Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu would win by 28%.

In December, several polls found that if Netanyahu were to lose the Likud leadership, the party would obtain less votes. Only if Saar were to lead the party would Likud get 20 seats as with Netanyahu as leader.

A Panels Research poll asked respondents to rate Jewish party leaders on a scale from one to ten, as far as corruption was concerned. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was considered the most corrupt at 8.3, followed by Lieberman with 8, Netanyahu at 6.1, Livni at 5.7, Herzog at 5.3, and both United Torah Judaism’s Litzman and Yachad’s Yishai at 5.1. Lapid was at 4.9, Bennett at 4.4, Meretz chair Zahava Gal-on at 3.9. Kahlon was seen as the least corrupt at 3.5.

In December, 64% of those polled on behalf of The Jerusalem Post said that the socio-economic situation had worsened under the current outgoing government, and 58% considered that the security situation had deteriorated.  Respondents were also asked about the most important issue in the coming election. Thirty four percent mentioned the economy, 30% security, 14% chose social justice, 10% raised matters of religion and state, 5% answered Arab-Jewish relations, and 2% education and culture. Only 1% said Israel’s foreign relations was the most important election issue. 

More than two months later, a Times of Israel poll again found that the most important current political issue for Israelis was the economic situation, at 48%, followed by Israeli-Palestinian relations at 19%, and education at 14%. The Iranian threat was a priority for only 10% of those polled.

A poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute on behalf of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group found that 62% of the general public was in favor of a government excluding all ultra-Orthodox parties. Seventy six percent of those defining themselves as secular wanted a government without the inclusion of United Torah Judaism and Shas, as did 66% of those defining themselves as religiously traditional, and 80% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, 65% of the national-religious respondents and 95% of the ultra-Orthodox respondents opposed the exclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties from the government. The poll also found that 71% of Labor voters and 86% of Meretz and Kadima voters were opposed to the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition.

A TNS Teleseker poll published on January 9 asked respondents who was to blame for the housing crisis; 37% answered Netanyahu, 24% replied Lapid, and 14% held former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responsible for the crisis.
A Jerusalem Post poll in mid-February also asked whether or not the American administration was interfering in the elections. The majority, 62%, said it did interfere, 31% said it did not, and 8% were unsure. On another question, 62% responded in the affirmative that Netanyahu should debate Herzog and 27% said that there should not be such a debate.

 
In mid-December, a Panels Research poll asked who was to blame for the deterioration in relations between the United States and Israel. Thirty–nine percent answered U.S President Barack Obama, 29% said Netanyahu and 25% both. A Times of Israel poll in late February found that 72% of Israelis have no faith in Obama’s capability of preventing Iran from getting the nuclear bomb, up from January’s 64%.  Only 33% of respondents polled view Obama favorably, while 59% see him unfavorably.

In January 2015, a Panels Research poll found that Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud was the most popular candidate to continue in his current position as Minister of Defense. He received 25% of the vote, as against 17% received by Bennett, 14% by the Zionist Union candidate, Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, and 10% by Major General (res.) Yoav Galant of Koolanu.

In February 2015, a Walla poll found that Kahlon was the preferred candidate for finance minister by 34% of the respondents, followed by the Zionist Union’s Manuel Trajtenberg with 17% and Lapid with 13%. Tzipi Livni was found to be the preferred candidate for the post of foreign minister with 24%, followed by the Likud’s Gilad Erdan with 18%, and Lieberman with 17%. Lapid came in with 14% and Koolanu’s Michael Oren at 7%.

 

A poll also asked who would be more suitable to deal with the political/diplomatic situation; Netanyahu obtained 48% and Herzog 33%.  Questioned as to who would be more suitable to deal with the security situation: 55% of respondents answered Netanyahu, and 25% Herzog. Both candidates got 38% in answer to the question who would be more suitable to deal with the economic situation.

In a Jerusalem Post poll, respondents were asked whether they thought that the timing of the police investigation of Yisrael Beiteinu was of a political nature. Forty-four percent answered in the affirmative, and 40% said “no”. Asked whether they believed there would soon be another escalation in the Gaza strip, 64% said yes, and 16 % said no.

With so many indications of the general public’s mindset and concerns, the near future will allow us to assess to what extent the new government will be attentive to and meet the public’s demands.