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Gary C. Gambill

Executive Director
David Epperly

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Vol. 1   No. 3

September-October 2006


dossier Briefing: Lebanese Public Opinion

Four major surveys of Lebanese public opinion were conducted by local and international polling firms during and after the recent war between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement. The four polls, by the Beirut Center for Research and Information (BCRI), the French research firm Ipsos, Information International, and the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) at the University of Jordan, are generally regarded as statistically sound, but their use of suggestive wording, different estimates of Lebanon's sectarian demography, and different contexts (i.e. during or after the war) render the findings somewhat inexact. Nevertheless, they reveal important insights into how the Lebanese public perceived the conflict.

The BCRI Survey
800 adult Lebanese citizens surveyed, 24-26 July 2006.

Conducted at the height of the war, the BCRI survey's most striking finding is that 70% of Lebanese expressed support for Hezbollah's initial July 12 operation to abduct Israeli soldiers (71% expressed support for kidnapping operations in a March 2006 BCRI survey) and 87% expressed support for Hezbollah's subsequent "confrontations" with the enemy.[1] This in spite of the fact that between 25% to 50% of non-Shiite respondents believed that Israel would ultimately defeat Hezbollah.

The survey also reveals a point of even stronger consensus - only 10% of all respondents felt that the United States adopted a "positive stand" during the crisis (by contrast, 38% expressed support for the US role in Lebanon in a January 2006 BCRI survey).[2] Since perceived Western backing was a critical pillar of public support for the ruling March 14 coalition after the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon last year, this result has obvious political implications.

While the poll's timing (during the height of the war) and suggestive wording (e.g. "resistance" in lieu of "Hezbollah") skew the results somewhat, they are broadly consistent with subsequent polls.

All Sunni Shiite Druze Christian
Did you support the resistance's move to capture two Israeli soldiers for a prisoners swap?
Yes 70.1 73.1 96.3 40.1 54.7
No 29.9 26.9 03.7 59.9 45.3
Do you support the confrontations carried out by the resistance against the Israeli aggression against Lebanon ?
Yes 86.9 88.9 96.3 79.5 80.3
No 11.8 11.1 03.7 13.7 17.5
Don't
know
01.3 00.0 00.0 06.8 02.2
Do you believe that Israel will defeat the resistance?
Yes 28.4 24.6 06.5 34.1 44.7
No 63.3 72.2 93.5 54.5 38.1
Don't
know
08.3 03.2 00.0 11.4 17.2
Do you believe that the US adopted a positive stand regarding Lebanon in this war?
Yes 09.5 07.9 02.3 13.6 15.0
No 85.6 87.0 96.3 81.8 87.1
Don't
know
04.9 05.1 01.4 04.6 06.9
Do you believe that the Lebanese government's political and diplomatic movement is enough to face the assault?
Yes 33.5 33.4 17.2 40.9 43.7
No 64.3 64.8 82.8 59.1 51.9
Don't
know
02.2 01.8 0.00 0.00 04.4
Do you believe the government assumed its responsibility to relieve the displaced?
Yes 42.8 38.5 17.1 50.1 61.9
No 54.0 58.3 80.1 45.5 34.7
Don't
know
03.2 03.2 02.8 04.5 03.4

The Ipsos Survey
600 adult Lebanese citizens surveyed, 11-17 August 2006.
partial results as published in Lebanese media.
[3]

The most important (though hardly surprising) finding of the Ipsos survey is that 84% of Lebanese Shiites believe that Hezbollah "should keep its weapons" after the conflict, while 54% of Sunnis, 77% of Christians, and 79% of Druze disagree. This finding is consistent with most assessments of Hezbollah's pre-war popularity profile - strong support from the vast majority of Shiites, much of the Sunni street, and significant Druze and Christian minorities. The fact that this adds up to only 49% of the population in the survey suggests that the number of Shiite respondents was based on a low estimate of the Shiite community's demographic weight.

Suggestive wording is also evident in this poll, though it is more subtle. The above question is phrased to elicit preferences about the desired state of Hezbollah's militia - and only a very strong supporter of Hezbollah would agree that it should keep its weapons under any and all post-war scenarios. Many Lebanese have a more ambivalent range of attitudes (e.g. not comfortable with the idea of an armed militia, but believing that specific circumstances require it). Answering no to this question does not imply support for its unconditional disarmament (e.g. absent an Israeli withdrawal from the disputed Shebaa Farms enclave). Consequentlly, the published results are not inconsistent with the BCRI poll.

All Sunni Shiite Druze Christian
Do you think that Hezbollah should keep its weapons after this war?
Yes 49 46 84 21 23
No 51 54 16 79 77
Do you approve of an international force deployed on the Southern borders to support the Lebanese Army?*
Yes 81 72
No 19 28
Level of satisfaction with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's performance during the conflict
High 49 80 28 82 49
Avg. 42 36
Low 30 15
Do you fear internal sectarian consequences of the war?
Yes 38
No 62
Do you envisage staying in Lebanon and building your future in Lebanon?
Yes 52 49 60 46
No 48 51 40 54
* 67% prefer that the force be an observation and NOT an intervention force.

The Information International Poll
800 adult Lebanese citizens surveyed, 22-27 August 2006.
partial results as published in Lebanese media.
[4]

The Informational International poll indicates that 57% of the public still supported Hezbollah's initial operation to abduct the Israeli soldiers over a week after the end of the war - down from 70% (as reported by BCRI) at the height of the fighting.

The percentage of respondents who consider the United States an "enemy of Lebanon" increased to 69% from 26% in a September 2005 Information International poll.[5]

Respondents Response %
All "supported" Hezbollah's decision to kidnap the Israeli soldiers on July 12 57
Shiites "supported" Hezbollah's decision to kidnap the Israeli soldiers on July 12 94
All rated the government's performance during the war "good" 43
All rated the government's performance during the war "acceptable" 35
All rated the government's performance during the war "bad" 21
All rated the performance of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea as "worst/weakest" 57
All rated the performance of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as "worst/weakest" 56
All rated the performance of Future Movement leader Saad Hariri as "worst/weakest" 43
All rated the performance of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as "good/great" 79
All rated the performance of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun as "good/great" 79
All consider Israel an "enemy of Lebanon" 97
All consider the United States an "enemy of Lebanon" 69
All consider Britain an "enemy of Lebanon" 55
All expressed support for the deployment of Lebanese Army troops in south Lebanon 89
All expressed support for the deployment of UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon 78
All consider the "best candidate" for prime minister to be Fouad Siniora (the current prime minister) 28
All consider the "best candidate" for prime minister to be Salim Hoss 26
All consider the "best candidate" for prime minister to be Najib Miqati 22
All consider the "best candidate" for prime minister to be Saad Hariri 11
All consider the "best candidate" for president to be Michel Aoun 45
All consider the "best candidate" for president to be Boutros Harb 11
All consider the "best candidate" for president to be Nassib Lahoud 8
All consider the "best candidate" for president to be Samir Geagea 6

Poll by Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
1200 adult Lebanese citizens surveyed, results released on 11 October 2006. results as published in the Jordanian media.[6]

This fourth poll of Lebanese public opinion was publicized by the English-language Jordan Times in mid-October. The most astonishing finding is that 78% of the public believes that the war would have happened regardless of whether the Israeli soldiers had been abducted (a view that enables Hezbollah to easily deflect blame).

Respondents Response (as paraphrased in the Jordan Times %
All "agree that the Israel-Lebanon war was a consequence of a joint Israel-US attempt to impose a Middle East order" 84
Shiites "said Hizbollah came out as the winner against Israel" 70
Sunnis "said Hizbollah came out as the winner against Israel" 36
Christians "said Hizbollah came out as the winner against Israel" 19
All "believe that the war would have happened whether Hizbollah captured the Israeli soldiers or not" 78

Notes

  [1] Al-Safir, 2 March 2006.
  [2] Al-Safir (Beirut), 31 January 2006.
  [3] L'Orient Le Jour, 28 August 2006.
  [4] "Poll respondents give high marks to Nasrallah, Berri, Aoun," The Daily Star (Beirut), 7 September 2006.
  [5] Ibid.
  [6] "CSS poll shows 84% of Lebanese agree war attempt to impose Middle East order," The Jordan Times (Amman), 12 October 2006.


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