Most Palestinians Don't Want Hamas Rule, Poll Shows

A new survey shows that neither Hamas, nor its secular nationalist rivals, nor Biden’s plan have majority support among Palestinians.


A lot of people have theories about what Palestinians want, whether it's protesters in New York calling for a Hamas victory, U.S. President Joe Biden trying to set up a demilitarized Palestinian state, or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming that Palestinians can't rule themselves. But very few people have bothered to actually ask Palestinians what they want.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) released its latest poll data from the West Bank and Gaza on Wednesday. It turns out that Palestinians are unhappy with all of the current options—including the Biden administration's plan for international governance of Gaza.

The last Palestinian election was held in 2006. Although no party won a majority, Hamas had the largest bloc in parliament, with 44 percent of the votes. The Bush administration encouraged Palestinian security officers to launch a coup d'etat against Hamas, which led to a Palestinian civil war. Since then, Hamas has ruled Gaza and Fatah has ruled the West Bank, both as one-party states.

If parliamentary elections were held today, most Palestinians wouldn't vote for either option. Hamas would get 32 percent of the vote, Fatah would get 17 percent of the vote, and a full 50 percent would either sit out of the election or vote for a third party. The survey showed similarly abysmal turnout rates in a presidential election—with one twist.

If the former guerrilla leader Marwan Barghouti were allowed to run, he would handily defeat both the Hamas and Fatah candidates. Barghouti has been imprisoned by Israel since 2002 for his role in several attacks on Israelis, which he denies ordering. Since then, he has said that he accepts the pre-1967 borders of Israel and called for "peaceful popular resistance."

That said, when PCPSR asked Palestinians what the best path to independence was, 54 percent said "armed struggle," as opposed to 16 percent who supported peaceful resistance and 25 percent who supported negotiations. It was a drop from December 2023, when 63 percent chose armed struggle.

Still, only 46 percent of Palestinians in Gaza told PCPSR they preferred Hamas rule. Instead, 11 percent said that they wanted the same Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank, and 34 percent said they wanted the Palestinian Authority with new leadership.

Even before the current war, Hamas was unpopular in Gaza. Just before the October 7 attacks, an overwhelming majority of Gazans told Arab Barometer that they had little or no trust in the Hamas-run government. In the summer of 2023, protests broke out in Gaza over the cost of living, and Hamas responded with a police crackdown.

However, the unpopularity of Hamas doesn't mean that Palestinians support Israeli rule. Direct Israeli military control polled at 1 percent among Gazans, and "a local authority formed by Israel" did little better, polling at 2 percent. "Control by tribes/large families," one of the models for ruling Gaza that the Netanyahu government has reportedly been toying with, similarly polled at 2 percent among Gazans.

According to a Politico report published on Wednesday, the Biden administration has come around to a different solution: an interim government in Gaza backed by an international military coalition. That option would be no more popular than Israeli rule. Only 2 percent supported rule by foreign forces or the United Nations.

Palestinians might not agree on what they want, but they know what they don't want.