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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Polls, polls, polls: It's all in how the question is asked

The Talmud says that in the times immediately preceding the coming of the Messiah "the generation's face will be like that of a dog." Our rabbis interpret this to mean that just like a dog runs ahead and keeps looking back to make sure that its master is following, so too the 'leaders' of the generation will run ahead and keep looking back to make sure that the people are following along. It's an apt description for Israel's current leadership's relationship with Israelis. Hence our obsession with polls.

There are several polls out today about what people want to happen with the Olmert government. From reading the headline ("Polls: Olmert's popularity rising"), one would think that Israelis have thrown in the towel and decided to make due with the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta for the next two and half years. Hopefully, this is not the case. Let's look at some of the poll numbers and how the questions were skewed to try to elicit a 'supportive' response. Recall that the media wishes to protect Olmert and keep him in power.
A poll conducted by the daily Ma'ariv newspaper fount that 42 percent of those polled preferred Olmert's government to stay in power until the end of its term or an earlier date agreed upon in advance.

27%, however, thought new elections should be held as soon as possible.

Additionally, 39% of respondents said that if Olmert didn't resign, Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak should pull Labor out of the government and bring about new elections. 22% said Barak should remain in Olmert's coalition and a similar number of respondents thought Barak should remain in the coalition but only after setting a date for new elections in approximately a year's time.
Many people will never get past the Post's home page to read the full article. On the Post's home page, this is summarized as "42% support PM." But if you look at what I highlighted, that's not true. Not exactly 42% support is it? Now, here's another poll:
Israel Radio's poll also showed that 44.4% wanted Olmert to resign and to hold general elections within 6-12 months, but only 21.7% thought he should resign immediately and be replaced by someone from within Kadima ranks.

31.6% thought Olmert should remain in office.

33.7% of respondents said Barak should not leave his position as defense minister, take Labor out of the coalition and topple the government, but a close 32.2% said he should quit immediately.

Olmert's standing seemed safe but not totally out of harm's way as 37.8% thought Livni should assist him in staying in office, while a slightly lower 34.9% thought she should resign immediately and work to topple his government.
Note that 66.1% in the Israel Radio poll want Olmert to resign now or hold elections within 6-12 months. It takes three months to hold elections. And even I wouldn't want Olmert to resign now and appoint someone else from Kadima (presumably Livni) to replace him.

Comforting numbers for Olmert? Not really. But he's not going to resign willingly. The snow is melting in Jerusalem today. It's time to take to the streets.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Public opinion is not something the Israeli elite lose sleep over. They can ignore it with impunity or else they can rearrange the numbers to make it look like people support them. The only way Ehud Olmert would resign is if half the country went on strike to force him out.

Fat chance of that happening.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger me said...

Or if the IDF parked a tank next to his house and the Knesset and 'asked' them to hold new elections.


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