The Arab Street

by Russ Roberts on December 9, 2004

in Terrorism

I have argued here and here that opinion surveys of people living under tyranny or fear of reprisal are not very representative of what such people really think.  The Jerusalem Post reports that with the death of Arafat, Palestinian public opinion (or at least measured public opinion) has changed markedly in a very short period of time.

The death of Yasser Arafat has left most Palestinians optimistic regarding the future and opposed to the continuation of terror attacks on Israel, according to a public opinion poll published Wednesday by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center.

A majority of 51.8 percent of the Palestinians polled said that they were opposed to "military operations" against Israeli targets and consider them harmful to Palestinian national interests, compared with 26.9% last June. Only 41.1% of the Palestinians believe that terrorist attacks should continue compared with 65.4% last June.

So have Palestinians become less supportive of violence?  My claim is that perhaps they were less supportive of terrorism in the past but it was dangerous to admit that to a stranger doing a survey.  Or perhaps they are equally interested now in terrorism as a political tool but now find it inappropriate to say so.  Without more information, it is impossible to know.  Surveys of people living under tyranny make good copy.  But they tell us more about the incentives people face than they really believe.

(TY to WSJ’s Best of the Web)

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