2400-sample nationwide poll was conducted between March
28 and April 8, 2008, commissioned by the Lebanese Opinion Advisory Committee (LOAC).
The sample is comprised of proportional subsets of the major confessions - 924 Christians; 660 Sunni; 660 Shia and 156 Druze. Proportional quantities of other variables - age, sex, region, and income level -
are also factored into the full sample
When asked which are the two most important issues facing Lebanon today, 64 percent of respondents
list the economy. The second highest answer - the presidency - is given by 33 percent of respondents.
Eighty-six percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, nine percent said Lebanon is headed in the right direction and four percent respond they didn't know. The
negative response is the highest recorded in two years of
Would you say things in Lebanon were headed in the right direction or wrong direction?
Despite pessimistic perceptions of the political and social climate, most of those surveyed said they
would not leave Lebanon. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would not leave Lebanon to live elsewhere for an indefinite period, whatever the circumstances. Thirty-five percent said they would
leave Lebanon now to live elsewhere for an indefinite period if they had the opportunity.
Which of the following best describes your attitude?
Slightly fewer than half (48 percent) believe that a solution to the current political crisis will likely come
about through some degree of violence, but not necessarily civil war. Seventeen percent believe the
crisis will be solved by civil war and 35 percent believe the solution to the crisis will come about with
no violence at all. Just six percent of respondents from the South - those living closest to the border
with Israel - think that the crisis will be resolved through war.
The final question of the survey - after 31 questions about political leadership, confessionalism, the
political and economic situation, the security of Lebanon and other current events - revisited the issue
of the general state of things in Lebanon. When asked to choose a statement that was generally
optimistic or one that was pessimistic about the immediate future, 75 percent of respondents
choose the darker view - “the worst of the political crisis is ahead of us,” while 25 percent choose
“the worst of the political crisis is behind us.” The 10-point difference between the more pessimistic
answer at the beginning of the survey (86 percent wrong track) suggests some opinion softened
slightly after a discussion of the challenges facing the country. Nonetheless, 75 percent of
respondents choosing the pessimistic answer is still very high.
For the first time in 20 years, a political stalemate has left Lebanon without a president.
For several months preceding the November 25, 2007, exit of former President Emile Lahoud, the
process for electing a president has been a central point of contention between the March 14
coalition and opposition coalitions. LOAC asked several questions to test public perceptions
about the causes and effects of the seven-month presidential void.
Confidence is low that a president will be elected in the near future. When asked to rate the
probability of a new president taking office, 53 percent of respondents said the event is unlikely
and 44 percent said it was likely. There is greater intensity of opinion among people who don't
election of a new president is likely than there is among those who do.
The single highest response among the four choices testing respondent intensity is “strongly
unlikely.” Fifty-one percent of the poll's Christian respondents believe it is strongly unlikely
Lebanon will see a duly elected president in the near future - the highest among
confessional responses. Poll respondents living in Beirut and Mount Lebanon are
more likely to respond with “strongly unlikely” than those living well outside
the Beirut/Mount Lebanon region.
What is the likelihood Lebanon will have a duly elected president in the near future?
Sixty-five percent of respondents believe the presidential void is due primarily to outside interference in Lebanese affairs and secondarily because of firm disagreements between Lebanese leaders. Respondents from East Beirut, however, respond differently from the overall sample, with 52 percent
saying internal disagreements are the primary reason for the presidential void. In agreement with
overall results are respondents from the north, 78 percent of whom believe that the main reason is
Which statement is closer to your point of view?
However, a majority of those surveyed respond to a similar, subsequent question quite differently.
Fifty-five percent of our respondents agree the primary cause of the presidential crisis is internal
division among the Lebanese Christians. The response - particularly high among Druze and
Christians - highlights the deep awareness of the intra-confessional conflict between Christians
loyal to the opposition and those loyal to the March 14 coalition.
The primary cause of the presidential crisis is the internal division among the Christians.
By tradition, the president in Lebanon must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister always a
Sunni and the Speaker of the Parliament always a Shia. With the latter two positions filled, the
LOAC survey tested perceptions of Christian political strength in the absence of a president.
Though as a whole, interviewees are evenly split on whether the Christian share of power has
been permanently weakened by the presidential void, a 60 percent majority of the Christian
subset and a 73 percent majority of Druze subset believe the presidential void has had a
permanent negative effect on Christian power in Lebanon.
An estimated 225,000 residents live inside Lebanon's 12 refugee camps. Last summer the
Lebanese Army lost 169 of its soldiers in a four-month battle with militia members in the Nahr
el Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. Since that time, violent incidents in two other camps in
different parts of Lebanon have occurred. Together these incidents prompted LOAC to gauge
the intensity of the perceived threat from the camps.
Fifty-five percent of respondents perceive Palestinian refugee camps as extremely
threatening, with just 15 percent saying the camps are not threatening at all to national security.
Eighty-one percent believe the army should be allowed to enter the camps to ensure
the security of all Lebanese territory. Eighteen percent say the camps should remain autonomous, in line with an agreement signed in 1969 that gave the Palestine Liberation Organization sovereignty over the camps.
Seventy-four percent say violent uprisings in the camps are coordinated with outside parties.
Opposition vs. March 14
The political stalemate between opposing parliamentary coalitions has hardened
dramatically since LOAC last polled in June, 2007. The downtown sit-in continues,
the Speaker has refused to convene parliament for the purpose of electing a president,
and several outside attempts to broker an end to the stand-off have failed. LOAC's results
demonstrate that the public has greater confidence in opposition leadership over
March 14 coalition counterparts.
Forty-eight percent of respondents believe that if parliamentary elections were held
immediately, candidates allied with the opposition would win more seats. Thirty-six
percent believe the March 14 candidates would win more seats. Fourteen percent
of those surveyed declined to answer. A higher rate of opposition partisans in the
South and in Bekaa made a dramatic difference in the top line result for this question.
If Parliamentary elections were to be held today, who in your opinion would win the most seats?
Within income subsets, we find a clear disparity of allegiance for the March 14 coalition and the
opposition. The lower their monthly income, the more inclined the respondent is toward the
opposition; the higher their income, the more likely the respondent is to believe March 14 is
more likely to win seats.
If Parliamentary elections were to be held today, who in your opinion would win the most seats?
Tracking closely with the previous question on electability, the opposition also appears in a more favorable light than the March 14 coalition when it comes to solving the current political crisis. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed say the opposition appears more committed to finding a solution to the current crisis. Thirty-eight percent respond that March 14 was more committed to reaching a solution.
The Taif Amendments to the Constitution in 1989 codified a 64-64 split of Muslim and Christian seats in Lebanon's 128 member parliament. Though some in Lebanon suggest it's time for another national census (the last one was conducted in 1932) in order to determine what the true proportion of confessional seats in Parliament should be, the poll reflects a high level of comfort with the status quo of confessional distribution in the national legislature.
Affirming similar results from previous polls, 66 percent of respondents say Muslims and Christians should receive an equal number of seats by law, even if one group is significantly larger than the other. Twenty percent believe parliamentary seats should not be allocated by law; parliamentary seats should go the highest vote-getter. Thirteen percent believe the law should allocate a proportion of seats to each confession that is equal to their proportion of the total population of Lebanon.
Forty percent of Lebanese strongly agree that political confessionalism is historically and deeply rooted in Lebanese culture and it cannot be removed, even if the will existed to do so. A total of sixty percent (40 percent strongly; 20 percent with less intensity) agree with the same statement and 39 percent (25 percent strongly; 14 percent with less intensity) disagree.
When asked which confession or group is most concerned about their future in Lebanon, 38 percent of the full sample identified Christians. Among Christian respondents, 65 percent choose Christians - the highest percentage of any confession choosing itself in the question. At the other end of the spectrum, just nine percent of the Druze subset choose the Druze.
Which confession is the most concerned about its future in Lebanon ?
Consistent with previous LOAC polls, the most frequent topline response is “no one” when respondents
are asked which political leader or party appeals to them most. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed
reply “no one” to the political leader that appeal to them most, and 29 percent of those surveyed reply
the same when asked which political party appeal to them most.
History of “No One” responses
Among Shia the most frequent choice for most appealing leader is Amal Party leader and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri (33 percent); the top choice among Sunni is Member of Parliament (MP) and Majority Leader Saad Hariri (36 percent); among Christians it is “no one” (33 percent); and 58 percent of Druze respondents name MP Walid Jumblatt.
Christian respondents are the most divided when it comes to leadership choices. Thirty percent of Christians name Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun as their top choice; 19 percent choose Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea; four percent choose Al Marada chief Sleiman Franjieh; and four percent name former President of the Republic and Kataeb Party President Amine Gemayel.
Party Leader Preference
Party Leader Preference
Party Leader Preference
Party Leader Preference
When asked which leader appealed to them most, more women choose Hassan Nasrallah than
do men; more men than women choose Walid Jumblatt; an equal number of men and women
choose Samir Geagea.
Notably, Nabih Berri has surpassed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as most appealing
leader among Shia respondents. In fact, among Shia - Nasrallah's most supportive sect - identification
with Hassan Nasrallah has plummeted from 62 percent in December, 2006 to 37 percent in
July 2007 to 32 percent today (a 30 point decline over the last 18 months).
Most parties continue to gain their support from one confessional group. Among Christians the Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces achieve the highest rates of support. For Shia,
Hezbollah garners the most significant level of support, marking a seven-point increase from
our July, 2007 poll. Sunni and Druze are more likely than the other confessions to endorse
only one significant party as opposed to spreading support over several. For the Druze, that
party is the
Progressive Socialists and for the Sunni it is Future Movement.
The tables below demonstrate the top party preferences by confession in response to the question:
Which political party best represents your point of view?
Free Patriotic Movement
Progressive Socialist Party
Syrian Nationalist Party
Government and Constitution
Just three percent of respondents believe the Resistance (Hezbollah) should have sole responsibility for national defense; 51 percent believe that national defense should be the responsibility of government forces (national police and army) alone; and 45 percent of respondents believe that national defense should be jointly assumed by government forces and the Resistance.
Fifty-six percent of men and 46 percent of women respondents say national defense should be the responsibility of the government forces alone. Conversely, 50 percent of women and 41 percent of men respondents believe that national defense should be jointly assumed by the government forces and the Resistance.
National Defense Opinion
The Shia, in particular, largely disagree with other confessions on this issue, with 82 percent of the Shia subset in this poll saying the army and the Resistance should jointly undertake national defense.
The Shia again demonstrate strong disagreement with the other confessions when it comes to the integrity of the Lebanese Constitution. Topline results suggest the Lebanese are split in half when it comes to constitutional inviolability. Half of the full sample believes it is not permissible to circumvent the constitution under any circumstances. The other half says it is permissible to circumvent the constitution in some circumstances to preserve national unity. While the Sunni, Druze and Christian subsets demonstrate clear majorities in favor of an inviolable constitution, 72 percent of the Shia respondents choose the option that expressed willingness to go around the constitution to preserve national unity.
Some in Lebanon have suggested the answer to preserving peace among the confessions is to divide Lebanon into a handful of enclaves where each religion would have its own majority status. However, only nine percent of respondents chose this option as an alternative to the status quo. When asked if Lebanon should be split into separate, autonomous regions with a smaller central government or stay a united republic with a strong central government, 91 percent of respondents chose the latter option, soundly confirming the public's choice for a united republic.
The Lebanese demonstrate a strong desire for electoral reform and timely parliamentary elections in their country. With parliamentary elections scheduled to begin in May, 2009, the issue of electoral reform has forcefully entered the debate among political leaders as part of a settlement to current political crisis.
In an open-ended question designed to gauge citizen priorities for 2008, 19 percent of respondent chose electoral reform as their top issue - the second highest response behind the economy.
Leaving the issue of a new president aside, which of the following in your opinion is the top priority for Lebanon in 2008?
Public distaste for the current electoral law - the law in place for both 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections - is demonstrated in a question about respondents' appetite for contentious debate over electoral reform, even if such debate might make the political situation worse. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed believe it is preferable to replace Lebanon's current electoral law though debating it might heighten the crisis.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents believe Lebanon should have a system of voting that favors independent candidates (or those not running on lists headed by establish leaders.)
A large majority of Lebanese prefer to hold parliamentary elections as scheduled in summer 2009. Seventy-one percent want elections to be held on time regardless of which electoral law is adopted.
With respect to the size of the electoral districts, 35 percent of respondents prefer using the 27 cada as districts and 28 percent prefer no district divisions in Lebanon , giving all voters the ability to vote for all 128 representatives. Eleven percent support dividing the country into 128 districts with one representative per district.
When ranking specific electoral reform measures, 39 percent of respondents chose lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 as their highest priority over five other options.
Which of the following proposed electoral reforms is the HIGHEST priority for you?
Conversely, the least acceptable of the proposed reform measures was the use of a unified, pre-printed official ballot at 30 percent.
Which of the following proposed electoral reforms is LEAST acceptable to you?
Thirty-two percent of respondents would prefer to combine two systems by which to elect representatives - one in which seats in a cada are won by candidates who get the most the most votes (majoritarian) and seats in a mohafezat that are distributed proportionally between the lists (proportional). Two-thirds of Lebanese prefer a single voting system, rather than one that combines these two.