Analysts, pundits, experts, commentators, journalists and critics can decide to grade the winners and losers but polling is the best way to take a snapshot at public opinion. Polling is not an exact science, and margins of error are involved, however it is a better indicator than looking into a crystal ball or making predictions from your gut.
Five of the nine premier polling agencies Panels, Dialog, Smith, Geocartography & Maagar Mochot conducted polls mid-week following the end of Operation Protective Edge and this is what they found:
Likud (G-32, S-28, P-27, D&M-26) – Winner
Prime Minister Netanyahu might have performed badly in most ‘additional questions’ sections, but he remains on top in terms of who is most fit to be Prime Minister and Likud remains the largest party. The Geocartography poll of 32 seats is most likely wishful thinking. Likud might be tied for largest party in the current Knesset with 19 seats, but Likud is the largest party by a safe margin in the four realistic sounding polls of 28-26 seats. The public still supports the Prime Minister. His main problem is the Likud membership who is looking at options of replacing the 3-term Prime Minister. Will he survive the infighting?
Bayit Yehudi (P-19, G-18, D&M-17, S-14) – Winner
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party polled in second place in five of the six polls conducted during Operation Protective Edge. The Smith poll during the operation placed Bayit Yehudi third & Labor second. He remained in second place in the five polls taken after the operation, although in the latest Smith poll he tied for second place with Labor. As far as polls go, Bennett emerged as the clear winner of this operation. He jumped from being the fourth largest party to second place in the polls. In many polls he also finished second in the question of ‘Who is most fit to be Prime Minister?’ Many pundits doubt a nationalist politician with a yarmulke can maintain the success and polling status as the #2 party. In the meantime the polls keep proving those pundits wrong. Can the freshman MK maintain his success and actually lead his party to achieve second place in the election?
Labor (P-15, D,S&M-14, G-12) – Loser
Opposition Leader Herzog has failed to gain momentum. It is difficult being the leader of the left during a war. Labor is the third largest party with 15 seats, but the Geocartography poll has Labor in fourth place. Although he was statesmanlike during most of the campaign, towards the end he called for elections at the end of the operation. Calling for elections in the middle of a war might go down as one of his major gaffes and could be used by Likud in future campaign videos. Herzog will be Labor’s ‘Prime Ministerial candidate’ for the next elections. For now he can’t improve on Shelly Yachmovich’s 2013 showing of 15 seats which makes him the clear loser of the operation. Will he be able to turn it around?
Yisrael Beitenu (G-17, S&M-12, D-11, P-9) – Loser
Foreign Minister Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu is polling at third-fifth place. The 17 seats from the Geocartography poll seem a bit too high. The other four polls of 9-12 seats seem more likely. These numbers are not good for Liberman who currently has 12 seats. He won 15 seats in 2009 and 12 seats in 2006. Liberman chose to split off from the joint Likud Beitenu Faction days before the war. This is a losing situation for a veteran right-wing leader who is polling lower than his election results of the last decade during the longest operation in the last 40 years. The other leaders of the right (Netanyahu & Bennett) both enjoyed a bump but Liberman has not found the magic formula. If a right-wing leader doesn’t peak during wartime, when will he peak?
Yesh Atid (P&D-12, S&G-9, M-8) – Loser
Finance Minister Yair Lapid has been in trouble in the polls for a long time. His financial policy has angered most Israelis. His irresponsible quotes during the war did not help him, such as saying the war would not have an impact on the budget and promising not to raise taxes before he knew when the war would end and what the overall cost would be. The Geocartography & Maagar Mochot polls have the freshman Yesh Atid dropping from the second largest party to the sixth largest party. In the Geocartography poll Lapid is behind the UTJ party that he loathes. This is the guy who was polling around 30 seats over a year ago. If he fails to pass his 0% VAT housing reform program, will anyone remember his Charedi draft law?
Shas (M-10, S-9, P-8, D&G-7) – Winner
Before the war it looked like Shas was about to split into two. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is gone. Aryeh Deri & Eli Yishai infighting was becoming too difficult for either side to hide anymore. Popular #3 Ariel Attias decided to resign from Knesset, rumors started to link Attias to Kahlon. Shas was dropping in the polls and one would expect that in war time most of their voters would move over to Likud. Instead Deri & Yishai stopped fighting publicly and both took a lower profile. With the internal chaos going on before the war, a loss of up to four seats is a win for an opposition party focused on religion & economics during war time. Now that Operation Protective Edge is over, will Operation Split Shas continue?
United Torah Judaism (G-10, D-8, S,P&M-7) – Winner
Israel just went through 50 days of war and UTJ remained steady and that is a win for them. The Geocartography poll showing of 10 seats is wishful thinking. Maintaining their position in the polls of 7-8 seats is impressive considering this a party that prioritizes Torah learning in Yeshiva over serving in the army. Their arch nemesis Lapid chose to threaten Hamas political leaders instead of turning public debate towards a large sector of society that was not putting on army uniforms. Party activists pride themselves that in two polls the Ashkenazi UTJ finished higher than the Sephardi Shas. Can the Lithuanians and Hassidic sects remain united for another election?
Meretz (P-9, D&S-7, G&M-6) – Loser
Remember when Meretz was consistently polling in the double digits two months ago? Well those days are over. The party that is to the left of Labor has lost their momentum and possibly their direction. Many people support Meretz’s domestic politics but find it hard to vote for the party during a time when diplomatic & national defense issues are in the headlines. The MKs did not speak in a single voice and it was not clear to many where the party stood on many issues related to the operation. Meretz won 6 seats in the last election with a 4.55% showing that included 14% of the Tel Aviv vote. Will Meretz be able to repeat double digit numbers in Tel Aviv following the sirens of Protective Edge?
Hadash (D-6, S-5, P&G-4,M-?) – Winner
The future of the smaller parties has been cast in doubt with the raising of the new threshold to 3.25%/4 seats. The ability of Hadash, a joint Arab-Jewish Party to remain above the threshold in all polls makes them a winner. Polling at 5 or 6 seats is highly unusual for the party. It is possible they were able to take away votes from Meretz.
Balad (G-5, D-4, S&P-3,M-?) – Winner
The Balad MKs went to Qatar to meet with former leader MK Bishara who is wanted on charges of treason in Israel for terrorist actions during the Second Lebanon War. They are winners considering they were able to go on the trip, come back and remain MKs, while enjoying a slight bump in the polls. On the other hand, 3 seats will not cut it anymore under the new threshold.
Livni/Movement (S,D,P&M-4, G-0) – Loser
Justice Minister Livni is barely able to pass the threshold in four polls and in the other poll she is not able to. Rumors of her MKs making preparations for the next elections in different parties does not help her either. Few people think this party will make it to the next elections and the public seems to agree.
Ra’am-Ta’al (D4, S&P-3, G-0,M-?) – Loser
Ra’am-Ta’al received more votes than Hadash, Balad and Kadima in Jan 2013. Yet, they fail to pass the threshold in 3 of the 4 polls, and barely escape it in the fourth. Lucky for them there will be attempts to merge with Balad and maybe Hadash.
Kadima 1 seat in Maagar Mochot poll, 0 seats in all other polls – Loser
Remember when Shaul Mofaz was Defense Minister and a member of the Security Cabinet? I’m not sure many do.
Kahlon (Maagar Mochot Poll 8 seats, Smith Poll 5 seats) – Loser
Kahlon is an economic guy. He can’t announce a new party when security and defense issues are at the top of the news.
- I’d like to see New Wave, Midgam, Teleseker & Dahaf polls to get a clearer picture but five out of nine is not that bad. It is rare to see a majority of the ‘Top 9’ polling agencies poll at the same time in the middle of a term.