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Lebanese See Hezbollah as Politically Stronger After Conflict With Israel

World

Lebanese See Hezbollah as Politically Stronger After Conflict With Israel

Almost half say they their personal opinion of Hezbollah has improved

by Richard Burkholder

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

By a wide majority, Lebanese say they believe Hezbollah's political position within Lebanon is now stronger (64%) rather than weaker (23%) as a result of the recent 34-day conflict with Israel. Even Christians and Sunnis -- groups not overly disposed toward Hezbollah -- believe this to be the case by margins of roughly 2 to 1 (56% vs. 29% among Christians; 57% vs. 28% among Sunnis).

Contrary to some media reports that Hezbollah's popular support was weakened by the war*, 59% of all Lebanese say they regard the conflict as "mostly a political victory for Hezbollah," while just 27% view it as "mostly a political defeat" (among Sunnis this figure is 32%; among Christians it is 33%).

This effect is seen on a personal level as well. Nearly half (48%) of all Lebanese respondents Gallup interviewed say they personally have a better view of Hezbollah than the one they held prior to the conflict (including 33% "much better"), while one-quarter of Lebanese respondents say their view of the group has worsened. Christians are the least affected, with roughly one-third (34%) saying they now hold a better opinion of Hezbollah, another one-third (32%) saying their opinion has worsened, and the remainder indicating that their appraisal has remained unchanged.

Hezbollah's Perceived Commitment to Religious Pluralism

Perceptions that Hezbollah's political standing has improved add weight to the party's recent effort to secure more power in the Lebanese government. Earlier this month, the organization threatened to stage massive street protests unless a new "unity" government is formed that gives Hezbollah control of more Cabinet seats. Support among Shiites for that effort led to the resignations of five Cabinet members on Nov. 12, which has triggered a crisis because each of the three main religious sects are required to be represented in the Cabinet.

The predicament reflects the central role of religious pluralism in Lebanese politics. The vast majority of Lebanese (92%) say it is very important to them personally that the country be maintained as a multi-faith society.

Lebanese are relatively optimistic that Hezbollah is committed to respecting the country's religious diversity. Just more than half (55%) say they believe Hezbollah is "very firmly" committed to seeing Lebanon maintained as a multi-faith society, while an additional 16% think Hezbollah is "fairly firmly" committed in this regard. Only about one in four Lebanese sees Hezbollah as either "not too" (10%) or "not at all" (13%) committed to this outcome.

Lebanon's Christians express the greatest concern in this regard, with just less than one-third indicating they think Hezbollah is "not too" (13%) or "not at all" (18%) committed to maintaining the country's religious diversity. They are offset, however, by the 39% of the country's Christians who say they view Hezbollah as being "very firmly committed" to Lebanon's continuance as a multi-faith society. One in four Christians think Hezbollah is "somewhat firmly" committed to this end.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted between Sept. 18 and Oct. 12, 2006, with a randomly selected national sample of 1,000 Lebanese adults, aged 18 and older. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

*See, for example, "Think Again: Israel vs. Hezbollah", Foreign Policy, November-December, 2006.

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