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Why do Israeli pollsters, media ignore the Palestinians?

Underneath a new Knesset election poll published today by Haaretz, there was a surprising disclaimer: “due to lack of time, the Arab parties weren’t surveyed.”

The reference is to the three non-Zionist and mostly Palestinian Knesset parties: Ra’am-Ta’al, Balad and Hadash, which were nowhere to be found in the charts Haaretz published. Together, they have 11 Knesset seats, including one held by a Jewish member of Hadash. Some polls published in the Israeli media tend to group those parties into one entry, titled “Arab parties.” At other times, they ignore them completely. Often pollsters do include Palestinian citizens in their surveys but the media organization that publishes the results groups or ignores them.

There are objective problems with surveys of the Palestinian population in Israel. The interviews need to be conducted in Arabic, and the response rates are relatively low. Results could be inaccurate, so pollsters need to conduct special polls of the Palestinians to verify their samples and results from time to time.

More important, however, is the wider context. Voting patterns is but another area in which Jews and Palestinians are separated in Israel. “The Arab parties” were never included in any Israeli government, and the consensus tends to ignore them in the decision-making process. Grouping the Palestinians together, or completely failing to mention them, strengthens those trends. It does so at the very time – election season – when the politics of segregation should be discussed and criticized.

Furthermore, by treating Arab parties as one bloc, pollsters and media organizations ignore the variety, richness of opinions and often harsh controversies that exist in Palestinian society; they contribute to ignorance and prejudice among Israelis; and they marginalize and delegitimize a growing number of Jews who take part in or vote for joint political organizations and parties.

Polling problems exist everywhere. The ultra-Orthodox population tends not to trust pollsters or media, and requires special adjustments as well when surveyed. Yet nobody seriously considers not including that population in the polls, or grouping  the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party with the Sephardi Shas – and rightly so. The same rules should apply to the Palestinian population.

Political blogger Tal Schneider, who collects the polls for the +972 Knesset poll tracking page, recently announced that she won’t promote on her Hebrew blog any poll that aggregates the non-Jewish parties into one bloc, let alone those polls that ignore them. Her decision reflects a deep recognition of the responsibilities in journalism that we are all but too pleased to share. +972 will also not present in our poll tracking page any poll that doesn’t survey or present full results for the Palestinian population. Ignoring some of the data out there might hurt our elections coverage, but ignoring people is worse.

+972’s Knesset poll tracking page
It’s all about the blocs: Understanding Israeli election polls
Understanding Israeli election polls, part II

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    1. The Trespasser

      Responsibility of journalism?

      You mean that reporters should report things as they are and not spread inaccurate info?

      Put simply – journalist should not lie.


      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      The Arab voter has been betrayed by his Knesset representatives who outdo each other in trying to express the most radical anti-Israel diatribes.
      I, as a right-winger, would have no problem with Arab politicians joining RIght-wing parties and even being cabinet ministers if they accept Israel as being a Jewish state and working for the advancement of their Arab constituency.
      The Arab community is very badly divided and manipulated by the extremists among them and as long as this situation exists, they will be marginalized politicall, which I, again as a RIght-winger, think is very bad for both Jews and Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      The polls ignore or generalize the votes for the Israeli Arab parties because they have no political importance. The Arab parties are not going to join a government, making their representation in the Knesset irrelevant for the analysis of possible future government coalitions for which the polls are used as the source data. Also, the polls are usually meant for newspapers written in Hebrew which are not read widely by Israeli Arabs and most Israeli Jews who do read the newspapers couldn’t care less about whether Raam Taal or Balad are going to have 3 or 4 seats.

      There is nothing malevolent about the way the polls are done. It would require increased cost to accurately poll Israeli Arabs and that expense is not considered justified to those that sponsor the polls. Since neither Tal Schneider or 972mag themselves sponsor the polls the action of ignoring some of them is purely symbolic and will have no impact on the situation.

      Reply to Comment
      • About 20% of the population, tagged as the “demographic threat” by leading figures in the government, and your High Court Chief Justice, is not important enought to be accurately polled?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Polls are conducted by private bodies, not by the government. Thus the considerations are entirely economic in nature. If a poll doesn’t accurately poll the Arabs it is because there isn’t sufficient value for those who commissioned the study.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Paul J

      “Political blogger Tal Schneider, who collects the polls for the +972 Knesset poll tracking page, recently announced that she won’t promote on her Hebrew blog any poll that aggregates the non-Jewish parties into one bloc, let alone those polls that ignore them”

      Non-Jewish Parties??? What the??
      Hadash doesnt define itself as Non-Jewish how peculiarly segregationist of 972..may Jews vote Hadash, Many Palestinians vote Labor Meretz etc, how very disappointing Noam..

      So because pollsters aggregate what +972 define as “Non-Jewish” Parties, +972 will blank the polling…

      This is going beyond kafkaesque – I despair at the confused ideology, and the boycotting of polling because doesnt suit, Ill just go to Wikipedia

      Reply to Comment
    5. This reporting exclusion is just more evidence of proto-apartheid in Israel proper. The national media is, or should be, an Israeli-global competitive market for ideas and opinion. Excluding what amounts to about 20% of the possible electorate in reported polling pushed them, materially and in principle, from that marketplace. But this is not surprising, considering that the recent “apartheid poll” found 49% of Israeli Jews believe, among citizens, Jews should have more privileges than Arabs.

      Once again: this segregation makes rights formation in the Bank impossible. One must clean up one’s home first.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Nonsense. The Arabs are ignored because they vote almost unanimously for parties that have no chance of joining a future government. This makes their votes irrelevant. This is a decision made by private pollsters as commissioned by private parties. It is also a decision that everyone even on 972 knows makes perfect sense except in their moralizing agony for a perfect world. Those that disagree are welcome to commission their own polls.

        Reply to Comment
    6. rsgengland

      As the chances are that the Arab parties will always tend to vote against the Goverment , including their views in this type of survey is not going to make much difference.
      The Arab parties would never join any coalition , unless it was on the extreme left of Parlimentary scale , and that does not appear to be the case right now .
      Despite the names and pronouncements of the Arab parties , I have always found their policies and actions ,
      very right wing ,and this pretty much goes for politics in the wider Arab Middle East .

      Reply to Comment
    7. oh, please

      this has nothing to do with “ignoring the palestinians”, it’s just that jews who read hebrew don’t voted for those parties, therefore are not interested in them. Radical right-wing parties weren’t publish as well. when something does not interest the public, it does not get published, fair or not. Dailey missiles on Sderot weren’t published, Breaking news from Honolulu weren’t, Palestinians parties will not.

      Reply to Comment

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