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Palestinians overwhelmingly prefer the Western-backed government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad over the ousted Hamas' government, although residents of the Gaza Strip believe their security has improved since Hamas seized control of the area, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey by Ghassan Khatib, an independent and respected pollster, was the first since Hamas took over Gaza in five days of bloody fighting in June.

Following the takeover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threw Hamas out of the unity government with his Fatah Party and formed his new Cabinet based in the West Bank. Hamas, which continues to control Gaza, refuses to recognize the new government.

In the new poll, 47 percent said the Fayyad government is performing better than the previous Hamas-led Cabinet led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. In comparison, 24 percent favored Haniyeh's government, while 23 percent said there was no difference between the two governments. Six percent did not answer.

Even in Hamas' Gaza stronghold, 47 percent of respondents said they think the Fayad government is performing better than Haniyeh's government, compared with 31 percent who say Fayad is worse.

Still, Gaza residents say their security situation has improved since Hamas took power. The militant group has pledged to restore law and order to the chaotic area, banning public displays of weapons.

According to the poll, 44 percent of Gaza respondents said their personal security has improved, while 31 percent said it has become worse.

However, with Gaza facing isolation and economic hardship, 45 percent of Gazans say the general situation has worsened, while 34 percent say it is better.

The poll indicated diminished support for Hamas, which trounced Fatah in January 2006 legislative elections.

When asked which party they support, 34 percent of the respondents said Fatah and 21 percent said Hamas. The same question before Hamas takeover in June brought Fatah 33 percent and Hamas 29 percent.

If presidential elections were held today, Abbas would get 20 percent of the vote, Haniyeh 18 percent and Marwan Barghouti - a Fatah leader imprisoned by Israel - would get 16 percent.

The question did not take into account the possibility that Abbas or Barghouti might pull out of such a race to back the other in a showdown with Hamas.

The poll questioned 1,200 people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.