Moshe Katsav Jan. 1, 2011 (Ilan Assayag)
Moshe Katsav walking to synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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The vast majority of the public - 73 percent - believe the judges who found former President Moshe Katsav guilty of rape based their decision on evidence and reject the claim that they were influenced by the media, according to a recent survey.

In a breakdown by community, 42 percent of those who consider themselves religious believe the decision was influenced by the media, as compared to 12 percent of secular respondents.

The poll was conducted earlier this week (between Saturday night and Monday ) to examine public opinion on the Katsav ruling. A total of 995 individuals were polled by the Midgam Institute, under the direction of Dr. Ariel Ayalon.

Last month, Haaretz published the findings of an extensive survey held in May and August of 2010, during which 1,800 members of the Jewish community were asked about their views on the Katsav trial.

Professors Ze'ev Segal, Camil Fuchs and Dr. Tiki Balas conducted the poll as part of academic research on how the media influences public opinion about criminal trials.

According to that survey, 51 percent of Israel's Jewish population believed, prior to his conviction, that Katsav should be convicted of rape; 61 percent thought he should be convicted of other sex offenses.

In the latest survey, however, 77 percent of those polled agreed with the court's ruling. The figures for the religious community are 50 percent, and for the secular or conservative, 85 percent.

According to Fuchs, these results point to broad support for both the ruling and the credibility of the court, as the numbers of those who considered the ruling to be fair was even higher than it was before the decision.

Participants in the post-verdict poll noted clearly that, prior to the ruling, they were less convinced that Katsav should be convicted: 58 percent said that, prior to the ruling, they thought Katsav should be convicted of rape; 69 percent had thought he should be convicted of a different sex-related offense.

The majority of those polled (73 percent ) believe the judges reached their verdict on the basis of evidence. And most individuals polled reject the claim that the media had influenced the ruling.

Only 44 percent of the religious community felt the judges ruled on the basis of evidence and that the media had not influenced their decisions, as compared to 82 percent of the secular-conservative community.