Haaretz Survey: One Third Support Freezing Investigations Against Prime Minister

During the week that Prime Minster Ehud Olmert was questioned over the Bank Leumi tender affair, a poll found almost one third of the population thought the investigations against Olmert should be frozen so that he could concentrate on governing the country.

A huge majority of those polled said the large number of investigations seriously undermines the prime minister's ability to manage the country. As to diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians, it seems that Olmert has widespread support, with half of the populace in favor of the talks he is conducting with the Palestinians.

These figures are part of the results of the periodic Haaretz-Dialog survey, conducted by Professor Kamil Fuchs of the statistics department at Tel Aviv University. The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 502 people from the general public.

51 percent of those surveyed said they supported the talks between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, with 42 percent opposed. As expected, support for the talks came from Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Arab-party voters. Surprisingly though, 40 percent of Yisrael Beitenu voters and 28 percent of Likud voters also favor the talks. A majority of right-wing voters were against.

When asked whether the investigations against Olmert should be frozen until the end of his term, 28 percent said yes while 64 percent said no. Labor Party voters were split: 47 percent on each side of the issue. Surprisingly, 54 percent of Kadima voters, Olmert's own party, were against halting the investigations.

A large majority of the populace thinks that the investigations are interfering with Olmert's ability to run the country: 36 percent though he could concentrate on his work only to "a small extent," while 49 percent said that he "almost cannot concentrate on running the country" due to the investigations.

Of course how you view the statistics depends on your political stance: Lapid, for example, would claim that this only strengthens his stand. Olmert's opponents would claim the opposite, explaining that if he cannot devote his full time to his responsibilities, he should not remain in the job for a even minute longer. In any case, 85 percent of the public does agree that it does not have a full-time prime minister with optimal use of his time.

The periodic survey again checked the public's approval rating for Olmert's performance as prime minister; and here, to Olmert's sorrow, there has been no change: only 15 percent of those questioned expressed approval of his functioning, compared to 74 percent who were dissatisfied. This figure is identical with previous surveys.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak showed a small gain, slow but steady, in his approval ratings. 33 percent approved of his job as defense minister, compared to 30 in the survey of two months ago. But Barak cannot be satisfied with this number, since his disapproval rating is rising even faster: 46 percent were dissatisfied with his performance compared to 39 percent in the previous survey.

The conclusion is that the more Barak settles in, the more the public's opinion of him firms up on both sides, with the number of those dissatisfied rising twice as fast. If anything, this should provide Olmert with encouragement, since he and Barak are fighting for the same voters.