Kadima Rising, Labor Climbing and Likud Falling

Three weeks have gone by since Ariel Sharon was hospitalized and Ehud Olmert stepped into his shoes, and not only has their party, Kadima, not shown any signs of weakening, it actually appears to be gaining in strength.

If elections were held today, Kadima would win 44 Knesset seats, according to a Haaretz-Channel 10 survey conducted yesterday among a representative sample of 640 respondents. A poll conducted a week ago gave Kadima 41 seats in the Knesset.

According to yesterday's survey, an election today would see MK Amir Peretz's Labor Party win 21 Knesset seats - up from 19 in last week's poll - and the Likud gain 14 seats - down from 17 in the previous poll.

The main reason behind Labor's improvement appears to be the publication of the party's Knesset list, which has a distinct leftist hue and seems to have attracted Meretz-Yahad voters. For its part, Meretz-Yahad is once again hovering around the threshold point, with yesterday's survey predicting just three Knesset seats for Yossi Beilin's party.

The reason for the Likud's deterioration is unclear, but may also be linked to the party's Knesset list, which is somewhat short on personalities and new faces and is distinctly right-wing in character.

Yesterday's survey also yielded 22 "floating seats," with 12 percent of the respondents saying they had yet to decide how they will vote, and 7 percent saying they will not go to the polls on March 28.

According to the survey - conducted for Haaretz-Channel 10 by Dialog, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs - Shinui would not win a single Knesset seat, while the Green Leaf Party, which advocates, among other things, the legalization of marijuana, has moved closer to Knesset representation and is hovering around the two-seat mark.

The survey did not find any significant changes with regard to the situations of the remaining parties.

Despite Labor's improvement, it appears the public does not believe it has the ability to win the elections and put together the next government. In response to a question as to which party will win the vote, the results were unequivocal: Some 61 percent of the respondents said Kadima would emerge victorious and that Olmert would head the next government. Just 15 percent said the Likud would win, and only 8 percent mentioned Labor as the victorious party.

Optimism isn't running very high even among the Labor voters themselves, with some 58 percent saying Kadima will win the elections, and just 25 percent confident their party will emerge victorious after the ballot.

Likud voters, on the other hand, showed more faith in their party, with 47 percent believing it will win the vote and only 32 percent saying Kadima will come out on top.

The survey was conducted less than 24 hours after Olmert's speech at the Herzliya Conference, but although the address was widely broadcast on television, 38 percent of the respondents said they hadn't seen it. Of those who did see and listen to the speech, 20 percent defined it as "a significant political address," and 30 percent said it was "a political address on the eve of elections."