NOW July 8, 2014 Access to reliable data on socio-economic and political issues in Lebanon has been a rare and seasonal privilege, more often than not restricted to private circles. As a result, statistics offering a quantitative perspective on current affairs have been largely absent from the public debate, and the few that are available tend to be of questionable provenance and credibility. In the hope of addressing these needs and better informing the public, NOW's sister company, Quantum Communications, has partnered with the Sofres Liban polling agency to conduct multiple field questionnaires between the months of February and May 2014 on a number of fixed and varied themes. The fieldwork covered a national sample that alternated between 1,500 and 2,000 respondents and aimed to be representative in terms of such demographic factors as gender, age, confession, geographical region, education level and vocation.

NOW retains online exclusivity to publish the findings of these polls while offering commentary on the numbers in question. A total of eight themes will be addressed, both quantitatively and qualitatively, with an aim to reflect the Lebanese state of mind regarding the key issues facing the nation today, from optimism for the future and trust in politicians to government priorities and preferred presidential candidates.


Below, NOW kicks off with a look at the hotly-debated question of Hezbollah's military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Overall, the majority – 56% – of respondents in the first poll said they opposed Hezbollah's intervention. 28% said they supported it, and 9% and 7% had no opinion and gave no answer, respectively.

These numbers remained stable in the second poll, with 56.3% against, 29% for, 8% having no opinion and 6.4% giving no answer.


Of Hezbollah's primary constituency – the Shiite community – 61% supported the intervention in the first poll, and 60% in the second. The proportion opposing the intervention rose from 22% to 25%, while those giving no opinion and no answer moved from 12% and 6% to 8% and 6%, respectively.


Among other religious communities, Sunni respondents were most likely to oppose the intervention (82%), with a majority of Christians and Druze also opposed (61% and 63%, respectively) in the first poll. These figures changed in the second poll to 86% of Sunnis, 53% of Christians, and 64% of Druze opposing the intervention, respectively.


Breaking down the Shiite responses to the second poll by geographical district, those in South Lebanon were significantly more likely to support the intervention than those in the Beqaa: 71% for and 18% against in the former, versus 44% for and 34% against in the latter.


Stratifying the Shiite responses by education level, a clear trend emerged, with more educated respondents more likely to oppose and less likely to support the intervention.


As for age group, those Shiites aged 55-64 were most likely to support the intervention (67%), while those aged 35-44 were most likely to oppose it (30%).

Political analysts with whom NOW spoke said the overall objection to Hezbollah's intervention was in line with their expectations, citing the instability and violence – from suicide bombs to street clashes to rocket strikes – they said had been fuelled in Lebanon as a result of it.

Concerning Shiite respondents specifically, analysts opined the relatively high proportion (40%) not actively supporting the intervention suggests a growing divergence between street opinion and Hezbollah policy. "Hezbollah's media is working hard to promote the idea that the majority of people support the intervention," said Ali al-Amin. In fact, however, a higher number of Hezbollah's constituents than is generally appreciated are wary of "the intervention of a Lebanese party in another country's war," Amin opined.









As for the variation by geography, analysts pointed to the more tangible consequences of the Syrian conflict felt by Beqaa Shiites compared to those in the South. While Shiite-majority villages in the Beqaa have been struck by five car bombs and scores of Syrian rebel rockets in recent months, those in the South have been essentially left alone. "The people of the Beqaa are paying a higher price," said academic and activist Dr Hareth Sleiman.

The same is also true economically, said Amin, who told NOW Beqaa Shiites have historically had stronger commercial ties with their nearby Syrian neighbors – ties which have now been largely severed by the war. Sleiman also told NOW deep tribal bonds among Beqaa Shiites have historically preserved a measure of independence from Hezbollah that is less present among those in the South.

Commenting on the variance by education level, Sleiman told NOW those with lower education were likely to also earn lower incomes, and thus be more dependent on Hezbollah's extensive patronage networks for their economic livelihood. While cautioning that there are some "well-educated people who are more fanatical [Hezbollah supporters] than those who are less educated," Amin told NOW those with better education were in general more inclined to take critical and independent political stances, as in all societies.
“[Many Shiites] are against the intervention of a Lebanese party in another country’s war. If Hezbollah was defending Lebanon, a lot more people would have supported it”
— Ali al-Amin
The relatively high proportion (40%) not actively supporting the intervention suggests a growing divergence between street opinion and Hezbollah policy.
*Home District refers to the area in which citizens are registered to vote. “The people of the Beqaa are paying a higher price”
— Dr Hareth Sleiman

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A State of Minds 1-8
Introduction
1st poll 1-8
2nd poll b
what the numbers mean