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(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian pollsters were at a loss Thursday to explain their failure to predict the Islamic Hamas' resounding victory in legislative elections.
Exit polls on the night of the vote gave the ruling Fatah Party a slight victory, a finding that was dramatically reversed on Thursday when Fatah and Hamas leaders said Hamas had won a clear majority of the 132-seat legislature.
The discrepancy may have been due to a reluctance by some voters to admit to pollsters that they were abandoning the ruling party. The polling errors appeared especially glaring in district races, where smaller numbers of voters were surveyed.
Half the seats in Wednesday's parliament vote were chosen on a national list and the other half by districts. While the national voting appeared to be close, election officials said Hamas had won a large majority in the district races. Hamas apparently took advantage of divisions in Fatah, which had fielded multiple candidates in many districts, splitting the Fatah vote while Hamas' remained united.
Pollsters at the two leading Palestinian research centers, one at Bir Zeit University and another lead by pollster Khalil Shkaki, would not comment Thursday. Their offices said they were studying the results of the election.
"I don't know why the polls were wrong but it is very important to me to find out the answer," said outgoing Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib, a former pollster.
Polls involving Hamas are frequently wrong, giving the group less than it gets in the actual election, Khatib said.