Peace Polls

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Peace Building Problem.

Each party to a conflict will not take the issues and concerns of other parties seriously. In particular they believe that the complaints put forward by other parties - particularly those directed at themselves - are little more than political rhetoric designed to ferment discord and distrust between their respective communities. The issues, concerns and complaints, they believe, are not genuine and therefore do not need to be addressed as part of a negotiated settlement.

Northern Ireland Experience

The party negotiators were invited to list what they believed to be the most significant causes of the Northern Ireland conflict. In practice when one party raised an issue of concern to their own community in a draft the next round of consultations stimulated a series of counter concerns from opposition parties. For example when Republicans proposed ‘The British presence on the island of Ireland’ as a problem Unionists countered with ‘The Republic's involvement in Northern Ireland affairs’ and so on. Social issues, like segregated education and housing, tended to be introduced by the smaller centre parties as was 'The failures of Northern Ireland politicians'. The question is given in Table 1 listing all the suggestions and results for Northern Ireland as a whole, Protestants, Catholics and each of the major political parties expressed as a percentage of those who said the 'cause' was 'Very Significant'.

Public Opinion Poll Action

Get all the parties to a conflict to list the elements of the conflict, as seen from their point of view, in mutually acceptable neutral terms and test them against public opinion to see which issues are genuine concerns of the respective communities and which are not.

Israel and Palestine

Most of the polling done on the Middle East conflict is done in one community or state or another for the consumption of the people and politicians in those communities or states and their counterparts in Washington and other capitols. The polling is not generally done to inform Israeli and Palestinian citizens exactly what each other’s priorities are for peace and how best to get there. It is not an on-going dialogue between the conflicting parties but more commonly a statement of their respective negotiating positions. Israelis and Palestinians live in their separate ‘bubbles’ maintained through the barriers of security walls, checkpoints, different languages and separate lives. A successful peace process must necessarily bridge these gaps and the 2009 Irwin/OneVoice poll attempted to do this. The respective problems of each community were prioritised (Tables 2a and b) but unlike Northern Ireland this program of public opinion research and public diplomacy was terminated, the problems were not addressed and the peace process failed.

Table 1, 2a and 2b