Peace Polls

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Peace Building Problem.

One man’s middle ground is another man’s surrender. Inevitably, everyone, except perhaps the talk's chairman, views a fair compromise as a sell out to the other side.

Northern Ireland Experience

Once all the questions are drafted to everyone's satisfaction then each issue should contain a series of options or choices for which the informant can indicate their preference. In the first poll done in this series people were asked to rank order their first, second and third choice and so on. This worked reasonably well up to a maximum of about eight choices but it got progressively more difficult and slow. In the second poll those being interviewed were asked to say which options they considered to be 'Desirable', 'Acceptable', 'Tolerable' or 'Unacceptable' and in subsequent polls 'Essential' was also added in as a first choice. This five-point scale worked very well indeed. It was simple to administer in the field if the same style was used throughout the questionnaire. Adding more options didn't make answering the questions more difficult and analysing the results produced easy to understand information that clearly indicated how much each community wanted or did not like each option. For example, here are the results for the controversial North/South bodies options published in the Belfast Telegraph on 13 January 1998.1 Unionists did not want them at all or with as few powers as possible. Republicans wanted them to have strong powers that would effectively make them a government of Ireland as a whole. The polls indicated that the Protestant community would accept North/South bodies with powers of consultation, co-operation and administration providing these powers did not exceed he authority of the respective governments, North and South, that had set them up. Catholics required these bodies as part of an agreement and they got them within the limitations acceptable to the Protestant community, Figure 1.

Public Opinion Poll Action

Test solutions to problems as a series of graded options that span the issue being raised from the radical position of one party through the centre ground to the radical positions of others. Inevitably the fair compromise, as well as points of agreement, will receive the greatest cross community support, objectively measured and not subjectively perceived.

Israel and Palestine

Israeli and Palestinian peace researchers are reluctant to run polls that deal with the extreme positions of the two communities and thus expose the true feelings of their electorates on such issues. But unless this is done in both communities together the possibilities of establishing the necessity of carefully crafted compromises cannot be clearly demonstrated in contrast to those extreme positions. Additionally, when research is done in this way, extremist politicians can make the point that their proposals were not tested against public opinion, allowing them to dismiss the results of the research as irrelevant. Finally, without input from real negotiators the finer points of compromise cannot get drafted and tested against public opinion so progress in the peace process towards new accommodations cannot be made with the aid of such polls.

Figure 1