Peace Polls

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Peace Building Problem.

Some parties and, at the very least, some members of some parties remain wedded to the radical views of their constituency as the best solution to everyone's problems. They simply will not accept that a compromise with cross community support is the only viable solution and way forward.

Northern Ireland Experience

In addition to testing radical proposals as options alongside options for compromise and common ground in all the public opinion poll questions, extreme Republican and extreme Unionist solutions were also tested against the emergent Belfast Agreement shortly before it was made. The Unionist alternative to a comprehensive settlement was published in the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday 31 March 31 1998.(1) They wanted a devolved government like Scotland or Wales and for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. A simple majority of the population said 'Yes' to this proposal but significantly a higher percentage preferred the Belfast Agreement style comprehensive settlement from both communities and a majority of Catholics did not wish to remain in the UK. The Republican alternative was published the following day, Wednesday 1 April.(2) Although a slim majority of Protestants would accept police reform they would not accept an ‘all island of Ireland’ body to manage policing. Having the people of Northern Ireland decide their constitutional status was acceptable to both communities but Protestants would not accept having their fait placed before an ‘all island of Ireland' vote and almost everyone, except Sinn Féin, wanted a regional assembly. That day the headline read 'Little support for SF agenda'.

Public Opinion Poll Action

From time to time test radical proposals against public opinion but be sure to get the radicals involved in the exercise with the questions drafted to their satisfaction. Inevitably such proposals will only receive support from their own constituency and even then that support may not be as strong as they might suppose. Most people can recognise an honourable compromise when they see it - and when they don't.

Israel and Palestine

This kind of exposure of radical solutions from extremist politicians and their polarized constituencies can only be an effective tool for positive public diplomacy when the results of such polls are published in the media of all the parties to the conflict at the same time. But Israelis and Palestinians live separate lives in segregated communities informed by their own media in their own languages, which in turn are serviced by their own news agencies. The necessities of a modern peace process and public diplomacy require the establishment of a comprehensive strategic communications strategy and joint news agency.(3)

1 C. J. Irwin, ‘Alternatives to a comprehensive settlement’, Belfast Telegraph, Tuesday, March 31st, (1998).

2 C. J. Irwin, ‘Little support for SF agenda’, Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, April 1st, (1998).

3 This was done in Kosovo and Serbia with the establishment of the ‘Albanian-Serb Information Exchange Forum’ available at: