About the Cyprus Peace Polls
Dr Colin Irwin is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool. He conducted all the public opinion polls in support of the Northern Ireland peace process and on the completion of their Good Friday Agreement was first invited to Cyprus by the Greek Turkish Forum in 1998. He has visited Cyprus from time to time since then and has now completed two surveys about the current Cyprus negotiations which were conducted by Noverna in the Greek Cypriot community and Lipa in the Turkish Cypriot community. His work is funded by Interpeace.
This poll deals with the most difficult issues in an agreement and points the way to some potential solutions. When combined with the more positive aspects of an agreement a total ‘package’ should be able to achieve a ‘Yes’ vote in a referendum. Table 1 lists the top 10 issues dealt with in this poll, for each community, in order of importance as per cent ‘essential’ for an agreement.
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TCc Poll undertaken by Lipa Consultancy. Interview mode: Face-to-Face PAPI. Representative sample of adult population aged 18 years +, based on random selection using stratified rural and urban groups with a total of 67 PSUs (primary sampling units). Sample size 1200 with a margin of error of +/- 2.82% at the 95% confidence level. Interview dates: February 3rd to February 11th 2017.
On 11 February 2014 the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and UN agreed a Joint Declaration that set out the parameters for reaching a settlement of the Cyprus problem. It included requirements for the implementation of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Although a start has been made on CBMs more could be done. The top priority for the two sides and UN remains the reaching of an agreement on the future of Cyprus that is acceptable to both communities. However, that agreement must also pass a referendum and in this context CBMs may have an important role to play. So firstly then how important do the GC and TC communities consider the role of CBMs? Table 1 gives the results and there is little or no significant difference between the TC and GC opinion on this point. They are sceptical about the ability of the two sides to implement CBMs, but they do want CBMs and do believe they could help negotiations.
GCc Poll undertaken by Noverna Analytics & Research. Interview mode: Telephonic via CATI from Noverna Call Center in Nicosia. Representative sample of adult population aged 18 years +, based on random selection. Sample size 600 with a margin of error of between +/ - 2.9% and +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level. Interview dates: March 27th to April 11th 2017.
TCc Poll undertaken by Lipa Consultancy. Interview mode: Face-to-Face PAPI. Representative sample of adult population aged 18 years +, based on random selection using stratified rural and urban groups with a total of 67 PSUs (primary sampling units). Sample size 1200 with a margin of error of +/- 2.82% at the 95% confidence level. Interview dates: March 30th to April 7th 2017
The world is plagued by a number of frozen conflicts that hold themselves, their regions and occasionally the whole world to ransom denying their people peace while stoking the fires of geopolitical conflict. Israel and Palestine is the most well known of these frozen conflicts and Syria has the potential to become one along with the transnational Sunni/Shia split and radicalised international terrorist groups. Frozen conflicts can be ended by one side defeating the other, e.g. Sri Lanka, or by peace agreement, e.g. Northern Ireland where, significantly, the agreement reached was endorsed in a referendum supported by a programme of public diplomacy and opinion research. Similarly it should be possible to resolve the Cyprus frozen conflict but so far all efforts have failed. What has gone wrong, can the Cyprus problem be solved, and if so are there lessons to be learnt there that can benefit the rest of the world?
I first got involved in Cyprus when I was invited to make a presentation of the methods used in Northern Ireland to the Greek Turkish Forum in Istanbul in 1998. At that meeting, chaired by the US President’s Special Envoy Richard Holbrook, I persuaded the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to start with a peace poll that focused on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). They agreed but the proposal was not followed up resulting in the failed peace process and referendum of 2004. Lessons were learnt and local Cypriot NGOs were created to fill this gap with funding from the UNDP and Interpeace. Then, following the resumption of negotiations in 2014 I was invited to run a series of peace polls in support of negotiations in 2016/17 as part of a final ‘push’ to reach an agreement.
This paper reviews three peace polls conducted in 2016/17 using the Northern Ireland methods that require the negotiating parties to agree all aspects of the research agenda including the questions asked. The results of these polls are reviewed and compared with results from other conflicts using the same or similar methods. In Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka a ‘peace package’ would always overcome potential difficulties inherent in the various elements of an agreement not acceptable to both parties. However, this is not the case in Cyprus where the benefits of a settlement have yet to be fully demonstrated. Significantly, no one is getting killed in Cyprus rendering the status quo acceptable.
Confidence Building Measures were an important part of the Northern Ireland peace process and although the polls indicate the people of Cyprus want an extensive program of CBMs to be implemented, they have been resisted by the Greek Cypriot side as ‘normalization’ of the status quo. But ‘normalization’ can be avoided if the CBMs focus on ‘symbolic’ issues of peace making first rather than ‘substantive’ elements of a final peace agreement. Experience in Northern Ireland and polling in Cyprus, Israel and Palestine suggest that this strategy will work both there and elsewhere in the world.
Download the paper: Cyprus Lessons: How to melt a frozen conflict