The People's Peace Process: Northern Ireland and the Role of Public Opinion Polls in Political Negotiations

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Irwin, Colin (1999) The People's Peace Process: Northern Ireland and the Role of Public Opinion Polls in Political Negotiations , Security Dialogue 30(3): 305–317.

The systematic use of public opinion polls was helpful in negotiations over the Belfast Agreement of April 1998 - and after. Irwin lists practical 'dos and don'ts' in the use of this novel tool. His narrative traces and reflects the progress of the negotiations, through questions dealing with confidence-building to hard issues about the nature of an acceptable comprehensive settlement and the thorny and vital difficulties surrounding the de-commissioning of weapons. A summary of an acceptable settlement is close to the agreement actually reached, and also gives indications of the deal's middle-ground support and slow implementation. Polls also proved useful concerning unresolved issues after the agreement. The use of public opinion polls is a means to an end, not an end in itself. With qualifications, this tool could be applied in other conflicts as well.

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