Latest Cyprus poll results show participation is vital
January 14, 2013
Until today, Cyprus remains divided between the Greek-Cypriot community in the South and the Turkish-Cypriot community in the North. The island has been separated since 1974 by what is commonly referred to as the Green Line. Several rounds of peace talks with the intention to reconcile the two communities have failed over the course of the past decades.
The importance of public opinion
The latest efforts to come to an agreement between the leadership of both communities have reached a deadlock. Yet preparations to resume direct talks are underway. Any agreement that is going to be negotiated at the highest political level will be put to a referendum in both communities. Therefore any settlement needs to take public opinion in Cyprus into account for it to last.
This fact makes the work of Cyprus 2015, the Interpeace initiative in Cyprus so important. The team has just released the latest results of a public opinion poll drawing on data gathered in 500 face to face interviews in both communities.
A trend towards rejecting a potential peace agreement
For the past four years the desire to reach a settlement in Cyprus has remained equally high among members of both communities. The latest poll however shows that there is a strong trend among Greek Cypriots to lean towards a rejection of a peace agreement if it is going to be put to popular vote (51%). At the same time votes in support of a settlement are at the lowest level since tracking began (18%). Within the Turkish-Cypriot community the formerly undecided also lean towards voting “no” in a future referendum (42%).
Despite this negative trend the findings also show that substance matters. Independently of all other factors, citizens in both communities will evaluate the content of any peace agreement and then vote accordingly.
Another surprising finding is that citizens who are better informed about the peace process don’t necessarily have a more positive attitude towards it. On the contrary, knowledge can confirm existing stereotypes and consolidate trends.
Participation is key
In order to achieve a sustainable outcome of peace talks at the highest political levels, increased citizen participation in the peace process is essential. Indeed, the poll reveals a strong desire of the public to be more involved in decision-making processes. More specifically, citizens from both communities expressed that they want the negotiators to visit their communities and discuss key elements of the peace talks. Other ways to increase interaction between the political leadership and the citizens would be to make more use of the Internet and social media and empower civil society to have a more meaningful role in the peace process.
Access the complete poll results here (PDF).
Read the Cyprus 2015 press release (PDF).