The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) conducted a public opinion poll from September 6, 2018 to September 18, 2018 consisting of five questions related to the upcoming referendum on September 30, 2018. Respondents were asked to provide information regarding their residence (Diaspora/Republic of Macedonia), gender, age, and ethnicity. Nearly sixty percent (1,025) of the respondents currently reside in the Republic of Macedonia. The respondents were equally distributed according to gender and represented all major ethnicities in the country i.e. Macedonian, Albanian, Vlach, Roma, Turkish and others. The questions and answers were written both in Macedonian and in English.
The results of the UMD poll show an unwavering support of the boycott movement. A key principle in any democratic society is the right of citizens to vote in free and fair elections or to express their political will by other means. The decision whether to exercise the right to vote or to abstain is in itself a declaration of preference. Despite concerted efforts by the Macedonian government to garner support for the agreement though an aggressive media and ground campaign, as well as strong political pressure from foreign governments, our results show that an overwhelming majority of potential voters will abstain (84.6%).
The reasons for boycotting the referendum are many and range from legal objections to the devastating consequences its implementation will bring. Our results show that a clear majority (86.3%) believe that the agreement threatens the existence of Macedonia as a sovereign nation and damages the distinctiveness of the Macedonian culture, identity, and language. In exchange, people do not believe that the name change will bring about economic prosperity (87.3%), a familiar trope of the “Yes” movement.
The consistency in the percentages between questions 2 and 3 points to the fact that potential voters are simply not buying the quid pro quo rhetoric of the government i.e. just vote to change the name and Macedonia will become a prosperous nation. Even though Macedonians have shown support for NATO and EU integration in perpetuity, they strongly believe the name change is too high of a price to pay for such potential integration. The quid pro quo argument is further damaged by the following facts: a) membership into NATO, a military alliance, is not correlated to economic prosperity, b) membership in the EU is a far-off prospect in 2030 and does not depend on the name issue c) the agreement provides no guarantees and gives Greece myriad opportunities to impede Macedonia’s progress with complete impunity.
Finally, our research shows that cracks are appearing in the largest constituent base of the “yes” camp, i.e. people who voted for the current government (SDSM) in the last parliamentary elections. As expected, these voters feel cheated and would not cast their vote in future elections for people who have changed the country’s constitutional name (90.4%).
Considering the results of the survey, the United Macedonian Diaspora does not see a realistic practical scenario where the referendum can reach the required votes for a census (903,000+). Barring unprecedented voter fraud sanctioned by Western governments, this referendum will fail due to insufficient turnout. A failed referendum demonstrates that the majority of Macedonians do not approve of the Prespa Agreement and renders the same as null and void. In a failed-referendum scenario, the current Macedonian coalition government will lose political legitimacy, which may precipitate early elections.
Below are the survey results from Macedonia.