Poll shows disappointed Greeks might move left of Syriza

Poll shows disappointed Greeks might move left of Syriza

I am often asked by my Turkish friends how things in Greece are now. But I have great difficulty giving a straight answer. It would be simple to say “things are difficult,” or “Greeks are still struggling to get by.” But these answers would be incomplete, shallow and rushed.

So, I was very happy when I came across a major survey last week based on a large sample of face-to-face interviews conducted by MRB Hellas S.A., one of the leading research agencies in Greece which gave me a useful insight on how things really are in Greece now – of course with the reservation that surveys of such kind reflect “the picture of the moment” that could change dramatically if circumstances are altered greatly.

The results of the survey were published last week, and showed that the official opposition New Democracy Party is now ahead by nearly 4 percent over the governing party of Syriza; in contrast, at this time last year, Syriza was leading by 20 percent over New Democracy! 

But there are more interesting data about the trends in Greek society that might be an eye opener. To the question of who you think might be the most suitable prime minister, for the first time Alexis Tsipras, the present prime minister, considered to be one of the most charismatic figures in current Greek politics, has only 25.2 percent approval, while the newly elected leader of the center-right New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is now ahead with 28.2 percent. However, even more significant is that almost 42 percent of respondents replied “neither of the two.”

The same picture appears in the next question about which of the two biggest political parties could best deal with the problems the country is currently facing. Almost 40 percent replied “none.”

The picture becomes clearer and bleaker when people are asked about their feelings over their life. To the question “how do you think things will go generally in the country,” 93.2 percent replied “quite bad/very bad” and only 0.5 percent replied “very good/quite good.” Only 5.6 percent replied “neither good nor bad.”

Needless to say that when it comes to the economy and the prospects of Greece coming out of a six-year recession, the answers are very pessimistic. Some 93.5 percent think that the economic situation in Greece is generally bad/very bad; and 76.2 percent said their personal economic condition was bad/very bad. These figures of gloom and pessimism are also reflected in peoples’ predictions for this year, which was supposed to be – according to the Syriza government – a year of recovery. More than 80 percent believe that in the next 12 months, the economic situation is going to get worse. 

Predictably, in a country with the highest unemployment in Europe, the problem the respondents of the MRB survey said was the most serious was unemployment at almost 63 percent followed by the problem of heavy taxation and healthcare. 

To reverse the well-known saying “one picture is worth a thousand words,” only words that can best express the way Greeks feel about the future of the country. And these are “rage” (almost 64 percent), “shame” (almost 50 percent) and “fear” (almost 47 percent).

Greeks appear equally pessimistic about problems which do not strictly relate to domestic problems, yet they have a serious impact on their lives. So, to the question whether the refugee/immigrant problem can be solved within the next 12 months, the answer is overwhelmingly negative: 75 percent responded that the problem is not likely/not at all likely. 

There are other interesting and conflicting findings in the survey regarding the attitude of the Greek public toward issues like the EU (high percentage of disappointment) or the euro (high percentage of respondents who want to stay in the eurozone). And an overwhelming percentage of young people would like to leave the country if they could.

But perhaps the most important reading of the survey is that in spite of the continuous  hardships, suffered by a large part of the society, no trend was registered toward favouring extreme right or racist solutions. Although the extreme right-wing party of Golden Dawn retains its position as the third most popular party with around 7 percent, the survey demonstrated a new trend for more leftist solutions to the country’s problems. Parties either elected to parliament or active outside parliament who openly challenge the viability of the EU and want Greece out of the eurozone are now gathering popularity. Experts think this trend, although expressed vaguely at present, may find a more concrete political formation in the future if things do not change for the better.