Syriza, the Euro and a Greek public opinion poll

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

An opinion poll, which has been carried through in Greece over the period of July 22 to 24 2015 by BridgingEurope.net is offering interesting results, which display a change of attitude within the Greek population [1]. The disenchantment in relation to Syriza shows distinctly, yet without it changing – for the time being – prognostications for anticipated legislative elections that will probably take place next autumn. The most conspicuous change appears in relation to the Euro. The gap between the number of Greeks desirous to keep the Euro and those desiring to leave the Eurozone seems much more tenuous than what opinion polls were showing at the beginning of July. Moreover, an absolute majority of the people polled think that Greece will leave the Euro. Whether they approve or disapprove of this option.

It advisable to be prudent about these results. Public opinion polls in Greece are not very trustworthy. Yet this one was done by a foreign organization. It uses the method of phone calls. However, this method tends to reduce the share of the most deprived classes (or of younger respondents) and to shift the sample, be it only by a few points, towards the middle classes, which are known to be much opposed to an exit of Greece from the Euro. One may therefore reasonably think that the gap is even narrower than the one indicated in this opinion poll.

A « treason » on the part of SYRIZA

The first questions concern the appreciation of the politics of Syriza. The present politics of the government are rejected, or considered unsatisfactory, by 77% of the persons polled. But what is truly important is the reasons for which these policies are rejected:

Table 1

Do you think that Syriza has abandoned its electoral program?   Do you think that the Greek government has capitulated before its creditors?
Yes 83% Yes 76%
No 9% No 9%
Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 8% Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 15%

One finds only 9% of polled persons who have answered « no » to both questions. More than three Greeks out of four estimate that the government has indeed « capitulated » before the demands of the creditors. The feeling of the Greek population, if one is to follow this poll, is indeed one of having been betrayed.

However, and this is an important point, the break-up inside of Syriza provoked by the diktat of July 13, is not felt to be a good thing.

Table 2

Do you think that the rupture within Syriza is a good or a bad development?

All   Syriza voters
Good 31% Good 16%
Bad 58% Bad 79%
Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 11% Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 5%

These numbers show that in a certain way, the Greek population remains attached to a Syriza government. Taking into account the Greek electoral system, which has been well absorbed by the population, a division of Syriza runs the risk of bringing the right (Nea Democratia or the party To Potami « The River ») to power. For the elections follow the proportional system, but the party, which arrives first, receives a majoration of 50 seats. The evident risk is that, in the case of a division, Syriza could arrive in second position behind New Democracy (which, as many Greeks quip, is neither new nor democratic). And it is not only the voters of Syriza who do not want this, but it seems indeed that the whole population, tired of alternating between two formation, PASOK (socialist) and New Democracy, which are equally nepotistic and corrupt, doesn’t want it either. This result is confirmed by the following voting intentions:

Table 3

Voting intentions in the case of anticipated elections

Syriza 33,2%
New Democracy 18,6%
To Potami (The River) 6,4%
Golden Dawn 5,9%
KKE (Greek Communist Party) 5,2%
Independent Greeks (ANEL) 4,1%
PASOK 3,0%
Various 4,2%
Express no intention 19,4%

These results are extremely interesting. First of all, they show that the voting block of Syriza is still strongly in the majority. Second, the traditionally pro-European parties remain very weak. The block New Democracy – To Potami – PASOK would only arrive at 28% of the votes. One cannot make out any increase, following the disappointment caused by Syriza, of the parties representing the traditional position of acceptance of the conditions of the Troïka. This block of three parties, which represented the “hope” of the European institutions, remains very weak in the voting intentions. Similarly, the parties representing a radical opposition, be it Golden Dawn for the extreme-right or the KKE for the extreme left, are not progressing. Finally, and this is an important point, there is a sharp rise in the category « express no intention. » However, it is not impossible that, inside this category, there are either « ex-Syriza » voters who are waiting for a new party of the left to emerge, or that one is dealing with voters who do not dare to admit to the pollster that they have chosen in favour of Golden Dawn. It seems indeed that the important increase in this category reflects a real problem among Greek voters.

 

The Euro, a subject less annoying

Another lesson of this poll is the evolution of representations connected with the Euro. First of all, we must point out the extreme scepticism of the Greeks concerning the agreement signed on July 13th.

Table 4

Do you think that a « bailout » agreement will bring an improvement in the social and economic conditions of Greece?

All   Voters of Syriza
Yes 8% Yes 7%
No 73% No 82%
Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 19% Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 11%

What is striking, here, is the relative unanimity of the answers. Massively, the polled persons do not think that economic and social conditions in Greece will be improved by an agreement with the creditors. Obviously, the agreement of July 13 is perceived for what it is: a capitulation, which will not bring about any improvement in the situation. The prospect of an exit from the Euro is forthwith seen as inevitable, and the percentage separating opinions favourable and opposed to this exit is narrowing. There were nearly 75% of opinions opposed to an exit from the Euro at the end of June.

Table 5

In the present circumstances, do you prefer remaining inside or exiting the Euro?   Do you think that a GREXIT has been avoided? 
Remaining 41% Yes 32%
Exiting 36% No 58%
Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 23% Doesn’t know/expresses no opinion 10%

In a way, this question is even more important than the preceding one. If the population « believes » in an exit from the Euro (a Grexit), it will behave as if this exit will happen, particularly in its behaviour towards the banking system. Conditions being such, there is a big risk that the exit will be inevitable. This is the phenomenon known as “self-realizing” anticipation. The fact that 58% of polled persons, and then of the population, could think that an exit is inevitable is to weigh considerably on economic and financial behaviours of households and of businesses. But one must also point out that the number of polled people preferring to stay in the Euro has crashed in less than a month. There are at present only 41% of persons polled wanting to stay in the Euro, facing 36% considering that it would be preferable for Greece to exit. The 5% margin between the two positions is very low and is likely to correspond to the margin of error for a poll conducted by telephone.

We are indeed seeing a reversal of opinions on this point.

 

 

 

[1] This poll can be downloaded here : http://www.bridgingeurope.net/uploads/8/1/7/1/8171506/be_nationwide_poll_july2015.pdf

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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