Sunday, May 22, 2011

Greeks Will Support Major Change

I have written before about Greece’s silent majority that will favor reforms as long as the pain is fairly distributed (see here). A recent poll by Public Issue provides more support for that thesis: it reinforces the idea that if the government had the courage and vision to articulate and implement a broad agenda, the Greek people would welcome it.

The opinion poll is fairly comprehensive and contains several data points. Many are well known: disenchantment with the political class and a growing pessimism about the country’s direction. But there are salient points that the government ought to pay attention to. Three stand out.

First is a sense that Greece politico-economic model has failed and the country needs to change. A full 89% of respondents thought the country needs either radical change (56%) or a revolution (33%). Since 1999, the comparison year, there has been a growing radicalization as those who thought minor changes were sufficient now think a “revolution” is necessarily. Revolution, of course, is a vague term, and those most supporting revolution are the communists. But what is significant is that at least half of those who voted for the major parties (except the communists) thought “major change” was needed.

Second, those who oppose change and are vocal about it consist of a small and concentrated grouping. Only 28% of poll respondents said they protested during the last year, and only 10% did so several (4+) times. In other words, the loud reaction comes from a small group of people. Their attributes are the following:  
  • They are largely drawn from the left with 61% of those who intend to vote for the Communist Party having protested and 85% of Syriza supporters (leftist coalition) having done so. Supporters of other parties tend to protest at the "average rate" of 28%, although only 14% of those who would vote for the ruling PASOK party protested.
  • They are highly educated with those having competed university being four times more likely to protest than those without a high school diploma
  • The age groups with the highest predisposition to protest are 18-24 and 45-54 with about 44% of each having protested. So the protesters are university students and those closest to retirement (many in the age group 55-64 are already retired). The participation rate at the in-between age group (25-44) is around one-third.
  • They are likely to be employees (as opposed to self-employed or unemployed) and they are more likely to work in the public sector than the private sector.
Third, the expectations of the Greek public have become more and more pessimistic, but they have also changed in important ways. On one hand, polls show that most people expect a progressive deterioration in the country with more unemployment, poverty, closure of companies and social tensions. Almost two-thirds think the country will default. But 82% think that state owned companies will be privatized and 62% think life-long tenure for public sector employees will end. These two data points may seem puny, but they reflect a growing acceptance that certain pillars of the country’s politico-economic system will change. That acceptance makes it easier politically for these things to change.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.