Do the pollsters know what they’re doing? Do respondents know what they’re being asked?

The Slog investigates why the Greek Referendum opinion polls are all over the place – and concludes that the predictions are at best misleading.

Last Sunday, Alco polling in Athens showed 57% of respondents ‘wanted a deal’ with the Eurogroupe, 29% didn’t. This was not “do you want to accept the terms of the last offer?’ which is what will be on the ballot paper. On a similar basis the next day, only 47% wanted a deal, 33% didn’t. But EFSYN 24 hours later showed a diametrically opposite result.

Fieldwork was then undertaken by ProRata research on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, it reported that only 33% were in favour of accepting the deal, and 54% planned to vote against acceptance. (By this time, the bank closures were known about).

The same day, I posted about another poll showing a lead for No to the deal of between 7-12 points across all social groups except ND and PASOK supporters. (https://hat4uk.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/giving-a-false-impression-jeremy-hunt-the-eurogroupe-nigel-farage-and-dermot-oleary-which-is-the-odd-one-out/)

So Alco was entirely alone in its view of public opinion on the issue, while the trend was clearly moving Syriza’s way. But Reuters chose to ignore all non-Alco polls until the ProRata report. Their chief writer on Greece, Hugo Dixon, is solidly pro-Eurogroupe and has offered a consistently negative view of both Syriza support and the Greek economy. Reuters published the ProRata survey results, but said “the No lead is clearly narrowing”.

But only three days earlier, the site showed the YES campaign clearly ahead. Now the position had been reversed, but the NO lead was narrowing. So apparently, those keen to continue the baseball sessions with a YES had gone NO once the bank closure had happened, and then back to YES when they opened again. Unless the Greek electorate is masochistically deranged, that’s about as counter-intuitive as it gets;

Again completely against the trend, this morning Alco has published a repeat survey showing 44.8% Yes, 43.4% NO. So given the margin of error (around 3%) that’s Too Close to Call. Reuters once more chose to lead on the Alco study, calling it “a narrow lead” for the YES side – even though statistically it is no such thing.

As my own feedback from Athens, Crete, the Mani, Pyrgos and Kalamata reflects none of this seeming instability of opinion, I decided to look a little further into Alco’s survey track-record.

From 11th to 13th January prior to the General Election that brought Syriza to power, Alco gave the Party 32.4% of the vote compared to 28.9% for New Democracy. Eight days later on January 22nd, Alco gave Syriza 31.2% versus 27.1% for ND.

In the election itself, Tsipras’s Party got 36.3% of the vote, New Democracy 27.8%. What looked too close to call on margins of error (and let’s not forget how wrong, on similar figures, UK polls got the May 2015 election) turned into Syriza winning comfortably by 8.5%.

I’m not the only one who thinks the Referendum data rather odd. The Telegraph’s politics blog yesterday found it inexplicable….but did nail one very important point, with which I agree entirely: the Western press, the eurogroupe and almost all business websites are either being sloppy or pernicious in muddying the clear waters that lie between NO TO THE DEAL ON OFFER and NO TO THE EUROZONE. If there is one thing all the polls agree upon, it is that circa 70-75% of Greeks don’t want to be thrown out of the eurozone.

My own strong (and unpopular) view is that the idea of Greece remaining an equal partner in the ezone now and defying the eurogroupe is a fantasy based on the cake and eat it with chocolate sauce and ice cream on top principle. Whether one calls this Greek opinion naive or cheeky depends on one’s perspective on The Marathon. The point is, as an expectation it exists. And the usual media suspects are exploiting it.

Old friend Tony Taylor was spotted by The Slog in Syntagma Square this week showing his solidarity with the Yes vote. Tony’s a long-time europhile with broad experience of handling EU-based automotive clients, and good for him – he believes in it with a passion. But flicking Greek channels earlier this week, I was struck by the imbalance of coverage in favour of YES versus NO demos. An audit published yesterday confirms that gut feel: the Greek TV bias was a staggering 8:1 in favour of YES.

This is a steeply tilted playing field that Syriza supporters, sympathisers with Greece and indeed all those fearful of the EU’s anti-democratic tendencies must learn to accept. For me, the most dangerous thing of all is to ignore it in a rose-tinted episode of fluffy optimism. This is where the British Labour Party falls down (and then apart) over and over again, because it doesn’t get out enough.

I would recommend that any non-Greek visit Kalamata in all its intellectual and achitectural glory, and take in the self-interested, ruthless and ineluctably materialist views of those with fat heads and big bottoms who tend to predominate in this, the capital of Antonikis Samaras admiration. Everyone in Europe needs to grasp that, if its political elasticity is tested too crudely, then Hellas is going to dissolve into civil war.

In the meantime, I fancy a pillar of salt is required in relation to Sunday’s YESNO interlude. If the Greeks vote for more baseball bat pummellings, then that’s their funeral….and believe me, it will be. My gut empiricism says they won’t. But either way, one electoral negotiating ploy will not make a jot of difference to the eventual outcome: economically, socially and financially, the euro is a toxic enemy of democracy. It is doomed.


  1. “muddying the clear waters that lie between NO TO THE DEAL ON OFFER and NO TO THE EUROZONE.” This is EXACTLY what was told this morning by a friend of mine whose sister who speaks fluent Greek is currently on holiday in Greece. The Greeks are totally confused by what is going on but most do not want to leave the Eurozone.


  2. If, like several polls, you think the vote is too close to call then Ladbroke’s odds of 7/4 for a ‘No’ seem quite generous.


  3. This is what I was getting at yesterday. Who owns the media and the pollsters? Because you can bet your bottom euro they’ll be trying to spin the Yes as dominant.

    Our ever predictable BBC were so utterly biased towards Yes yesterday I just couldn’t read any more of their take on things. Journalism you can trust… Yeah right!


  4. Is it going to be a Yes a No or a definite maybe, who knows, but it will all end in tears no matter what.


  5. And of course the pollsters got it so right recently with our GE…Why does anybody believe a word they say? And to add insult to injury, the pollsters are not on minimum wage with a zero hour contract are they? Another example of a completely superfluous entity. Still, I suppose the majority of folk believe what they read in the newspapers, those that can read….


  6. ‘the euro is a toxic enemy of democracy. It is doomed.
    Mmmm, but which one, the Euro or democracy? For the way I see it democracy has already been doomed and the Euro is still here…So, perhaps you are right but, not in the way you intended.


  7. NO took ~46% (SYRIZA, ANEL, GOLDENDOWN) according to the recent January elections and YES took ~40% (ND, PASOK, POTAMI, KIDISO). The YES-coalition will expectedly hold its voters, so the question is how many voters of SYRIZA did not actually mean it.


  8. If anyone fancies a good laugh they could always read Jeremy Warners absurd views over at the Barclaygraph. It’s truly terrible so I won’t link to it.


  9. Whilst in Turkey last week I was speaking with a couple of Greek ‘entrepreneurs’ (yes, in Turkey) whose pungent views on recent developments in Greece particularly and Yurp generally were most illuminating. They were of the opinion that the general public are so utterly despairing of their own political classes’ patent corruption – both financial and moral – that they sincerely feel a foreign government is more to be trusted than their own. They reckon that it is this mistrust which will sway the vote towards the ‘Naia’ camp – along with a touch of ‘holding on to nurse for fear of something worse’ to help it along.

    I’m not naive enough to think that I have discovered a fundamental truth here, but it was interesting to hear it from Greek businessmen who would rather that the Greek government told the EU to Foxtrot Oscar, start printing drachmas, and follow Iceland’s lead. Their wishes regarding their own political leaders and senior bankers were enough to make even this old soldier blanch a bit; if I were among their number I would certainly be ensuring that the old bugger-off fund was topped up and the family charabanc kept full of petrol should the Colonels decide that enough is enough.


  10. Politicians and journalists are rather like the speakers in a school debating society where one would be expected to form an argument on a motion regardless of personal opinions.
    Jeremy is a professional journalist who submits obedient copy to suit his paymaster’s taste.
    In an recent post JW referred to a T.V. host for X-factor who said, unashamedly, that he would never criticise the programme because it paid for his house.
    Paying pipers and calling tunes over-ride principles.


  11. All well and good but, who are the General’s paymasters? I suspect it will be Washington particularly if Washington suspects the hand of Putin pulling some invisible strings.
    Did you see, I believe was a ZH article, where China now believes it could be in a position to offer bailout help to Greece?
    It ain’t simples unfortunately, this really has nothing to do with Greece per se but NATO and the US hegemony and the Petrodollar where the only real Paymaster is Washington.


  12. Whichever way the vote goes, I think NO most likely, the country is moving towards civil war whereupon the army will step in to take control.


  13. “…this really has nothing to do with Greece per se but NATO and the US hegemony and the Petrodollar where the only real Paymaster is Washington.”

    This is the nub of the matter. The EU is dependent on the USA and NATO.


  14. That to me is not a criticism of journos, who are mere wage slaves. It’s more a criticism of the readers who believe the bilge they write.


  15. Will
    That really struck me too: I was Skyping a friend in Thessalonika telling me one thing while listening to an anchor on BBCNews spouting newswire Stepford drivel.


  16. Ben
    That’s an excellent observation, and probably what Sunday comes down to in the end. Thanks for adding value.


  17. OAH
    For some wordpressing reason, I can’t reply to you: perhaps ‘pooter says Nowoo cos you sound like KJH. But anyway, I don’t mind graphers believing what Warner writes, I just think they’re mad to pay for it.


  18. On Monday, the BBC sent a reporter out to ‘gauge Greek opinion on the referendum’. He walked up to Greeks and waved a drachma and euro in their face and asked ‘Which do you prefer?’ This was supposedly a straw poll ON THE REFERENDUM.


  19. Don’t tell me… Said BBC reporter was sporting a YES to Austerity T shirt as well!

    You’ve got to hand it to the Beeb, they do biased with panache. Can’t let democracy and principles get in the way of the salary and pension.


  20. Whatever the result on Sunday, the next Greek administration is going to have to nationalise its banks (cf, RBS, Lloyds HBOS, Northern Rock), as the ECB has rendered them insolvent.Then, any German politician worth his salt is going to ask Ange what is the carrying value of Greek debt on the government’s balance sheet, and that question applies to Francois, in the collapsing French economy( and that major French bank that is bust….). And then there are the EU’s own accounts, up there with Enron, not to mention the marbled offices of the EBRD.The thing about empires is trying to predict the timing of their demise, the Roscoe Tanner moment when you put an easy volley into the net, when you have nearly won. My bet is October.


  21. I’m told that the BBC receive a considerable amount of financial support from the EU, the reason no doubt why they are so pro-EU. Would this be the case too with the Greek National Broadcaster? The number of “NO” folk who were first out on the streets in Athens this week seemed quite substantial (as shown/reported by the BBC). The following evening – in the same street scene, at the same time of day – there was hardly anyone to be seen from the “Yes” camp. Might this be a guide? Anyone see the same?


  22. No ?, means that we wish to have Δημοκρατια and our lifes and future back.

    Anyway we do not wish EU/EZ to become German EU/EZ, do you ??


  23. Zutano……..Assuming you are Greek………..if you asks a friend or neighbor. What is your vote yes or no? They will tell you that they are voting no just to avoid an argument with you because they are aware of your strong opinion on the subject. This is why the polls are so inaccurate because people are fearful of telling the truth to the pollster because others might be listening.. Remember the polls that showed a divided gov in the UK? I rest my case.


  24. Nick, I think you are right, but the Troika have made such a mess of their hand, mainly by thinking they hold all the cards, being so sure the Greek government will roll over like the last lot and because the technocrats have no sense of the feelings of their opponents that they have pushed on regardless with their demands. All they can see is what they want and have no regard for any other opinions (Wolfie may have something to do with this). I think they have miscalculated badly and did not expect the Greek government to call for a referendum, hence their immediate panic when faced with this; Juncker’s sickening 45 minute attempt to blame Greece and Dijsellbloems rant confirmed this.

    Anyway, we will have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

    I get a sense that a perfect storm is slowly brewing over all of us and that events are beyond the control of anyone. Let the chips fall where they may.


  25. It makes no difference. Whatever happens tomorrow, Greece will stay in the euro and austerity will be imposed. The Greeks either choose IMF austerity or economic collapse. It’s not a difficult one.


  26. Or to put it another way, they’re choosing between a quick death and a slow death – the outcome’s the same, only the process is different.


  27. Most people I’ve talked to say NO–but a lot sincerely believe you can say no without exiting the euro. Reading Frances Coppola’s post on Forbes.com today (July 4) this may indeed be possible, if not what they mean. Democracy in Europe? This, as Coppola points out on more than one occasion, is rather deficient here. A great example of how much Europe cares about the things that really matter (not money) was made clear to me when I got a petition from the RSPB yesterday concerning Europe’s latest move to roll back Natura 2000 and other environmental protections for the sake of business interests. I signed it, of course. Everyone should. Without an environment we can kiss our whole world goodbye. By the way, the MSM keeps going on about how pensions and wages are the main sticking points for an agreement with the troika. This is bullshit. Read the document and find out how this deal (and probably any future deals) will crucify farmers and make shipping seek other havens. Also, if the possibiity of civil war isn’t scary enough, the prospect of becoming the EU/US’s front line in the war against ISIS is truly terrifying. What do you think Tsipras if offering the Americans big bases in the eastern Aegean for?


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