The PASOK government’s series of social programs and welfare packages has helped trim the lead held by New Democracy in opinion polls but the conservatives still appear to enjoy an advantage that will be difficult to overturn. A nationwide telephone poll conducted by the RASS company for Kathimerini found that 37.9 percent of the 2,100 respondents would vote for ND if elections were held today while 30.2 percent would vote for PASOK. The 7.7 percent difference is markedly smaller than the 9.8 percent found by the same company in May, when ND lead PASOK by 39.6 percent to 29.8 percent. The number of undecided in the last polls was 17.3 percent, just down from 17.4 percent in May. The poll also found that 40.8 percent believe incumbent Costas Simitis is the best candidate for prime minister, followed by ND leader Costas Karamanlis with 39.2 percent. The September poll gave the Communist Party 5.2 percent (from 4.7 percent in May), the Left Coalition 3.8 percent (from 2.6 percent) and the Social Democratic Movement 2.4 percent (from 2.0 percent). The extreme right-wing LAOS gets 1.5 percent (from 1.8 percent) and appears to be heading for further decline. The threshold for parliamentary entry is 3 percent. The RASS poll was conducted from Sept. 11-17 and has a margin of error of 2.1 percent. It found that most people felt that PASOK was being weighed down by the fact that it has been in power for so long. Apart from a gap between late 1989 and 1993, PASOK has governed since 1981. The polls found that 59.8 percent believed this worked against PASOK, 25.6 percent said this was to PASOK’s benefit and 12.0 percent said it made no difference, while 2.6 percent did not reply. On the other hand, 60.9 percent said that it was to New Democracy’s benefit that it was in opposition. In today’s papers there will be another two polls showing also that ND’s lead over PASOK has been trimmed. A Metron Analysis poll for Ethnos gave ND 39.3 percent to PASOK’s 32.2 percent (a 7.1 percent lead, down from a difference of 38.4 to 30.4 percent in June). An Opinion poll for Eleftherotypia gives ND 38.1 percent to PASOK’s 30.6 percent, a lead of 7.5 percent. Metron Analysis gives Simitis a lead of 39 percent to 35.7 percent for Karamanlis, while Opinion also puts the PM ahead with 43.3 percent to Karamanlis’s 40.0 percent.