Six months before the next national elections are due and despite a spate of handouts announced in recent months, the ruling Socialists are still trailing opposition New Democracy in popularity, according to a new poll published yesterday. The Metron Analysis survey presented by the Athens 9.84 municipal radio station gave ND a 38.5 percent rating over PASOK’s 31.7. The Communist Party came in third at 5.8 percent, followed by the Synaspismos Left Coalition at 3.6 percent. Former ND deputy Giorgos Karadzaferis’s ultra-conservative Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) made a strong showing at 2.7 percent, just 0.3 percent below the threshold for representation in Parliament. The poll was conducted nationwide between October 16 and November 1, with 2,000 respondents. The last Metron Analysis survey, in September, gave ND a 7.1 percent lead – down from 8 percent in June. The conservatives’ best showing in the past six months was in May, when the survey gave Costas Karamanlis’s party a 9.8 percent lead. According to the results made public yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is still considered most fit to govern Greece, with a 2.1 percent lead over Karamanlis – whose uncle, Constantine Karamanlis, founded ND in 1974. Nevertheless, Karamanlis enjoyed slightly higher popularity ratings than Simitis (54.3 over 51.4 percent). Asked to name the country’s most outstanding problems, 41.6 percent of respondents named unemployment. And most people said their chief personal problem was the state of their finances. New Democracy was deemed most suited to handle the economy, European Union funding and unemployment, while PASOK was seen as best for organizing the 2004 Olympics, completing major public works projects, handling foreign policy and terrorism.