Weary public

As news reports indicated yesterday, the European Social Survey – whose Greek section was coordinated and presented by the government-funded National Center for Social Research (EKKE) – exposed the Greeks’ many «problematic» characteristics. Looking for a common denominator, one could say that the findings underscore a conservative shift in the people’s view of society, whether this is reflected in a suspicion of foreigners or deep respect for religion and laws. As with all surveys where the respondents are asked to describe and evaluate themselves (for example, by rating themselves on a scale of one to 10), the poll’s conclusions must not be taken at face value. Barring this objection, the findings of the survey should be a cause for concern to local politicians as some of the conclusions coincide with other social indicators and reinforce the already strong feeling that politicians’ credibility and people’s politicization are both seriously impaired. However, in what way will the survey move Greece’s politicians? Here lurks a dangerous prospect. In a political system that tends to place near exclusive focus on communication policies and public relations, parties may well be tempted to exploit the recent poll and tailor their rhetoric to charm and woo voters. This would push political parties toward a more conservative public language and, at the same time, prompt them to ignore the causes behind the widespread public insecurity of which the answers to the survey are indicative. Such a politically expedient attitude would clearly pollute the country’s political discourse and tarnish any remaining political credibility. Greek politicians should refrain from exploiting the poll findings for electioneering reasons and should instead explore the causes of people’s disenchantment and see their suspicious view of politics as corroded by patron-client relationships where politicians are portrayed as being merely interested in votes, while citizens are seen as apolitical players simply looking for a payoff for their vote. Politicians must address all other findings with a similar, substantial approach – regardless of whether these concern economic uncertainty or great trust in religion and laws. Besides, it is far from sure whether these are the result of deep religious feeling and strict adherence to the law or due to the opposite feeling of moral decline and a lack of equality.