Our interest was instantly piqued when the idea of exploring the biggest issue of the past few months from a slightly different perspective – going beyond the commonplace questions of most public opinion polls in recent weeks – first cropped up. As we finalized the questions for the questionnaire used in the survey, we knew that this would be one of those occasions when we would wait for the results with eager anticipation.
This was the right time for such a preliminary documentation of the general imprint left by the novel coronavirus on Greek society: on how it has been assimilated into the public conscience, what people believe about it and how many have bought into the various “theories” being circulated – some of which have proven even more infectious than the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself.
Our country and its citizens responded to the first phase of what has been an unprecedented health crisis for this generation with maturity and gravity – but also with compassion. The majority of citizens have similar views on several fundamental questions: Five in six see the coronavirus as a major public health threat; eight in 10 say the health measures that were adopted were necessary despite their impact on the economy; and most could choose restrictions again in the event of a fresh flare-up, though preferably on a case-by-case and/or geographical basis.
However, the opinions expressed in the survey conducted by Pulse RC for Kathimerini’s Sunday edition also diverge wildly in some cases, and especially on some interesting aspects of the issue. For example, four in 10 respondents believe that the novel coronavirus was a natural occurrence, but five in 10 think it is the work of human hands, with two in 10 of those saying it was accidental and three in 10 believing it to have been deliberate.
Half the respondents do not agree with the opinion that there are pharmaceutical firms, billionaire investors and countries “hiding” behind the new coronavirus – regardless of how they may interpret the term “hiding” (maintaining? exploiting?). But the other half agree.
Most reject the notion that the epidemic is being exploited, unjustifiably, at the expense of privacy protection or in a bid to intimidate the public into accepting compulsory vaccination. On the other hand, the just over three in 10 who accept the idea are by no means a small part of Greek society.
These different points of view and beliefs provide ample food for thought and discussion, regardless of whether they are looked at from a social, political or public health perspective. For example, could these divergent opinions undermine the compassion and maturity with which a second wave of the epidemic is dealt with? This is not the only alarming question that emerges.
Some “theories” appear to be gaining significant ground, espoused by a greater percentage of people in the lower education and income brackets. The traction gained among some groups of the population – such as those with only a primary education – by the theory that the virus is being exploited to force vaccinations and the overall skepticism toward vaccination that this opinion expresses, is another cause for concern.
There are areas that call for caution even from the governing party, which has performed well in its management of the epidemic and has reaped popularity rewards for this, particularly with regard to continued fear of the virus as the government attempts to get the economy back on track.
There is one issue, though, where Greeks appear to have strong immunity, and that is against the theory that the spread of the virus is somehow related to the new 5G internet technology.
Giorgos Arapoglou is General Manager & CDO of Pulse Research & Consulting.