Some interesting public opinion polls released in recent days here in Greece, with results that were in some respects very predictable (no one will be surprised that the Greeks are not feeling too fondly towards Germany these days) but some that were quite surprising. The key findings:
1) The Greeks are feeling remarkably positively about their new government and the direction the country is taking, with 87% expressing approval for new Prime Minister Tsipras and 64% saying that the country is on the right path. These sort of stratospheric approval ratings are the kind usually enjoyed by governments only during wartime, when nations tend to put aside their differences in the face of an external enemy. Such is the depth of feeling about their treatment at the hands of the Troika that, to the Greeks, it does feel like a war. Granted, this poll was taken prior to the latest round of negotiations, which many felt produced disappointing results for Greece (though Paul Krugman in his “What Greece Won” column in the NYT makes a strong case here that the Greeks came out pretty well in the talks.) Certainly, Tsipras and Syriza are in the honeymoon phase, but the Greek people seem inclined to unite behind them and give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being.
2) Greek opinions of foreign leaders and nations are an odd mix. The U.S. and Obama are very popular, with 61% of Greeks viewing the US favorably and 72% viewing Obama favorably. Both the EU and France also score well, with 61% approval ratings. But the most popular country? Russia, at 68%. And, most surprising of all to an American observer–Putin nearly matches Obama’s approval rating at 70%. Only 20% of respondents viewed Germany positively (although I believe that Greek attitudes towards Germany are much more complex than this–more on this another day.)
Greece and Russia’s shared Orthodox tradition has produced a long history of close ties, going back to Czarist Russia’s early support for the Greeks’ struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. But I do have to wonder if Greeks have not been paying attention lately to the dangerous antics of the Moscow dictator.
On the positive side, despite the recent tensions over the debt negotiations, Greeks still see the European Union as the country’s best friend, with 43% naming them as Greece’s best ally. 27% answered “no one,” while only 13% named Russia.
You can see the full details of the poll results from Public Issue here.