The results of yesterday’s Greek national elections surprised pollsters, who for the weeks leading up to the vote predicted a very close contest between Syriza and Nea Demokratia. In the event, Syriza came first with a clear lead of 7.4% (35.5% of the vote compared to ND’s 28.1%).
The efficacy of traditional polling methodologies has been questioned in several recent contests, including the U.S. presidential election of 2012 and the U.K. national elections of 2015, both of which delivered clear winners after supposedly “too close to call” poll results. However, while in these instances the failure of polling to predict the result was met with a shrug, mild accusations of incompetence from the media, smugness from the candidates’ internal polling teams, and eventually some more nuanced and occasionally self-critical analyses, the Greek response was altogether more robust. Sensing that the outcome of elections in a country representing a colossal 2% of European GDP, and holding in its hands the geopolitical balance of the civilised world, was too important to be judged by the standards of “advanced” “Western” democracies, politicians were quick to cry foul.
Despite the leading parties experiencing the most significant upset, ironically, it was the smaller parties that appeared most outraged.
Panos Kammenos, leader of junior coalition partner ANEL (Independent Greeks), who made a surprise re-entry to the new Parliament and into government, used his victory speech to accuse pollsters of being “paid assassins and crooks of the metapolítefsi (the post-junta era)” (implying perhaps that in the “good old days” their dark arts were surplus to requirements). Earlier, as results were rolling in, he took to Twitter to accuse one specific polling organisation of being “on the take”.
Vassilis Leventis of the Centrists Union celebrated his first entry into Parliament after decades of trying in time-honoured style by attacking the pollsters for allegedly being in league with the larger parties to suppress the more resounding success he felt he deserved.
Sceptics might venture that the outrage of parties whose success consisted of polling 3.7% and 3.4% respectively (vs. the 3% threshold required to enter Parliament) is inversely proportionate to their understanding of statistics and the concept of “margin of error”. The aggrieved parties would simply point out that “”Mathematics” are the tools of the demagogue and the dictator, and their paymasters the pimps of the New World Order. Anyone who tries to hoodwink the sovereign people with concepts that require schooling beyond primary school level deserves to be found guilty by the peoples’ inquisition, burned at the stake, and fed to the giant lizards at the centre of the earth”.
Until more reliable polling methodologies can be devised, it is advisable to continue using more proven traditional empirical approaches, including the flitzáni and bird divination (always following the guidelines of the Humane Society). While not sensitive enough to deliver pin-point precision, the former method was able to accurately predict the overall winner (the mysterious Mr Kanenas as judged by the “big round ballot box”, who stole votes from all major political parties) and can thus be recommended for its robustness.
Disclaimer: No pigs were harmed during the Greek elections.
POSTSCRIPT: Worth reading a sober, non-conspiratorial analysis of the polls published a few weeks later.