Misleading exit polls spur heated political debate

Misleading exit polls spur heated political debate


By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens

Greek minister of the interior, Yannis Michelakis, has asked the Association of Greek Market & Opinion Research Companies to take the necessary measures in order for exit polls to be accurate in their prediction in Sunday’s European and local elections.

The minister sent a letter to the Associations’ chairwoman, Christina Karabela, Monday after last Sunday’s exit polls were far off in local election results projected. The minister said citizens were being misled as false impressions were created, not for the first time.

A debate begun Monday in Greece over what went wrong with the exit polls as shortly after citizens cast their votes on Sunday, exit polls gave the false impression that main opposition SYRIZA – backed candidates were set for surprise landslide victories, especially in the Attica region and the municipality of Athens.

The official result showed coalition government – backed candidates faired rather well in most of the country’s 13 regions while SYRIZA – backed candidates managed to reach the second round of voting in Attica and the municipality of Athens on small margins.

University of Athens professor, and top statistician, Ilias Nikolakopoulos explained in statements to the Greek press on Monday that the exit polls were thrown off largely because respondents that voted for New Democracy of PASOK candidates were reluctant to reveal their true vote. On the other hand, SYRIZA supporters were keen on stating their preference. This led to pollsters gathering far more flattering results for SYRIZA that were proved wrong by official results coming through in the early hours of Monday.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was quick to state a victory for his party on Sunday, adding however that “the better goals come in the second half”.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told reporters on Monday that the SYRIZA leader was hasty in his estimates and raised the stakes too high for his party with regards to the European elections and the second round of local elections coming up May 25th.

Venizelos later expressed his party’s backing for ND candidates up against SYRIZA contenders while New Democracy threw its support behind the incumbents for Athens mayor and Attica regional governor, both backed by the socialist party.

Ahead of what are expected to be tense runoffs, the coalition partners and SYRIZA are expected to use all their powers to sway voters their way. While New Democracy and PASOK officials are looking at possible cross-party alliances on a local level to boost their candidates, SYRIZA turns to those opposed to the memorandum to gain broader backing. In such polarized circumstances, pollsters will certainly have much to answer for should they get estimations wrong for a second time.