Crisis in Greece: Canadians, Americans side with creditors in blame game over billions owed

Crisis in Greece: Canadians, Americans side with creditors in blame game over billions owed

Respondents in neither North American country worry the Greek crisis will affect their own economies


July 13, 2015 – The anti-austerity movement that led greece crisis pollPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza Party to government in Greece finds less resonance on this side of the Atlantic, where most blame that government – and the Greeks who voted for it – for the economic crisis unfolding in that nation.

A new Angus Reid Institute public opinion poll of more than 2000 Canadians and Americans finds the majority in each country sides with the “troika” of creditors: the IMF, European Union, and the European Central Bank over Greece.

But in spite of the havoc wreaked on world markets as a result of the situation, North Americans do not appear to be as concerned about long term negative effects on their domestic economies, or their own economic fortunes.

Key Findings

  • Strong majorities of Canadians (63%) and Americans (59%) say Greece has overspent and should not be afforded any forgiveness in their debt repayments; while the rest (37% Canada, 41% US) say suffering Greek people should see some of the billions debt forgiven by creditors 
  • When asked who is to blame for this crisis, nearly half of Canadians (45%) blame Greek governments, current and prior, by a nine-to-one margin over those who say the creditors are at fault (5%). One-third (36%) say both share blame equally 
  • By contrast, Americans are more likely to say both parties are to blame (44%), though a significant minority (30%) say the Greek government is responsible. An identical five per cent blame the creditors

Most North Americans sympathize with creditors over Greek government and people

On July 5, Greek voters rejected an austerity package that would have included $9B – $10B (US) in public spending cuts and tax increases as a condition of more bailout cash. The country is in economic shambles. Unemployment hovers around 25 per cent, and a staggering 60 per cent youth unemployment rate have crippled the Mediterranean nation. Greece has, in effect, run out of money.

Americans and Canadians however, are less sympathetic to the plight of the Greek people whom – in the eyes of respondents – are the makers of this mess, than they are to the legal right of international lenders to recoup billions of dollars in bailout funding.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Canadian respondents feel the creditors should “take a hard line”, remove Greece from the Eurozone, and not offer any debt concessions. A similar number of American respondents (59%) agree with this sentiment.

greece poll

Roughly two-in-five Canadian and Americans are on the opposing side of this debate, and say the suffering of the Greek people should be considered, and some of the debt should be forgiven, allowing Greece to stay in the Eurozone. These respondents are likely sympathetic to the crippling effects of austerity, which have led to a 22 per cent reduction in both public sector wages and the minimum wage.

Political affiliations appear to have an influence on responses in both countries: Those who supported the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) in the 2011 election were the most likely to support the creditors over the Greek government, though a majority of all major party supporters agree:

  • Three-quarters (75%) of Conservatives take this stance
  • As do 61 per cent of past Liberal Party of Canada voters
  • 56 per cent of past NDP voters also agree

In the US, Democrats are split down the middle on this question, 50 per cent each way. Republicans are less likely to side with Greece: one-third (33%) do so, with two-thirds 67%) on the side of creditors. Independents are more closely aligned with Republican supporters (37% – 63%).

greece referendum poll

Canadians primarily blame Greeks for crisis, while Americans see shared responsibility

Nearly half of Canadians (45%) blame the government of Greece for the economic crisis. Athens’ runaway spending, generous pension plans and poor tax collection appear to resonate much more than criticisms from the leftist government regarding austerity conditions imposed by bailout packages over the past five years.

Opinions across both countries are fairly consistent, though Americans are most likely (44%) to suggest equal blame is shared between both the government and the creditors. American, Canadian and British opinion on this question is laid out in the following chart:

angus reid institute

Pessimism about future of Greece, less concern over impact at home:

In the face of what many describe as a desperate situation for Greece and her people, Canadians and Americans are anticipating the worst is yet to come.

When asked if they see the situation in Greece improving or diminishing over the next two years, both nations see more pain for Greek citizens ahead. Just 12 per cent of Canadians and 13 per cent of Americans say the people of the country will be better off in 2017.

And while the crisis has brought panic and instability to world trading and currency markets – spurring the Canadian dollar to drop to less than 80 US cents, neither Canadians nor Americans say they think the situation will affect their own finances.

When asked whether they think their personal situation will change over the next two years, roughly one-in-ten (11% Canada, 14% US) said they anticipate being worse off, and the largest number (54% Canada, 39% US) say they will not feel a personal impact.

Some other findings about the impact of the Greek economic crisis include:

  • An equal number of Canadians and Americans say the European Union (28% both countries) will be worse off in two years
  • About as many are similarly concerned about the Euro itself (30% both countries)
  • One-in-five Canadians (20%) and more than one-in-four Americans (28%) said their own economies will be worse off because of the crisis

canada greece poll


Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693

Image Credit – Dimas Barquilla/Flickr

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