The phenomenon of social violence has not been a common subject of empirical study in Greece. By way of contrast, in addition to the extensive theoretical debate and opposing views on violence, the international literature also includes a considerable number of social studies that focus specifically on subjects such as domestic violence, violence against women, school violence, sports violence, etc. This analysis by Public Issue examines the magnitude and diffusion of violence in Greek society and notes the changes that have taken place over the past seven years(1). Furthermore, it reveals which population groups have a higher perception level of social violence and identifies the main settings in which it is manifested.
According to a recent measurement (February 2013), the perception level of violence (i.e. as subjectively perceived) in Greek society is high and widespread. The vast majority of citizens (86%) consider violence in society to be fairly common/very common, with just 13% expressing the contrary view (Figure 1). Similarly high perception levels of violence had also been recorded in previous measurements, in 2009 (86%) and 2006 (84%), which serves to illustrate that violence has for some years become entrenched in Greek society (Figure 2).
Social violence is not perceived to the same degree by all categories of the population. The following groups are more acutely aware of the phenomenon (Table 1):
- Women (92%) compared to men (80%), either because they are more prone to instances of violence, or because they are more sensitized to the perception of such phenomena. The corresponding proportions of women who in 2009 and 2006 had expressed the view that violence is fairly common/very common were 90% and 88% respectively, compared to 81% and 79% respectively for men.
- Young people aged 18-34 (91%), compared to other age categories, 35-54 (89%) and 55 and above (82%). The percentage for the 18-34 group is 7% higher (2009: 88%, 2006: 84%), while for the 35-54 age group it is up by 6% (2009: 88%, 2006: 83%). In contrast, for the older age group, 55 and above, the general perception of violence shows a slight decline of 2% (2009: 83%, 2006: 84%).
- The unemployed (93%), compared to the employed (84%) and the economically inactive population (86%). The corresponding percentages of the unemployed whose assessment in 2009 and 2006 was that violence in Greek society is fairly common/very common were 83% and 85% respectively (increase of 8%). The proportions of the employed and the economically inactive population show no significant changes over time.
- Citizens ideologically aligned with the Left (89%), the Centre-Left (87%) or who describe themselves as Apolitical (89%). The corresponding proportions of citizens belonging ideologically to the Centre, the Centre-Right and the Right are 86%, 85% and 78%. Therefore, on the basis of the 2013 data, a correlation can be seen between level of perception of (social) violence and ideological self-placement. It is also worth noting that the highest increase in the evaluation of social violence (+9%) is, over time, among citizens belonging ideologically to the Left, whilst the greatest decrease (-7%) is among those who place themselves on the Right.
Also of particular interest is the ascertainment that the vast majority of Greek public opinion believes phenomena of violence have increased in recent years. Replying to the relevant question, 87% of respondents state that phenomena of violence in Greece have risen in the past five years, 10% express the view that there has been no substantial change, and just 2% that these phenomena have decreased (Figure 3). Over time, the proportion of citizens who estimate that violence in society today has risen is up by 13% relative to the 2006 measurement (2009: 86%, 2006:74% – Figure 4). Consequently, according to the prevailing view, violence in Greece society is not only entrenched, but the problem is constantly getting worse. During the period 2006-2013, evaluations within society regarding the extent of violence changed markedly, among the country’s male population (+15%), among the 35-54 age group (+19%), graduates of tertiary education (+21%), the employed (+17%), citizens reporting that they are living relatively comfortably (+17%), residents of semi-urban areas (+18%) and citizens belonging ideologically to the Centre-Left (+23% – Table 2).
Violence in schools is considered by respondents to be the most serious form of violence in Greek society at the present time. Responding to the relevant question, a relative majority of citizens replied violence in schools (36%)(2)and daily violence on the streets and in neighborhoods (34%). These forms are followed by family violence (23%)(3) and violence against immigrants (22%). In fifth place among responses is violence against women (17%), followed with a smaller percentage by sports violence (9%). Lastly, there is a sizeable proportion of citizens (27%) who believe that all these phenomena constitute an equally serious problem. Compared to the corresponding measurement in 2006, the only form of violence which shows a significant increase (+10%) is violence against immigrants, while the other forms have decreased, particularly sports violence (-22%) and school violence (-11%) (Figure 5)(4).
The evaluation of forms of violence is influenced by the demographic characteristics of respondents (Table 3). More specifically, women are more sensitized than men to the perception of school violence (40% against 31%) and domestic violence (27% against 19%). Correspondingly, the proportion of men who rate sports violence as serious, although small, differs from that of women (13% against 6%). The age factor, too, plays an important role in the evaluation of forms of violence. It is interesting to note that higher levels of awareness concerning daily violence on the streets (43%), violence against immigrants (26%) and violence against women (24%) are recorded among young people aged 18-34. Correspondingly, citizens aged 35-54 show a greater awareness of school violence (41%), clearly because many of them are parents and as such are better informed about violence in the school environment.
Level of education is directly correlated with citizens’ attitudes toward the problem of violence. In this respect, it can be seen that individuals with higher education show a higher level of perception to daily violence in the streets (40%) and violence against immigrants (33%). The respective proportions among secondary education graduates are 33% and 16%, while among those who have completed primary education, 22% and 13%. Violence against immigrants is mainly of concern to the residents of urban areas (24%, against 18% in semi-urban and 19% in rural areas), whilst domestic violence is reported primarily by the residents of semi-urban areas (30%, against 23% in rural and 21% in urban areas).
Relative to the unemployed and the economically inactive population, the employed give a higher rating to street violence (40%, against 36% and 28%) and violence against immigrants (27%, against 15% and 20%). Daily violence on the streets and in neighborhoods is seen as the most serious form of violence by 4 in 10 citizens (40%) who report living relatively comfortably.
The evaluation of manifestations of violence is also correlated with political self-placement. Violence against immigrants is mainly of concern to citizens on the Left (34%) and Centre-Left (34%), daily violence on the streets and in neighborhoods is a matter of concern chiefly for Centre-Right voters (49%), whilst violence in schools (41%) and sports violence (15%) are cited primarily by citizens who belong ideologically on the Right.
(1) Public Issue has been investigating matters relating to violence within Greek society since 2006. See http://www.publicissue.gr/802/varometro-noe-2006/ and http://www.publicissue.gr/1088/univercity-asylum-police/
(2) For the phenomenon of bullying more specifically, see the study of the European Community Daphne III Programme, ‘Europe’s Antibullying Campaign Project’ (2012), http://www.e-abc.eu/files/1/PDF/Research/School_Bullying_eng.pdf
(3) For domestic violence against women in Greece more specifically, see the relevant Eurobarometer report (2010), http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_344_en.pdf
(4) For a detailed presentation of the evaluation of the forms of violence, according to the demographic characteristics of respondents in 2006, see: Table 4, and Michalis Hatziconstantinou (2010), ‘Violence in Greek society’, in Yiannis Mavris (ed.), Barometer 2006: The public opinion surveys of Public Issue, Athens, pp. 385-396.