Nine things politicians should know about Georgian voters
This blog post shows that despite significant problems related to political competition in the country, the blame directed towards voters is exaggerated. Based on a small scale pilot survey of 342 voters in suburban Tbilisi (representative of the voters living in Gldani and Samgori districts of Tbilisi), and conducted between March and April of 2015, this post shows that voters’ preferences are more nuanced than some politicians give credit for. In fact, voters often hold seemingly conflicting views. Hence, this blog post claims that Georgian political parties have many options to put forward effective electoral programs for the 2016 parliamentary elections.
The questionnaire contained 14 pairs of questions about voters’ preferences on economic and social issues. Most of these pairs of questions included statements with opposed meanings that were read out in a random order. The respondents were asked to agree or disagree with each statement using a scale from 0 (“Completely disagree”) to 10 (“Completely agree”). Hence, the survey helps not only to understand voters’ preferences, but also to examine inconsistencies between the voters’ positions on opposed statements.
Descriptive analysis of the data leads us to observe that Georgian political parties would find helpful. These observations are grouped below under nine major issues, with mean scores for the respective statement, measured on an 11-point scale, reported in parenthesis. All reported differences are significant as tested using t-test. The data was not weighted, hence we use “voters” and “respondents” interchangeably throughout this blog post.
- Economic liberalism: Voters are quite liberal on some economic issues, such as the state’s role in income redistribution and business ownership. For example, more respondents supported the statement that “The Government should provide equal opportunities for economic activity and then should not get involved in income redistribution” (7.85) than the statement that “The government should increase taxes for the rich to finance the poor” (5.33). Moreover, more respondents endorsed business ownership and investments in the country regardless of the investors’ nationality (5.52) compared to reserving business ownership to Georgian nationals alone (4.68).
- Land ownership: Respondents do not mind if foreigners invest in the Georgian economy and own a business, but most believe that the land should be owned by Georgian citizens, no matter how the owner uses it (6.73). The opposing statement – that the owner’s nationality does not matter in so far as s/he uses the land profitably – received relatively low approval (4.37).
- Government spending: As much as respondents appreciate the idea of limited government interference in the economy, they do expect the government to increase social spending, even if this requires cutting money from infrastructure development (6.99). Significantly, fewer respondents supported the option of developing infrastructure even if it requires reduced social spending (3.51).
- Support for democracy: Voters are very liberal in terms of human rights and participatory governance: an overwhelming majority supports the idea that “human rights are a supreme value and should always be protected” (9.19). In contrast, relatively few respondents believe that the state’s interests should prevail over human rights (4.20). Even fewer voters endorse a strong leader who makes decisions for the good of the country (2.99).The vast majority of respondents approve of an elected leader who makes all the important decisions in consultation with the public (7.88).
- Prioritizing traditions: Support for democratic values is not unconditional. If such values clash with traditions, respondents expect the government to sacrifice freedom for the sake of tradition. More voters say that the government should restrict publishing any information which contradicts the traditions of society (6.18), than voters who believe that publishing any information is the publisher’s sole responsibility and the state should not get involved (4.76).
- The split over secularism: It is well known that the Georgian Orthodox Church has been the most respected institution in the country for the past decade. Voters are, however, split on the issue of the church’s involvement in politics: secularists are in the majority (“Religious institutions should not participate in political decision-making” – 5.76). Yet, quite a few respondents believe that, “In policy making, politicians should obey religious institutions” (4.73).
- Law enforcement: Voters support stricter law enforcement than what they witness in today’s Georgia. More respondents report that “The police are too lenient on the people who break the law” (6.05) than agree with the opposing statement (3.64).
- Inconsistent preferences: If voters’ preferences were perfectly consistent, opposed statements would be negatively correlated with a coefficient of -1. However, no pairwise correlation is so strong: the highest correlation coefficients are observed for the land ownership and law enforcement questions (-.56), followed by the questions on religious institutions and business ownership (-.47). It is noteworthy that respondents did not see pairs of statements on the government’s role in income redistribution and freedom of information as having opposed meanings.
- Issues and parties: Increasingly, Georgian voters do not identify with any political party, i.e. they do not name any political party which is “close” to them. It is a very relevant question for all political parties to find out whether such voters are systematically different from their fellow citizens who support a political party. This survey shows that party identification is not a significant factor for issue preferences. Moreover, inconsistency of preferences is also not related to party identification, showing that non-partisan voters are not more confused than partisan voters.
Interview by Dustin Gilbreath
By: Dustin Gilbreath
CRRC’s third annual Methodological Conference: Transformations in the South Caucasus and its Neighbourhood
[Note: Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the third blog post in the series. Click here to see the first and second blog posts in the series.]
[Note: Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the second blog post in the series. Click here to see the first blog post.]
CRRC’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) was launched in 2009 as a Carnegie Corporation initiative within the CRRC, with the goal of providing on-the-job training opportunities in applied research for young social scientists.
In August 2012 CRRC launched the study of Georgia’s Workforce Development system, commissioned by the World Bank. Document review and key informant interviews have been used as main research methods in this study. On 19th of December, the World Bank office in Tbilisi hosted a workshop which aimed at presenting and validating the preliminary finding...
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Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and GeorgiaDo voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.
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In the December 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, pollution was the second most commonly named “infrastructural” issue, with 23% of the population choosing it in the respective show card. Only roads were named more often, by 33%. Approximately equal shares of men and women named pollution: 25% of women and 20% of men; similarly, there was no difference in the frequency of naming this issue by age.
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In early December 2017, two schoolchildren were killed on Khorava Street in Tbilisi. On May 31st, 2018, Tbilisi City Court announced the decision on the Khorava Street murder case. The announcement caused mass demonstrations led by Zaza Saralidze, a father of one of the murdered children.On June 19-26, 2018, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey on people’s knowledge about the Court decision and their evaluation. The survey resulted in 1005 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The average margin of error of the survey is 2.8%.
Livestock care and livestock-related decision making in rural Georgia: Are there any gender differences?CRRC-Georgia’s survey conducted in August 2017 for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asked about livestock owned by rural households in Georgia, including cows, bulls, buffalo, pigs, sheep, and goats. Cows and bulls were reported to be owned most commonly. Some of the questions the project addressed the division of tasks between men and women in taking care of livestock, while other questions tried to find out whether there were gender differences in making major decisions related to livestock and livestock products.
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But what do people want?
Georgians are enthusiastic in supporting the country’s accession to the European Union. Since 2012, when the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia started tracking attitudes, three quarters of Georgians approved of the government’s goal of joining the EU, on average. What motivates Georgians to support the Union, or alternatively, to abandon support? A survey experiment included in the latest CRRC/NDI poll suggests potential economic burdens have a modest yet significant effect on support for membership. Results do not support the common belief that a potential military threat from Russia dampens Georgians’ support for the EU.
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