It’s the economy stupid: An experiment on Georgian support for the European Union
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.Over the years, a utilitarian hypothesis for public support of the European Union has gained traction: the potential economic gains associated with EU membership explain popular attitudes in Western Europe as well as in countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. At first glance, economic factors are key for Georgian support for the EU. When prompted on reasons for approving the country’s EU membership, Georgians most frequently pick the opportunity to improve Georgia’s economy. In contrast to support, security appears to be the main reason why people oppose EU membership.
Although these findings are suggestive, people’s stated reasons often hide other potential causes. Moreover, less is known about whether potential economic and security trade-offs have a compounding effect on decision making to approve EU membership. In the April 2019 CRRC/NDI poll, CRRC carried out a survey experiment to learn more about these issues. Respondents were randomly presented four vignettes describing potential economic benefits and losses of EU membership. To assess whether a potential security threat might cancel out or exacerbate the effects of more utilitarian statements, two out of the four vignettes included an additional sentence on a potential security threat from Russia.
After hearing vignettes, respondents were asked their voting intentions on a hypothetical EU membership referendum (see figure above). The results suggest that a potential economic loss (“increasing prices”) increases the probability of voting against EU membership. The effect is rather small – presenting the statement on the potential economic burden of EU membership increases the probability of voting against EU membership by five percentage points. These findings might be explained through the concept loss aversion. According to this idea, humans are more likely to act to avoid losses rather than working for a gain or pleasure. Thus, not surprisingly, Georgians are more concerned with potential losses associated with EU membership than its benefits. Although a plausible cause, a further experiment testing whether people react to the idea that joining the European Union could decrease prices would better pinpoint whether loss aversion is at work or not in this case.
Importantly, none of the other treatments including the combination of the Russian threat and increasing prices changed attitudes. It is hard to crack the mechanism why a doubly negative statement does not affect respondents’ feelings, when one of the statements alone does. One speculative explanation suggests that potential benefits associated with the European Union overpowers or cancels out the effects of ominous Russian threat as the latter is almost ever-present in the country’s life. Nontheless, more research is needed in order to test whether this is a plausible explanation.
What do these findings tell us? Null results suggest that many Georgians have attitudes towards the country’s foreign policy goals that are not easily swayed. Positive attitudes are relatively prone to change even when communicating potential economic and security threats. Importantly, among other utilitarian factors economic costs have the highest potential to move Georgians against integration in the European Union among the lines of argumentation tested.
To explore the data in the blog above, visit caucasusbarometer.org. Replication code for the analysis used in this blog is available here. A full presentation of the results of the recent CRRC/NDI poll is available here.
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...
As Georgians prepare for parliamentary elections set for October 1, 2012, political parties have entered the final stage of the pre-elections race. One of the important attributes of active citizenship and civic engagement is voting in elections. This blog explores Georgians’ attitudes toward voting in elections based on age group and gender differences. In this r...
By Till Bruckner
By Nino Zubashvili
By Dustin Gilbreath
In terms of the business findings, CRRC's Media Survey (undertaken in September/October 2009) generated extensive data that is available to help media make good business decisions. One recent presentation, summarized here, focused on showing the diversity of data that is available.
Food Safety in Georgia: views from retailers, producers and consumers in Tbilisi and Samtskhe-Javakheti
Book Review | The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus | Christoph Zürcher
Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data
Here are some basic tips and tricks we found useful.
Book Review: Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus | Thomas Goltz
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
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.
On December 1-13, 2016, CRRC-Georgia asked the population of Georgia about their New Year’s plans. Unsurprisingly, people mostly follow established traditions. A large majority (73%) plan to ring in the New Year at home. Nine per cent will meet it in a friend’s or a relative’s home. Meeting the New Year in the street or in a restaurant or a café is not yet common, and only one per cent of people in Georgia plan to do so. Another 15% had not decided in the first half of December where they would celebrate the New Year.
What are young people’s values and how are these different from older generations’ values in Georgia?As Georgian society is going through social and cultural changes, it is important to understand people’s beliefs and values. Comparing the values of young people to those of the older generations is also important. This blog post summarizes the findings of a study that examined the values of young people aged 18 to 25, and analysed how these values are different from the values of older people in Georgia, based on both quantitative (World Values Survey, 2014) and qualitative data (40 in-depth interviews conducted in 2016). The study looked at values, perceptions, attitudes and tolerance towards different minority groups in Georgia. It concludes that in many cases, the younger generation shares more modern views and values, while the older generations are more inclined to support traditional values and hold conservative points of view.
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.
The Caucasus Barometer survey regularly asks people, “Which of the following statements do you agree with: “‘People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent’ or ‘Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.’” Approximately half of the population of Georgia (52%) agreed in 2017 with the former statement and 40% with the latter. Responses to this question have fluctuated to some extent over time, but overall, attitudes are nearly equally split.
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.
The 2018 presidential elections, and particularly, the events surrounding the second round, have come to be considered a setback for Georgia’s democratic trajectory. Between the first and second round, it was announced that 600,000 voters would have debt relief immediately following the elections, leading some to suggest this was a form of vote buying. A number of instances of electoral fraud were also alleged. The use of party coordinators around election precincts was also widely condemned.
But what do people want?
CRRC-Georgia investigates who is more susceptible to Russian-pushed conspiracies surrounding Georgia’s US-funded Lugar Centre.
In Georgia, a conspiracy about the US-funded Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Tbilisi has recently gained traction. As CRRC-Georgia’s USAID-funded research shows, Georgia’s far-right groups eagerly picked up on this conspiracy and blamed the centre for the seasonal flu outbreak in early 2019.
While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.
The 2019 survey on Knowledge and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia which CRRC Georgia carried out for Europe Foundation suggests that this trend is continuing in Georgia.