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Thursday | 12 May, 2016

Public support for Democracy is on the decline in Georgia

Following the first ever peaceful transition of power in Georgia’s 2012 parliamentary elections, the country improved its position in the Freedom House and Polity IV democracy rankings. Results from the latest polls, however, show that public support for democracy in Georgia has declined over the past few years. Weakening support for democracy can pose a serious problem for the process of democratic consolidation in Georgia, that is, the institutionalization and maturation of Georgia’s democracy. Reversion to a non-democratic system is unlikely in consolidated democracies, where a democratic system is accepted as “the only game in town”. Public opinion polls make it possible to measure public’s support for democracy. This blog post looks at how attitudes towards democracy have changed in Georgia in recent years.

According to CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, nearly half of the population of Georgia (47%) agrees that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government”, and only 16% thinks that “in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable”. However, if we compare these findings with previous waves of CB, it is clear that during the past four years, support for democracy has declined in Georgia. It was rather stable from 2011 through 2013, with approximately two thirds of the population reporting that democracy is the best form of governance. While in 2011, only 8% thought that “in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable”, this share doubled in 2015. The share of those who answered ”for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have”, also increased during the same period.






Notably, the share of the population who consider Georgia a democracy has declined. According to CB 2011, half the population characterized Georgia as either ”a full democracy” (8%) or ”a democracy but with minor problems” (42%). In 2015, only 3% and 20% reported the same. The share of those who characterized Georgia as ”a democracy but with major problems” or ”not a democracy” increased.



It might be expected that one of the reasons why support for democracy declined would be the weakening of democratic values. Although a number of indicators can be used to test this,  CRRC data  do not suggest that this is the case. Support for democratic values has, in fact, visibly increased. For instance, the share of the population who agrees with the statement that “people should participate in protest actions against the government, as this shows the government that the people are in charge” has increased.  Since 2012 the share of the public agreeing with this statement has been at least twice as large as the share of those who agreed with the opposite statement.

 


Although, over time, the share of the population who regard Georgia as a democracy declined, the data shows that freedom of speech has likely been strengthened. For instance, since 2009 the share of those who agree that in Georgia people have the right to openly say what they think increased from 55% to 72% in 2015, while the share of those disagree with the opinion halved.




There is, thus, no empirical evidence confirming that the decline in public support for democracy in Georgia is caused by the weakening of democratic values. Hence, the reasons for the decline described in this blog post likely lay elsewhere.

When Georgia’s democratic development is discussed, public opinion is often forgotten. As this blog post has tried to demonstrate, the political elite should not take public support for democracy for granted. Attitudes towards democracy, like other attitudes, may often be changing. Further research is needed to understand the causes of this, since democratic consolidation is less likely without public support.

To find out more about public attitudes in Georgia, visit CRRC’s online data analysis tool.

08.08.2015 | Saturday

What do CB interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence tell us?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) surveys regularly collect information about how the interviewers assess each of the conducted interviews – so called paradata that provides additional insight into the conditions surrounding the interviews (e.g., whether someone besides the respondent and the interviewer was present during the face-to-face interview), as well as interviewers’ subjective assessments of, for example, level of sincerity of the respondents.
22.02.2013 | Friday

Before and After the Elections: Shifting Public Opinion in Georgia

The Georgian parliamentary elections in October 2012 attracted much international interest and ushered in an important turn in Georgian politics. In 2012 CRRC conducted four waves of a Survey on Political Attitudes in Georgia for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) (funded by the Swedish International development Cooperation Agency-SIDA) in order to track changes in public opinion associated with these major political events.
13.11.2014 | Thursday

Exploring Homophobia in Georgia: Part 2

This is the second blog post in a series analyzing homophobia in Tbilisi. The first blog post in this series can be found here. 

Who tends to be more homophobic in Tbilisi – men or women? This blog post explores differences in homophobic attitudes between males and females using data from CRRC-Georgia’s survey of Tbilisi residents on the events of May 17, 2013, and shows that men tend to be more homophobic than women. Moreover, the findings show that men are more homophobic when they believe that homosexuality is inborn, rather than acquired.
15.02.2012 | Wednesday

Fatalism and Political Perceptions in Georgia

Widespread apathy and a general disbelief that good can come from joint effort is a major factor hindering social capital in Georgia. One indicator of apathy can be fatalism, meaning the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. This blog explores the level of political fatalism in Georgia and how it is connected to Georgians’ perceptions of the country’s current political course and democracy.
02.07.2010 | Friday

Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance - which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia.
12.04.2012 | Thursday

Georgian get-togethers: Private Problems versus Politics

In September 2011, CRRC on behalf of Eurasia Partnership Foundation and EWMI G-PAC conducted a nationally representative survey on Volunteerism and Civic Participation in Georgia. Georgians were asked how often they get together and discuss private problems and politics with their friends and relatives (who do not live in their houses).
27.08.2010 | Friday

Ask CRRC: what does the public actually know?

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center showing that 18% of Americans think that US President Barack Obama is Muslim, and that a further 43% respond that they don't know what religion the President practices, has raised discussions about the level of political knowledge in democracies. Indeed, Newsweek has published a slideshow showing dumb things that Americans believe.
21.03.2008 | Friday

Philanthropy in Georgia

Corporate Social Responsibility, a fashionable issue, is becoming a topic in the South Caucasus as well. CRRC research fellow, Giorgi Meladze, explored Georgian corporations’ generosity in his research undertaken in 2006.
03.05.2008 | Saturday

Exit Polls | Take Two

Readers may recall that we voiced some concern with regards to exit polls. Here is a fascinating account, first-hand, by a reputed pollster having what they describe as an "Adventure in Baku".
06.05.2008 | Tuesday

Diversity Polling on the Caucasus | Ask500

Sometimes it's worth clicking on those Gmail links. "Ask 500" is a website in beta, the web version of a straw poll. Polling? Surveys? Obviously I wanted to know more. To say it up front: it's about as unrepresentative as you can get, since it assembles those that suffer from terminal curiosity.
09.07.2008 | Wednesday

Caucasus Data | Language: Russian versus English?

Recently, we happened upon an article that talks about the use of Russian across the Caucasus. Is Russian becoming obsolete? According to the article, some Georgian politicians suggest this is the case. At the same time, the article points out that the uptake of English is too slow to replace Russian as a lingua franca.
17.09.2008 | Wednesday

What do Russians think about the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? -- Data Snapshot

How do urban Russians view the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? From September, 5th-8th, 2008 the Analytical Center of Yuri Levada conducted a survey in ten big cities of the Russian Federation, interviewing 1000 Russian respondents. We have translated the results into English here, as they are only available in the original Russian on the Levada website.
23.10.2008 | Thursday

McCain vs Obama: Caucasus preferences


So here's something that we are a little puzzled about. The Economist is undertaking a poll to see which American Presidential candidate is favored by the world. In a very blue worldwide map, rooting for Obama, two noticeable yellowish spots, Macedonia and Georgia. McCain, of course, is popular in Georgia for having said "Today we all are Georgians" during the recent conflict.
08.11.2008 | Saturday

World Public Opinion: Azerbaijan in Focus

World Public Opinion is the initiative of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland that explores public opinion on a variety of topics in 25 countries across the globe, including Azerbaijan, the only South Caucasus country represented in the survey. Russia and Ukraine are the other two former USSR countries that the project includes.