Pessimism about Georgia’s direction hides room for optimism
[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media. The article was written by Koba Turmanidze, the Director of CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed in this article represent the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Democratic Institute or any other entity.]
A quick and simple look at where people think the country is headed is not very hopeful in Georgia: NDI/CRRC survey data show that at least one in three adults believe that the country has been going in the wrong direction for the past five years, and for most of that time, more people have reported the country was going in the wrong direction than the right one.
While a first look suggests a less than rosy picture, the data do hide some positive news. People, at least in part, appear to judge direction based on policy performance rather than only whether their preferred party is in power, something that has inhibited the development of a stable political and party system in Georgia.
Looking at demographic factors that might influence assessments of the country’s direction, including age, gender, education, employment, household economic status, and household size suggests demographics explain relatively little in terms of attitudes towards the direction of the country. Only tertiary education is associated with having a more negative attitude towards the direction of the country among these variables.
Yet, a statistical analysis that includes people’s assessments of specific policies and party preferences shows a strong link with how people perceive the direction of the country. People who negatively assess a specific issue are two to three times more likely to assess the country’s general direction negatively. Of 16 issues asked about on the survey, the only exception was inflation, where a negative assessment influences perceptions of the country’s general direction relatively little, all else equal.
Surely, some issues are more important for people than others, jobs being at the top of the list in Georgia. In contrast, freedom of speech was close to the bottom at the time of the survey, with only 2% naming it as an issue of national importance in the same survey wave.
Yet, no matter the relative importance of the issue, the relationship described above still holds. The chart below illustrates the point. A person with a negative assessment of the country’s direction is 25 percentage points more likely to say that the situation regarding jobs is going in the wrong direction. Likewise, people who say that the situation regarding freedom of speech is going in the wrong direction are 32 percentage points more likely to assess the country’s direction negatively.
Attitudes towards political parties are also associated with assessments of the country’s general direction. On the survey, people were asked whether there was a party they would never vote for, a question used to measure negative partisanship.
As one would expect, a negative attitude towards Georgian Dream, the ruling party, is positively associated with a negative assessment of Georgia’s general direction, while a negative attitude towards the United National Movement is associated with more positive assessments. This holds for both the direction of the country as well as individual policies in most cases.
While people’s partisanship matters, so do their assessments of particular issues. Both predict whether or not someone thinks the country is headed in the right or wrong direction, controlling for the other factors.
The chart showing assessments regarding each of the 16 issues by negative attitudes towards the two largest parties illustrates the point. Whether people dislike Georgian Dream or the United National Movement, a negative assessment of a specific issue is associated with a negative assessment of the country’s direction. The same observation holds for people who do not hold a negative predisposition towards any political party.
This matters. Citizens are not looking at specific and general issues through narrow partisan lenses alone. Instead, the data suggest assessments are at least partly independent from party labels, which provides parties with the opportunity to campaign on issues instead of merely blaming each other for their failures and attempting to cultivate followings around charismatic leaders.
Note: The above analysis is based on a series of logistic regressions, where the dependent variable is a negative assessment of Georgia’s general direction, key independent variables are a negative assessment on each of 16 specific policy issues as well as attitudes towards political parties. In addition, all models have demographic control variables including, gender, age, settlement type, education, employment status, household size, and household’s economic status. Replication code of the full analysis is available here.
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შიდა მიგრაცია საქართველოში: რა ვიცით მის შესახებ CRRC-ის კავკასიის ბარომეტრის მონაცემების საფუძვლეზე?არსებული შეფასებების თანახმად, მსოფლიო მასშტაბით შიდა მიგრანტთა რაოდენობა ბევრად აღემატება საერთაშორისო მიგრანტთა რაოდენობას. სამწუხაროდ, საქართველოში ძალიან ცოტა მონაცემი არსებობს შიდა მიგრანტების რაოდენობისა და მათი გეოგრაფიული განაწილების შესახებ. საქართველოს სტატისტიკის ეროვნული სამსახურის შინამეურნეობების ინტეგრირებული გამოკვლევები რეგულარულად აგროვებს ინფორმაციას ქვეყანაში შიდა მიგრაციის შესახებ. სახელმწიფო სერვისების განვითარების სააგენტო კოორდინაციას უწევს მოსახლეობის რეგისტრაციას საცხოვრებელი ადგილის მიხედვით.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
2018 წლის საპრეზიდენტო არჩევნები, განსაკუთრებით კი — მეორე ტურში დატრიალებული მოვლენები შესაძლოა, ქვეყნის დემოკრატიული განვითარების გზაზე უკან გადადგმულ ნაბიჯად ჩაითვალოს. პირველ და მეორე ტურებს შორის მთავრობამ განაცხადა, რომ არჩევნების შემდეგ დაახლოებით 600 ათასამდე მოქალაქეს ვალებს ჩამოაწერდა, რაც, ზოგიერთი დამკვირვებლის აზრით, ამომრჩეველთა მოსყიდვად უნდა ჩათვლილიყო...
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.
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.