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Tuesday | 08 December, 2020

Georgian voters: personalities, policies, or a bit of both?

Note: This article was co-published by OC Media and CRRC Georgia on the Caucasus Data Blog. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.


While personality in politics matters greatly for the Georgian public, data from this year shows that for Georgian Dream and United National Movement voters, policy is still important. 


A recent CRRC Georgia policy brief argued that what was really dividing Georgians politically was personalities rather than policies. Data from the August 2020 CRRC and NDI survey provides further evidence for this idea. 


However, the data also shows a difference between Georgian Dream (GD) and United National Movement (UNM) voters in terms of policy preferences and that economic policy is the most important issue for a plurality of voters. 


UNM supporters were slightly more likely to report that economic policy was most important compared to Georgian Dream supporters. Still, for a plurality of supporters of both parties, the data indicate that economic policy is the most important issue.


Note: Party preference was only asked to individuals that reported they may vote in the October 2020 elections. Therefore, overall, refers to all individuals which said they might vote in the October 2020 elections.


When it comes to professional training versus formal education, 26% of the public prefers a party prioritizing formal education, and 50% a party prioritizing professional training. A regression analysis shows no significant differences between supporters of the UNM and GD. 


Differences are present between those with different levels of education, however. People with vocational education are 10 percentage points more likely, and those with higher education eight percentage points more likely, to support investing in professional education than people with secondary education or a lower
level of education. Women are six percentage points less likely than men to support vocational education as opposed to formal education.


The survey asked whether people would prefer a party that proposed lower taxes or higher pensions, with 27% preferring higher pensions and 56% preferring lower taxes. With regard to preferences for a party that would support higher pensions or lower taxes, UNM supporters are 23 percentage points more likely to prefer a candidate that supports higher pensions rather than lower taxes. The reverse is true of GD supporters. 


Aside from party support, a number of other characteristics are associated with support for higher pensions as opposed to lower taxes. People who are currently employed are nine percentage points more likely to support lower taxes than those who are not.  People over the age of 56 are 26 percentage points more likely to support higher pensions than people between the ages of 18-35. People with higher education are 11 percentage points more likely than people with secondary education alone to support lower taxes. People in rural areas are seven percentage points more likely to support higher pensions.


While the data does show a difference with attitudes on higher pensions versus lower taxes, personalities remain primary for supporters of both major parties. A slight majority of the public (55%) report that personalities matter to them more than policies. In contrast, 20% say that election promises and  political platform matter more. A further 15% agree with neither idea and the remainder have indicated that they do not know which of the two they find more important.


There are no significant differences between supporters of the UNM and GD on this question. The only difference identified in a regression analysis on the issue is that employed people are six percentage points less likely to view personalities as more important compared with those that are not presently employed.


The above data re-affirms past analyses that have shown that personality dominates policy in Georgian politics. Yet, the data does show at least one meaningful difference on economic policy between supporters of the two main parties when they are considering who to vote for.


Note: The data analysis presented in this article are based on regression models controlling for respondent age group (18-35, 36-55, 56+), employment situation (working or not), party support (Georgian Dream, United National Movement, Other party, no party/don’t know/refuse to answer), education level (secondary or less, vocational education, or tertiary education), sex (female or male), and settlement type (capital, other urban, or rural). The data used in this article are available here.

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.
03.04.2014 | Thursday

Alternating Pasts, Changing Futures

Note: This blog is re-posted from the MYPLACE project's blog. The original MYPLACE blog can be found here

Claims to 2000 or even 3000 years of nationhood are not difficult to find in Georgia as has been amply documented (see Pelkmans 2006, Suny 1994, Rayfield 2013). The former president Mikheil Saakashvili was even fond of using the earliest human skulls found outside of Africa, in Dmansi in Southern Georgia, as proof that Georgians were “ancient Europeans.” 
23.06.2014 | Monday

Trust in local government in Georgia

On June 15th Georgian voters headed to the polls in local elections. There were problems leading up to the elections as detailed in last week's electoral notes. At present, results show a significant portion of positions in local government going to Georgian Dream Coalition (GD) candidates, though a number of races will go into second rounds
04.08.2014 | Monday

A look at (in)Justice in Georgia as charges are brought against ex-President Saakashvili

On July 28, 2014 charges were announced against the former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili concerning the abuse of power. These charges make Saakashvili the highest public official from the former UNM government to be summoned by the prosecutor’s office to date.
22.09.2014 | Monday

Russia as a threat: the Ukraine crisis and changing public opinion in Georgia

Following 2012 parliamentary elections, attitudes toward Russia in Georgia shifted. While in 2011 51% of the population considered Russia the main enemy of the country, in 2012 only 35% reported the same. Moreover, the share of Georgians who named Russia as Georgia’s main friend increased by 5%. In a post on the CRRC-Georgia blog, this change was explained by a so-called “spiral of silence”.
27.07.2011 | Wednesday

Rule of Law in Georgia - Opinions and Attitudes of the Population

As a part of the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in the spring of 2011, we would like to present the second report (the first report was published recently) written by Salome Tsereteli-Stephen. The report deals with the rule of law in Georgia and here is a short summary of Salome’s findings and an analysis of the subject.
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).
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".
21.05.2008 | Wednesday

Parliamentary Elections in Georgia | ODIHR Observation

With today's elections in Georgia, various themes come to mind. Certainly, elections have come a long way: by now, the Georgian government employs a series of highly qualified consultants, including Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of Clinton-fame, plus a Brussels-based PR firm, as well as working with experienced teams from the Baltics. This, then, is no longer the game of the 1990s, or 2003. Election observers know that they in turn will be observed, and maybe that's how it should be.
04.08.2008 | Monday

Georgia: Women's Participation in Politics

Women’s participation at all levels of elections in Georgia is diminishing. As the Caucasus Women’s Network (CWN)reports, women inGeorgia were less represented in terms of candidates in the last parliamentary elections than in any previous parliamentary elections inGeorgia’s democratic history. On the other hand, women’s low political participation in elected bodies belies women’s activeness in civil society institutions, where females appear to be very active.
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.
19.11.2007 | Monday

Georgia's Performance? | Millenium Challenge Corporation's Meta-Index

With all the attention on Georgia, it may be interesting to revisit Georgia's most recent performance as seen by international organizations. As it happens, the Millennium Challenge Corporation offers a such an assessment through its annual scorecard, just released last week. This scorecard is a meta-index, drawing on data from the World Bank Institute, Freedom House, IFC, WHO, UNESCO and a few other organizations.
15.08.2017 | Tuesday

Who makes political decisions in Georgia: What people think

Bidzina Ivanishvili resigned from the post of prime minister of Georgia on November 20th 2013, and in his own words, “left politics“. Speculation about his continued informal participation in the political decision-making process began even before he resigned and still continues. Some politicians think that Ivanishvili gives orders to the Georgian Dream party from behind-the-scenes, while others believe that he actually distanced himself from politics. Politicians, journalists and experts continue to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, a majority of Georgia’s population thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still involved in the governing process and that his informal participation is unacceptable.
25.12.2017 | Monday

Gender (in)equality on TV

Stereotypes are an inseparable part of every society, and present in many parts of everyday life. Georgian society is no exception in this regard. For example, some professions like teaching are stereotypically thought of as “women’s professions” while others like being a soldier are considered “men’s professions”.  The media is considered one of the strongest means through which stereotypes are strengthened or broken. In Georgia, TV is the most important media, given that according to CRRC/NDI data, 73% of the population of the country name television as their primary source of the information. In order to understand the dynamics around gender-based stereotypes on TV, CRRC-Georgia monitored the main evening news releases and political talk shows broadcast during prime time (from 18:00 to 00:00) on five national and three regional channels from September 11 to November 12, 2017 (Channel One of the Public Broadcaster, Adjara, Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, Trialeti, Gurjaani, Odishi) with the support of the UN Joint Program for Gender Equality with support from UNDP Georgia and the Swedish government.
20.02.2018 | Tuesday

As many Georgians think the West spreads propaganda as Russia

On 13 February, the United States released its Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community. In it, the significance of Russian influence operations in Georgia were highlighted. Just eight days earlier, on 5 February, a coalition of Georgia’s leading non-governmental organisations made an official offer to support the Government of Georgia, the EU, and NATO in their efforts to counter anti-Western propaganda.
05.03.2018 | Monday

Partisanship and Trust in TV in Georgia

One of the outcomes of the stark polarization of news media sources globally is that people tend to align to the media outlets which resonate most with their ideological beliefs. In most cases, consumption of a particular ideological media source can only reinforce one’s beliefs, which might lead to an even further polarization of the audience. These patterns can be characteristic of mass media in contexts as different as, for instance, the United States and Lebanon. As the data from the December 2017 wave of CRRC/NDI survey shows, people in Georgia also appear to be selective in trusting media that aligns with their political beliefs as well.
15.07.2019 | Monday

The direction Georgia’s headed in

The most recent NDI polling showed a decline in the direction the country was heading. Though not the direct cause by any means, the growing sense that Georgia is going in the wrong direction was likely an enabling factor for the protests that erupted in June and have continued through July in Tbilisi. The CRRC-NDI survey has tracked the direction people think the country is headed over the last decade. While numerous factors affect people’s perceptions of where the country is going, a number of events including elections and the devaluation of the Georgian Lari against the US Dollar appear to show up in CRRC-Georgia and the National Democratic Institute’s data. This blog provides an overview of how views of the direction the country is headed in have changed over time.
26.08.2019 | Monday

Attitudes toward politicians are related to evaluations of institutional performance

How citizens evaluate the performance of the state is often a reasonable proxy for its performance. In Georgia, evaluations of public institutions are mixed. While a number of social and demographic variables are associated with people’s perceptions of state performance, so too are people’s attitudes towards political parties and politicians. This shows once again how politics is personalized in Georgia.
17.09.2019 | Tuesday

What divides and what unites Georgian society?

The last year has seen a number of conversations about polarization in Georgia. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, even commented on the issue in his Batumi speech.  One of the components of polarization, though not the sole factor, is division in society over actors, issues, and institutions.

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.
11.11.2019 | Monday

Government employees assess the work of the government better than the general public

The outlook in Georgia continues to be increasingly pessimistic, with more people reporting that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Similarly, performance assessments of government institutions have been on the decline in recent years. As recent CRRC analyses have highlighted, party identification, attitudes towards individual politicians, ethnicity, and Georgian language proficiency among ethnic minorities are associated with attitudes towards government. Analysis of the July 2019 CRRC and NDI survey suggests that working for the state is also associated with performance assessments. However, government employees in poor households and those in Tbilisi rate government performance significantly worse.
27.01.2020 | Monday

In a sea of pessimism, who is optimistic about Georgia?

The CRRC and NDI survey released two weeks ago showed a pessimistic picture – half the public thinks Georgia is going in the wrong direction, 24% that nothing is changing, and only 19% think it is going in the right direction. A majority (59%) think the country is not a democracy for the first time since the question was asked on the survey in 2010. Moreover, performance assessments of government, parliament, the courts, and most ministries declined.
06.10.2020 | Tuesday

Is Georgia really polarised?

Talk about political polarisation in Georgia is easy to find. Some have suggested that the recent United National Movement (UNM) announcement that Saakashvili will be their prime ministerial candidate will only make matters worse.

new data analysis CRRC Georgia released on Tuesday suggests that this may in fact be the case. Data from several years of CRRC Georgia and NDI polling indicates that there are few ideological or policy issues that the supporters of Georgian Dream (GD) and the United National Movement (UNM) disagree about. Rather, attitudes towards politicians and political events are what divides, a fact the public intuitively recognises.

22.12.2020 | Tuesday

Political campaigning in Georgia: informing or mobilising?

Political campaigning takes a wide range of forms, from digital advertising to door knocking. Generally, campaigning is believed to both mobilise voters to actually go out to vote as well as win over voters, but which is most relevant in Georgia?


Data from the 
August CRRC Georgia and NDI public opinion poll indicate that people who wanted to be contacted by campaigners also appeared more partisan than others. This may suggest that campaigning in Georgia will be more effective at turning out partisans than persuading the undecided. 

24.02.2021 | Wednesday

Who thinks Georgia handled the pandemic successfully?

Prior to the most recent episode in Georgia's political crises, COVID-19 was the country's main concern. Yet, data on how the public views the country's handling of the crisis shows a stark partisan divide.


It has been a year since the first case of coronavirus was detected in Georgia. Since then, 
over 260,000 cases have been confirmed, over 3,300 fatalities, and the economy has suffered the largest decline since 1994. In light of this, how does the Georgian public assess the country’s handling of the pandemic? 


Data from the 2020 Caucasus Barometer survey offers a snapshot of how well people think the country did in dealing with the outbreak.