Half of Georgians believe COVID-19 is man-made
[Note: This article was written by Tsisana Khundadze. It was originally published in partnership with OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]
An NDI and CRRC survey conducted in June 2020 asked questions about people’s beliefs about the origins and spread of coronavirus. The data suggest that while a majority of the population does not believe in common disinformation messages such as a relation between 5G technology and the spread of the coronavirus, only a small portion thinks that coronavirus came about naturally.
Most people see some kind of human footprint in the creation and spread of coronavirus.
According to the survey, around half of the population thinks that coronavirus was developed in a lab. Specifically, 30% thinks that it was developed in a lab and was spread intentionally and 22% believes it was made in a lab and spread accidentally.
Only 13% of Georgians say coronavirus came about naturally, and around a third (32%) of the population is uncertain about the origins of this virus.
A small portion (3%) even think that coronavirus does not really exist.
Besides this question, respondents were asked their opinion on the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, one of the most widespread pieces of misinformation that spread around the world.
While only 10% said they think that 5G internet infrastructure is linked to the spread of coronavirus, almost half said they disagreed with this notion, and around a third of Georgians don’t know whether 5G and coronavirus are related.
This shows that even though only a small portion of people believe in a link between 5G and COVID-19, almost half are uncertain, or at least not clear, whether this is misinformation.
To better understand beliefs about the origins of coronavirus, a regression model was constructed. According to the model, men are 1.3 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, while women are 1.4 times more likely to think that it was developed in a lab but spread accidentally.
Moreover, the more household items a person owns (a proxy for wealth), the more likely that person is to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread accidentally and less likely to say it was spread intentionally.
Those in the worst economic situation are 1.6 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally than people who score highest on the ownership index. The latter are almost 3 (2.8) times more likely to think it was spread accidentally than the former.
However, no differences were observed between people in different age groups, settlement types, with different levels of education, those using social networks more or less often, with different employment statuses, or attending religious services at different rates.
Note: This and the following chart was generated from a regression model. The model includes sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, tertiary), frequency of using social media (everyday, once a week or month, less often or never), employment status (employed, not employed), frequency of attending religious services (at least once a month, less often or never), and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth. Besides demographic characteristics, social media usage was added into the regression model, because social media was named as the main source of information by 41% of the population. Religious attendance was included in the model, because, around Easter, it became clear that people who are more religious perceived the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus in a different way in Georgia.
As for the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, people living in rural areas are around 1.5 times more likely to think that 5G is related to the spread of coronavirus compared to people who live in Tbilisi or other urban areas.
Similarly, people with higher than secondary education are 1.9 times less likely to think that 5G is related to spread of coronavirus, compared to people with lower levels of education. Yet, people of different genders, ages, employment statuses, and economic situations and those attending religious services and using social media more or less often hold similar views on the relation between 5G technology and coronavirus.
Only a small portion of Georgia’s population actually believes that 5G infrastructure is related to the spread of coronavirus, though people living in rural areas and those with lower levels of education agree with this notion more.
A solid half of the population thinks that coronavirus did not occur naturally and was developed in a lab. This part of the population is further split roughly in half in their opinion on the nature of spread. Men and people with worse economic situations are slightly more likely to think that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, compared to women and people with better economic situations, who in turn are more likely to think it was developed in a lab and spread accidentally.
For more data on people’s opinion and attitudes on issues around coronavirus see the dataset on CRRC’s online analysis tool.
The findings reflect broader global trends which have seen dramatic decreases in air pollution levels in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
Facebook is an important part of Georgian politics. Political campaigns are fought, and public opinion thought to often be formed on the platform...
As Easter celebrations approach in Georgia, a study by CRRC Georgia suggests that a large number of Georgia’s Orthodox Christians still intend to celebrate at Church. The survey of Facebook users found that around 40% of people who usually celebrate Easter in Church intended to do so again this year despite the pandemic.
Without trust in the messages of public health officials, measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus are less likely to be complied with, exacerbating the spread of the virus.
Many experts believe that to fully remove the restrictions which have emerged because of the COVID-19 crisis, a vaccine is needed. While vaccines are only expected in the medium term, if and when they are available, Georgia may face large challenges with implementing a large scale vaccination program.
The COVID-19 outbreak generated discussion about whether support for democracy would decline during and after the crisis. While reported support increased, this did not necessarily match support for democratic means of governance.
Data from the CRRC’s COVID-19 monitor shows that more people in Georgia reported support for democracy compared to the pre-crisis period. However, as before the crisis, support for democracy does not seem to be grounded in the values commonly associated with democratic governance.
In times of crisis, support for governments often rises in what is known as a rallying around the flag effect. The COVID-19 crisis in Georgia has been no exception.
Data from around the world has shown rallying around the flag effects in many countries during the pandemic, with a few exceptions. Georgia has followed this broader pattern, with performance ratings tripling for many actors and institutions between November/December 2019 and May 2020.
As the number of new daily confirmed cases is again on the rise, we look at how people felt about the anti-coronavirus restrictions in May.
Aside from the public health situation, COVID-19 has led to rising unemployment, reduced incomes, and food insecurity in Georgia. As the number of new daily confirmed cases is again on the rise, the Caucasus Datablog takes a look at how people felt about the anti-coronavirus restrictions when they were at their height.
Georgia has postponed the reopening of schools in major cities due to a new surge in the pandemic, but what are the biggest concerns Georgians have with the education system?
Georgia’s new academic year started on 15 September, but physical attendance at schools and universities in major cities has been postponed until 1 October.
In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.
Communications have been critical to attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 globally, and it is unclear what the best strategy for doing so might be. In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.