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Tuesday | 06 October, 2020

Is Georgia really polarised?

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. The article was written by Ian Goodrich, a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia.]

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.



What is polarisation?


One of the more prominent definitions of polarisation in the academic literature suggests two defining characteristics: issue partisanship and issue alignment. 


Issue alignment means that views on different sets of issues are correlated with each other. For example, people who think that deficit spending is bad also think that raising taxes is, this would constitute an example of issue alignment. 


Issue partisanship means that attitudes towards a specific issue are correlated with the party an individual identifies with. For instance, if support for one party is correlated with support for marijuana legalisation, this would reflect issue partisanship.


When issue partisanship and issue alignment grow, polarisation results.


A third factor and pre-condition for polarisation is that partisanship, support for political parties, exists.



The pre-conditions for polarisation are not present in Georgia


To have polarisation, there needs to be two poles. Georgia’s political system has two main political parties that are supported in public opinion polls – GD and UNM. But the public is hardly divided between them. Indeed, only a minority supports either party, and the most common response to what party has almost always been no party in recent years.



Georgians are largely united on policy and ideology


The study looked at approximately 20 different policy issues varying from cannabis legalisation to banking regulations. In the majority of cases, there were no statistically significant differences in the data between supporters of the main parties in the country, the United National Movement and Georgian Dream.


Supporters of each party tend towards thinking the main issue facing the country is the economy. They also have largely similar foreign policy outlooks — pro-Western ones. There are no significant differences in terms of opinions on how the country’s economy should develop either.


On social issues and values, supporters of the main two parties also have similar outlooks for the most part — they oppose selling land to foreigners and cannabis legalisation. 


The data does indicate that supporters of the UNM are slightly more likely to support the protection of queer rights and be accepting of a son wearing an earring. Taken together, these suggest UNM supporters are slightly less conservative than GD supporters. Despite the slight difference, large majorities of both parties tend towards conservative views on both questions.



The explicitly political is divisive


While there are few policy or ideological differences between supporters of the UNM and GD, people do have different attitudes towards the explicitly political. 


UNM supporters are more positive about the Rose Revolution than GD supporters. GD supporters are more likely to think the electoral handover of power in 2012 was a good thing. Politicians from each party are more liked by the supporters of their party. 


Interestingly, the public largely recognises that it is politicians and the otherwise explicitly political which divides the country. From a list of 11 items on a 2019 survey, which included Russia, more people named politicians as dividing the public than any other institution or group asked about.


Taken together, there is an absence of evidence of polarisation in the data. Rather, it suggests personalisation is what’s at play in Georgian politics.


Replication code for the analysis presented in this article is available 
here.

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

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რატომ არ მართლდება წინასაარჩევნო გამოკითხვების შედეგები?

საქართველოში ექვსი ოქტომბრის დილის რვა საათიდან საარჩევნო უბნების დახურვამდე დუმილის პერიოდია. დროის ამ შუალედში, კანონმდებლობის თანახმად, საზოგადოებრივი აზრის გამოკითხვის შედეგების გამოქვეყნება იკრძალება[1]. ზუსტად ერთი დღით ადრე, ტელეკომპანია „იმედმა“ საკუთარი დაკვეთით ჩატარებული მასობრივი გამოკითხვის ანგარიში გამოაქვეყნა[2], რომელიც მრავალმა პოლიტიკოსმა, ექსპერტმა თუ ჟურნალისტმა არჩევნების შედეგების წინასწარმეტყველებად მიიღო. ამ წერილში აღვწერ, თუ რატომ არ ემთხვევა (და არ უნდა ემთხვეოდეს) გამოკითხვის შედეგები არჩევნებისას და მიმოვიხილავ მეთოდებს, რომლებიც ხმის მიცემის შედეგების პროგნოზისთვის გამოიყენება.
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.
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Georgia's Performance? | Millenium Challenge Corporation's Meta-Index

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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

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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.