Back
Monday | 20 April, 2020

Study suggests large numbers in Georgia to celebrate Easter in church

Note: This article was co-published with OC Media. It was written by Koba Turmanidze, President of CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

Research by CRRC Georgia suggests that a large number of Georgia’s Orthodox Christians intend to celebrate at Church.

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.

With Easter celebrations approaching, quarantine rules have become even stricter: driving of private cars has been forbidden and movement in and out of the four largest cities of Georgia has been restricted.

While most organisations are closed or are working digitally, the Georgian Orthodox Church has continued traditional services. Moreover, the church has refused to call on believers to celebrate Easter at home, and the government seems unwilling to enforce emergency rules on the Church.

Instead, the Prime Minister has hinted that it is the responsibility of citizens to stay home, while the churches should remain open. ‘I’m sure that wise citizens will guess that they should not place responsibility on the church and should not want to hear the call from the church – don’t come to the church’, he stated.     

This is not the first time government officials have used subtle suggestions, or nudges, with the goal of altering people’s church-going habits.

Earlier this month, Paata Imnadze, the highly regarded deputy head of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health also voiced a similar view.

‘I would like to address Christian believers. Let’s protect our mother-Church, and our priests, by praying at home and not going to church.’

While such nudges often succeed in changing people’s attitudes and even behaviours, CRRC Georgia’s research shows that in the current situation, this approach may not be working.

To test the impact of Imnadze’s ‘nudge’ on people’s intentions to go to church for Easter celebrations, CRRC Georgia conducted an experiment using Facebook’s A/B test tool.

The tool disseminates two or more announcements which will randomly show up in Facebook users’ news feeds. In this case, Facebook users were randomly shown advertisements to fill out one of the two versions of a questionnaire: one included Imnadze’s statement as an introduction to the survey, while the other did not. The two surveys were identical in every other respect. 

The randomised test was active for 72 hours from 11–14 April and reached 240,000 users, accumulated 22,100 clicks, and resulted in 7,560 completed questionnaires.

Of the 7,560 adults, 42% read or saw Imnadze’s statement before filling out the questionnaire. Analysis of the results did not show any impact from the nudge.

In the two groups, 16% reported that they would celebrate Easter in the church. As expected, far more respondents reported celebrating Easter in the church in the past (38%), suggesting that people have adapted their plans to the emergency situation.

Yet the nudge played no role: regardless of being in the treatment or control group, about 60% of respondents who usually would celebrate Easter in Church reported they would stay home this year, while about 40% still planned to go to church.



Importantly, there was no effect of the nudge across different demographic groups (e.g. men and women, older and younger people).

Further analysis looked at different factors that correlate with whether people changed their choice to celebrate Easter at the Church.

Respondents’ religiosity shows an unsurprising pattern. Frequent churchgoers and respondents who consider religion important in their lives were more likely to stay loyal to their past practise of celebrating Easter in the church than less religious respondents (i.e. those who go to church less frequently and consider religion less important).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, concern about the spread of COVID-19 makes respondents more cautious, and hence, more likely to change Easter celebration practice from church to home.

Women, people with tertiary education, and older respondents are also more likely to move Easter celebrations from church to home, whereas employed respondents are less likely to change their past practice of celebrating in the church.


While the survey gathered a large number of responses, the results should be read with caution.
The survey is clearly not representative of the population of Georgia, which is reflected in a different demographic profile of the Facebook respondents.

Unlike nationally representative surveys, the Facebook sample overrepresented women (82%), the employed (61%), the university-educated (65%), and younger people (the average age was 37). Moreover, it is hard to say whether the survey represents Facebook users in Georgia, since respondents self-selected into the survey.

Nevertheless, the group that saw and did not see Imnadze’s message on the survey were very similar, with identical demographic profiles. Hence, if the treatment and control groups answered the Easter celebration question differently, this could be attributed to the reminder of Imnadze’s nudge.

While it is not possible to exclude the possibility that the tested and similar nudges already impacted the respondents before they completed the Facebook survey, the findings still suggest that subtle suggestions are not sufficient to change people’s Easter holiday plans.

While a significant share of respondents changed their usual ways of celebration, a reminder of Imnadze’s suggestion did not change this.

Religiosity seems to be an obstacle towards adaptation to the current situation: while many believers and frequent churchgoers reported they would celebrate from home, many are still unconvinced and will likely help spread the virus this Sunday unless emergency rules are enforced on the Church as elsewhere in the country.
18.08.2014 | Monday

One step forward, two steps back? European integration in Georgia after the Association Agreement

So far, 2014 is shaping up to be the year that Georgia might begin to reap the benefits of its pro-EU and pro-NATO foreign policy. In June, Georgia signed the EU Association Agreement despite fears over Russian agitation. NATO has indicated its readiness to discuss a “substantive package” for Georgia, if not a Membership Action Plan. However, despite these gestures towards closer cooperation, some elements of the decision to sign the Agreement have caused friction.
08.07.2011 | Friday

Georgia Adopts Law on the Status of Religious Minorities

On July 5, 2011 Georgia adopted a new legislative amendment into the country’s civil code stating that religious minority groups with “historic ties to Georgia” or those defined as religions by members of the Council of Europe can register as legal entities of public law. The initial draft of the law specifically mentioned the Roman Catholic Church, Muslim and Jewish communities, Armenian Apostolic Church and the Evangelical Baptist Church as having “close historic ties with Georgia”. However, the final draft did not specifically name these five groups.
22.08.2011 | Monday

Georgia and Russia: Can positive relations between the populations overcome the political turmoil?

On the third anniversary of the 2008 August war the Russian Foreign Minister said that Russia will not renew ties with Georgia as long as the Georgian President Mikhail Saakhashvili is in power. Relations between the Georgian and Russian governments have been at a standstill since the conflict in 2008. Nevertheless, the attitudes of Georgians towards Russians remain positive.
13.08.2018 | Monday

Is Georgia’s Orthodox Christian population losing (trust in) their religion?

Surveys conducted in Georgia have repeatedly shown that the Georgian Orthodox Church’s leader Patriarch Ilia II is the most trusted public figure in the country. Yet, CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey data from 2008 to 2017 suggests that both the share of Orthodox Christians in Georgia that trust the Church and the degree to which they trust the Church is on the decline. Although the survey does not provide direct evidence, the scandals surrounding the church in recent years could have contributed to this. For instance, in 2017, a priest was convicted of attempting to poison the Secretary of Ilia II. The government has sold land to the Church at symbolic prices on numerous occasions, often leading to negative media coverage. In 2013, priests were involved in an anti-LGBT rights riot.
27.07.2020 | Monday

Analysis | Georgia has a vaccine misinformation problem

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. 

05.08.2020 | Wednesday

Church scandals have hurt trust in the Georgian Orthodox Church

The Georgian Orthodox Church has been hit by numerous scandals in recent years, but have those scandals affected public trust?
 
In 2017, a priest was charged and convicted of attempting to murder Patriarch Ilia II’s secretary. On numerous occasions, scandal has emerged as a result of the government handing over land to the Church for a symbolic price. The homophobic riots in 2013 on International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, which included Orthodox priests, were another salient event which likely hurt the Church’s credibility in the eyes of many in the public.
17.08.2020 | Monday

Support for democracy increased in Georgia during COVID-19, but what does that mean?

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.

08.09.2020 | Tuesday

Lockdown vs re-opening the economy in Georgia

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 unemploymentreduced 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.