There is a gap between support for democracy and liberal values in Georgia
Note: This article was published in partnership with OC-Media. It is based on an article published in Caucasus Analytical Digest. The views presented in the article represent the views of the authors’ alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity. The article was written by Tamuna Khostaria, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia, and Rati Shubladze, a Policy Analyst at CRRC Georgia.
Public opinion polls suggest support for democracy is on the decline in Georgia, but does support for democracy correlate to support for liberal values?
An increasing number of Georgians view their country as ‘a democracy with major problems’, with CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey showing the share of people reporting this belief to have increased from 27% in 2011 to 48% in 2019.
In parallel to this growing scepticism towards the country’s democratic situation, surveys show a decline in the proportion of the population believing that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, falling from 65% in 2011 to 49% in 2019.
Using data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer 2019, it’s possible to look at who is more or less likely to prefer democracy and whether support for democracy is linked with support for gender equality and tolerance towards minorities, factors many regard as core values of a liberal democracy
A regression model comparing respondents who think democracy is preferable to any other kind of government (49%) to those that think either that a non-democratic government can be preferable (20%) or that it does not matter to them (14%) suggests that people living in the capital, ethnic Georgians, and those who spent more years in education are more likely to report support for democracy.
No other demographic factors were found to be associated with support for democracy. Aside from demographics, the study tested whether a number of proxies of liberal values were associated with democratic attitudes. These included:
- An index of tolerance towards ethnic minorities, constructed from questions about whether or not a respondent would approve of someone of their ethnicity marrying a person of another ethnic or religious group.
- An index of attitudes towards women’s freedom of action, including whether or not people thought it was acceptable at any age for women to drink strong alcohol, smoke tobacco, live separately from their parents before marriage, have sexual relations before marriage, or cohabit with a man without marriage.
- Attitudes towards gender equality in terms of breadwinning and whether men and women should get the inheritance.
- A variable proxying homophobia, based on whether or not the respondent would least like to have a homosexual as a neighbour.
Regression analysis demonstrates that none of these proxies for liberal values within the models have a significant association with support for democracy.
Support for democracy in Georgia does not appear to be related to tolerance towards ethnic or sexual minorities. Nor is it associated with supporting women’s rights or gender equality. The only significant predictors of support for democracy as the ideal form of government tested were years of education and ethnic minority status.
This could suggest that people simply claim to be supporters of democracy without really knowing or being ready to accept the values that it has to offer. In turn, this would suggest that people are just going along with the idea of democracy without agreeing to its moral standards. However, these ideas remain unconfirmed to a certain extent.
Given the patterns described above, there is a clear need for further in-depth investigation into the determinants of support for democracy.
From environmental catastrophe to violence, our world currently faces serious challenges with long-term consequences. In this context, what do people in the Caucasus consider to be the most acute problems?
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.
During Sargsyan’s incumbency, dissatisfaction with government grew and support for protest increasedSerzh Sargsyan, formerly the President and then Prime Minister of Armenia, resigned from office on April 23rd, 2018, following 11 days of peaceful protest. Over the past 10 years, which coincide with Sargsyan’s time in office, Armenians were increasingly dissatisfied with their government. At the same time, the country witnessed growing civic engagement, with “youth-driven, social media-powered, issue-specific civic activism,” referred to as “civic initiatives”. CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer data from 2008 to 2017 reflect both these trends.
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.
The 2018 presidential elections, and particularly, the events surrounding the second round, have come to be considered a setback for Georgia’s democratic trajectory. Between the first and second round, it was announced that 600,000 voters would have debt relief immediately following the elections, leading some to suggest this was a form of vote buying. A number of instances of electoral fraud were also alleged. The use of party coordinators around election precincts was also widely condemned.
But what do people want?
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.
Gendered norms prevail in Georgian society, which often translates into deprecation of women for smoking, drinking alcohol, having pre-marital sex, and even living with a boyfriend. However, attitudes appear to be shifting.
CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey asked people what they thought about several such activities. The data showed that the public are least accepting of women smoking, with 80% reporting it is never acceptable at any age. Sexual relations (63%) and cohabitating with a man before marriage were also commonly thought to be never acceptable for women (60%).
While mobile phone ownership is widespread in Georgia, gaps still remain among rural, elderly, and ethnic minority populations.
Owning a mobile (cell phone) is considered so important that more widespread ownership is considered a sustainable development goal (SDG 5.b) by the United Nations.
Mobile phone ownership among households has increased significantly over the last decade. Caucasus Barometer data indicates that in 2008, two thirds of households owned a mobile phone. This has steadily increased, reaching 96% of households in 2019, the last year for which Caucasus Barometer data is available.
The pandemic has clearly harmed people’s health, yet new data from the Caucasus Barometer Survey suggests that people considered themselves more healthy in 2020.
In 2019, 35% of the public evaluated their health as good. In past years, this had shifted up and down to varying extents, however, the largest change was a decline from 41% to 30% between 2013 and 2014.
In contrast, between 2019 and 2020, the share of people reporting that they were in good health nearly doubled from 35% to 65%.
The recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands. Yet despite there being a brutal war near its borders, many in Georgia were unaware of the conflict.
Data from the Caucasus Barometer survey indicate that awareness of the conflict’s existence increased shortly after the war in 2020 compared to 2013, but only slightly. In 2013, when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was ‘frozen’, 66% of Georgians reported they had heard of it. Around a third of the population was not aware of it. In December of 2020, shortly after the 44-day long war, 74% of Georgians reported they had heard of it. A whole quarter (26%) of the population, meanwhile, was not aware of military operations between the country’s two direct neighbours.