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.
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%.
Since the pandemic hit Georgia in February, the Georgian government has taken several measures to raise awareness about it. But are the public actually well informed?
Since March 2020, the Georgian Government has been conducting large scale information campaigns through traditional and online media, has launched an informational web portal, StopCov.ge, and has even launched a smartphone app providing information about contact with infected people.
Georgian folklore is filled with stories of demons and devils; yet, everyone knows children’s stories are just that. However, new opinion polling from the ISSP Survey on Religion suggests that the vast majority of Georgians believe in the supernatural.
The study, which was conducted in 2019 by CRRC Georgia, asked about whether people think the following statements are true or false:
- Good luck charms sometimes do bring good luck;
- Some fortunetellers really can foresee the future;
- Some faith healers do have God-given healing powers;
- A person’s star sign at birth or horoscope can affect the course of the future.
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.
No matter their political stripes, TV channels in Georgia frame association with Russia as politically condemnatory and association with Western countries as praiseworthy.
The preliminary statement of the OSCE/ODIHR international election observation mission, published on 31 October, assessed the Georgian media environment as ‘highly polarised’. The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics came to a similar conclusion, highlighting that polarization in television news increased as the election campaign wore on...
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.
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.
While air pollution is dominant as the most important environmental issue for Georgians, a stark rural-urban divide exists with rural Georgians being one-third more likely to believe that there are no environmental problems in their communities.
Data from the World Health Organization suggests that Georgia has a moderate problem with air pollution, ranking 70th in the world and, according to CRRC and NDI data from 2020, a little under half of Georgians perceive it as the biggest environmental issue in their community.
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.