Optimism Regarding EU membership is decreasing

Georgia is not a candidate for membership in the European Union (EU), but the government has the stated goal of joining the EU when the country is ready for it. According to the Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia survey (EU Survey) CRRC-Georgia conducted in spring 2019 for Europe Foundation, 71% of the population of Georgia would vote for EU membership if a referendum were held tomorrow. Only 10% would vote against it and 7% would not vote at all. While support for joining the EU is clearly high, people are increasingly pessimistic about how long it will take Georgia to join.

Since 2009, the EU Survey has asked respondents, “When will Georgia join the EU, in 5 years or less, in 6-10 years, in more than 10 years, or never?”  The chart below shows that optimism regarding joining the EU is declining. Respondents who think that Georgia will join the EU in 5 years or less has declined from 30% in 2009 to 15% in 2019. Furthermore, the share of respondents who think that Georgia will join the EU in more than 10 years and those who think that Georgia will never join the EU has increased from 10% in 2009 to 19% in 2019 and 1% in 2009 and 11% in 2019, respectively. Consequently, the data suggest that optimism on this issue is on the decline.

To understand the current situation, further analysis of the 2019 wave of the EU survey was conducted. The analyses shows sex, age, settlement type, and education level are associated with people’s outlooks. Generally, people older than 55 are less likely to be optimistic regarding Georgia joining the EU than people from 18 to 35 years old. Female respondents are less pessimistic compared to male respondents.

Aside from demographics, party preferences could also reasonably be tied to people’s expectations as positive assessments about a number of issues are tied to whether or not people support the party in power (e.g. see here and here). The data suggest that people who report not knowing or refuse to answer the question about the party closest to them are less optimistic than GD Supporters. UNM, Alliance of Patriots Supporters, and supporters of no party are also more pessimistic than GD supporters.

Note: On the above chart, base categories for each variable are as follows: male, 18-34 age group, Rural, Georgian ethnicity, higher than secondary education, and Georgian Dream supporter. The category “No party” consists of individuals that responded none when asked which party was closest to them. The category “other party” consists of individuals who named other parties not categorized above. 

Optimism over Georgia joining the EU is declining, and this decline started after 2013. People older than 55, people who support no party, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, and UNM supporters are more pessimistic regarding this issue than GD supporters.

Note: The above analysis is based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is optimism over Georgia joining the EU which is measured through the question “When will Georgia join the EU?” The independent variables are party support, gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, and education. The data used in the blog is available here. Replication code of the above data analysis is available here.