Half of Georgians believe COVID-19 is man-made
[Note: This article was written by Tsisana Khundadze. It was originally published in partnership with OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]
An NDI and CRRC survey conducted in June 2020 asked questions about people’s beliefs about the origins and spread of coronavirus. The data suggest that while a majority of the population does not believe in common disinformation messages such as a relation between 5G technology and the spread of the coronavirus, only a small portion thinks that coronavirus came about naturally.
Most people see some kind of human footprint in the creation and spread of coronavirus.
According to the survey, around half of the population thinks that coronavirus was developed in a lab. Specifically, 30% thinks that it was developed in a lab and was spread intentionally and 22% believes it was made in a lab and spread accidentally.
Only 13% of Georgians say coronavirus came about naturally, and around a third (32%) of the population is uncertain about the origins of this virus.
A small portion (3%) even think that coronavirus does not really exist.
Besides this question, respondents were asked their opinion on the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, one of the most widespread pieces of misinformation that spread around the world.
While only 10% said they think that 5G internet infrastructure is linked to the spread of coronavirus, almost half said they disagreed with this notion, and around a third of Georgians don’t know whether 5G and coronavirus are related.
This shows that even though only a small portion of people believe in a link between 5G and COVID-19, almost half are uncertain, or at least not clear, whether this is misinformation.
To better understand beliefs about the origins of coronavirus, a regression model was constructed. According to the model, men are 1.3 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, while women are 1.4 times more likely to think that it was developed in a lab but spread accidentally.
Moreover, the more household items a person owns (a proxy for wealth), the more likely that person is to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread accidentally and less likely to say it was spread intentionally.
Those in the worst economic situation are 1.6 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally than people who score highest on the ownership index. The latter are almost 3 (2.8) times more likely to think it was spread accidentally than the former.
However, no differences were observed between people in different age groups, settlement types, with different levels of education, those using social networks more or less often, with different employment statuses, or attending religious services at different rates.
Note: This and the following chart was generated from a regression model. The model includes sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, tertiary), frequency of using social media (everyday, once a week or month, less often or never), employment status (employed, not employed), frequency of attending religious services (at least once a month, less often or never), and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth. Besides demographic characteristics, social media usage was added into the regression model, because social media was named as the main source of information by 41% of the population. Religious attendance was included in the model, because, around Easter, it became clear that people who are more religious perceived the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus in a different way in Georgia.
As for the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, people living in rural areas are around 1.5 times more likely to think that 5G is related to the spread of coronavirus compared to people who live in Tbilisi or other urban areas.
Similarly, people with higher than secondary education are 1.9 times less likely to think that 5G is related to spread of coronavirus, compared to people with lower levels of education. Yet, people of different genders, ages, employment statuses, and economic situations and those attending religious services and using social media more or less often hold similar views on the relation between 5G technology and coronavirus.
Only a small portion of Georgia’s population actually believes that 5G infrastructure is related to the spread of coronavirus, though people living in rural areas and those with lower levels of education agree with this notion more.
A solid half of the population thinks that coronavirus did not occur naturally and was developed in a lab. This part of the population is further split roughly in half in their opinion on the nature of spread. Men and people with worse economic situations are slightly more likely to think that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, compared to women and people with better economic situations, who in turn are more likely to think it was developed in a lab and spread accidentally.
For more data on people’s opinion and attitudes on issues around coronavirus see the dataset on CRRC’s online analysis tool.
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A 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.
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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?
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კორონა ვირუსის პანდემიამ აშკარად დააზიანა ხალხის ჯანმრთელობა.თუმცა, კავკასიის ბარომეტრის კვლევის ახალი მონაცემების მიხედვით, 2020 წელს ადამიანები საკუთარ ჯანმრთელობას უფრო კარგად აფასებენ, ვიდრე წინა წლების გამოკითხვებში.
2019 წელს მოსახლეობის მხოლოდ 35% აფასებდა თავის ჯანმრთელობას კარგად. გასულ წლებში, ეს მაჩვენებელი იცვლებოდა, თუმცა, ყველაზე დიდი ცვლილება 2013-2014 წლებში მოხდა, როდესაც ეს მაჩვენებელი 41%-დან 30%-მდე შემცირდა. ამის საპირისპიროდ, 2019 და 2020 წლების გამოკითხვებს თუ შევადარებთ, ადამიანების წილი, ვინც საკუთარ ჯანმრთელობას კარგად აფასებს, თითქმის გაორმაგდა - 35%-დან 65%-მდე გაიზარდა.
თითქმის ერთი წელი გავიდა, რაც ჯანდაცვის მსოფლიო ორგანიზაციამ ახალი კორონავირუსი გლობალურ პანდემიად გამოაცხადა.
მას შემდეგ, საქართველოში ვირუსით ინფიცირების 260,000-ზე მეტი შემთხვევა დაფიქსირდა, საიდანაც 3,300-ზე მეტი ფატალურად დასრულდა. მნიშვნელოვნად იზარალა საქართველოს ეკონომიკამაც, რომელიც 2020 წელს 1994 წლის შემდეგ ყველაზე მეტად შემცირდა.
შესაბამისად, საინტერესოა, რამდენად წარმატებულად აფასებს მოსახლეობა საქართველოს მიერ პანდემიასთან გამკლავებას?
With the pandemic still raging and accompanying economic restrictions still in force, Georgians are unsurprisingly pessimistic about their economic future. This holds true especially for supporters of the opposition United National Movement Party, above all other party supporters.
COVID-19 restrictions have impacted people’s economic activity heavily. This is reflected in key economic indicators such as GDP, which declined by 5.9% year on year between January and November 2020.
It is also reflected in employment, with fewer people reporting starting new jobs and more people reporting having lost one, according to the 2020 Caucasus Barometer.
It’s been over a year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in Georgia, and attitudes towards the pandemic have continued to change.
CRRC Georgia’s Omnibus survey has tracked attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic since April 2020. Data from the most recent wave of the survey, in January, suggest that Georgians increasingly believe that the worst is already behind us.
In April 2020, Georgia had low COVID-19 case counts. Given this as well as the difficult situations in other countries, it is perhaps unsurprising that 45% of the public believed that the worst of the virus was yet to come. At the same time, 26% thought that the virus would not be a major problem, and 14% thought that the worst had already passed.
With two kinds of vaccines against COVID-19 already available in Georgia, the public’s attitude towards vaccination is becoming more and more important. So why are Georgians so sceptical of coronavirus vaccination?
While willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was not high even in June or December 2020, it is logical to suppose that hesitation would only have increased after the unfortunate case of a young nurse passing away shortly after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on 18 March.
As the data from February 2021 CRRC/NDI survey shows, even before this incident, in February, only around a third of Georgians were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the largest concern being related to the quality of the vaccine.