The rallying around the flag effect in Georgia
Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.
In times of crisis, support for governments often rises in what is known as a rallying around the flag effect. The COVID-19 crisis in Georgia has been no exception.
Data from around the world has shown rallying around the flag effects in many countries during the pandemic, with a few exceptions. Georgia has followed this broader pattern, with performance ratings tripling for many actors and institutions between November/December 2019 and May 2020.
Yet, with parliamentary elections set for 31 October, whether this has translated into changes in party preferences is unclear.
A survey CRRC Georgia fielded between 21–23 May, which the Embassy of the Netherlands in Tbilisi financially supported, asked people to assess the institutional performance of the prime minister, parliament, police, president, and the Georgian Orthodox Church. The question was worded in the same way as the NDI and CRRC 2019 November/December survey.
When comparing the results, approval ratings roughly tripled for parliament from 9% positive to 30%, for the president from 9% positive to 25%, and for the prime minister from 21% positive to 66%.
Institutional performance assessments of the Church improved from 50% positive to 66%, despite the significant controversy around their policies during the crisis. The across the board increases in approval ratings suggest a clear rallying around the flag effect.
While there has been a large rally around Georgia’s government, the data is ambivalent when it comes to whether this has resulted in increased party support for the ruling Georgian Dream Party.
In May, 25% of the public reported that Georgian Dream was the party closest to them, roughly comparable to the 21% that reported the same in November/December 2019. The share reporting that the UNM was closest to them also declined from 14% to 4%.
This appears to be a large shift. Yet, the share of people refusing to answer what party they supported increased from 3% to 12%. Further, the share reporting they don’t know which party is closest to them rose from 5% to 12%. The share reporting that there is no party closest to them did not shift significantly with 37% in November/December and 38% of the public reporting the same in May.
Given this data, at least two explanations are plausible. While the NDI survey was done face to face, the COVID-19 Monitor survey was done over the phone. It is possible that UNM supporters were over-represented in the ‘don’t know’ and ‘refuse to answer’ categories in May, because of discomfort in sharing political views over the phone. Alternatively, the increase in ‘don’t know’ responses could stem from genuine increases in uncertainty. Reasonably a bit of both as well as other factors may be at play.
Despite this increased level of uncertainty, Georgian Dream appears to have gained ground, at least in terms of the share of the public willing to say they support them. How this translates into electoral success remains to be seen. But, what is clear is that Georgians have rallied around their institutions during the COVID-19 crisis.
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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.
2018 წლის საპრეზიდენტო არჩევნები, განსაკუთრებით კი — მეორე ტურში დატრიალებული მოვლენები შესაძლოა, ქვეყნის დემოკრატიული განვითარების გზაზე უკან გადადგმულ ნაბიჯად ჩაითვალოს. პირველ და მეორე ტურებს შორის მთავრობამ განაცხადა, რომ არჩევნების შემდეგ დაახლოებით 600 ათასამდე მოქალაქეს ვალებს ჩამოაწერდა, რაც, ზოგიერთი დამკვირვებლის აზრით, ამომრჩეველთა მოსყიდვად უნდა ჩათვლილიყო...
The long-fought-over electoral reform was a compromise which represents two steps forward after three steps had been taken back.
The findings reflect broader global trends which have seen dramatic decreases in air pollution levels in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
Facebook is an important part of Georgian politics. Political campaigns are fought, and public opinion thought to often be formed on the platform...
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.
Without trust in the messages of public health officials, measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus are less likely to be complied with, exacerbating the spread of the virus.
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.
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.
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 unemployment, reduced 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.
Georgia has postponed the reopening of schools in major cities due to a new surge in the pandemic, but what are the biggest concerns Georgians have with the education system?
Georgia’s new academic year started on 15 September, but physical attendance at schools and universities in major cities has been postponed until 1 October.
Talk about political polarisation in Georgia is easy to find. Some have suggested that the recent United National Movement (UNM) announcement that Saakashvili will be their prime ministerial candidate will only make matters worse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each government of Georgia has had a wide range of successes; but how do the public see these successes from Shevardnadze’s time to the present?
When Eduard Shevardnadze’s government is mentioned in Georgia today, it tends to be connected with the dark times Georgia experienced in the 1990s. Yet, his government also saw the introduction of the Georgian Lari, resulting in a stable exchange rate. The United National Movement is credited with fighting petty corruption, and oversaw a period of relatively high economic growth, while at the same time failing to avoid the disastrous 2008 war with Russia. The Georgian Dream government too is seen as having had some success, for example, in reducing the prison population, from what was among the highest in the world. At the same time, incidents like the Gavrilov Nights and issues around election integrity are often cited as failures.
While each Georgian government has had a range of successes, as described in another post published today, they have each had their own spectacular failures.
From Shevardnadze’s failure to establish state power outside Tbilisi, to the human rights abuses under the UNM and Gavrilov’s Nights under Georgian Dream, every government has had significant shortcomings.
While these are some of the most memorable, little research has been conducted on what the public thinks are the largest failings of each government. Data released on Tuesday from a CRRC Georgia survey conducted in partnership with the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and Carnegie Europe provides a picture of the public’s views of the largest successes and failures of government.
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.