The most important issues facing Georgia, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak

What did Georgians think was the most important issue facing the country prior to the COVID-19 outbreak? The economy. The current COVID-19 outbreak will shift perceptions surely. Yet, the measures to fight the virus have slowed down the economy, exacerbating the previously existing economic issues. While the economy has consistently been the most important issue for most Georgians in recent years, this headline figure hides some nuance. This blog explores this nuance, looking at who names a mixture of economic and non-economic issues as the most important ones facing the country.
The recent Caucasus Barometer 2019 shows that around 77% of Georgians name economic-related issues, like unemployment, unaffordability of healthcare and education, low pensions, poverty, rising prices, inflation, and low wages as the most important issue facing Georgia at the moment. When it comes to the second most important issue, a majority (71%) again name economic problems.
Note: The following answer options were grouped as economic: unaffordability of healthcare, unemployment, low pensions, poverty, unaffordability of professional or higher education, rising prices, inflation, and low wages. Non-economic issues include, corruption, unfairness of courts, unfairness of elections, violation of human rights, lack of peace in the country, political instability in the country, violation of property rights, low quality of education, problematic relations with Russia, unsolved territorial conflicts, religious intolerance, gender inequality, emigration, immigration, threats to national traditions, and other.
While economic issues are the most commonly named, many point to a mix of economic and non-economic issues. About half the public named only economic issues on the above questions, while 34% named an economic and a non-economic issue. In total, 9% named only non-economic issues. However, the trend has been changing over the last decade. More people started naming only economic problems in both answer options from 2010 (with the exception of 2013). Before this, Georgians named both economic and non-economic issues more frequently. Another outlier from the chart is 2008, when non-economic issues, including territorial integrity and security were named by a relatively high share of the population.

A regression analysis conducted on the results for 2019 suggests that, controlling for other factors, those living in the capital, women, those with higher education, and those that use the internet more often tend to name both economic and non-economic related problems a bit more often. There are no statistically significant differences between age, employment status, ethnicity and a wealth index, constructed from the ownership of a number of household assets. 
A number of variables related to a household’s economic situation are not associated with responses on the above questions, controlling for other factors. Households with more assets, people with jobs, and those that report needing to borrow money for food are no more or less likely to name economic issues alone.
Similarly to economic variables, preferences for different political parties are not associated with people’s responses on this question.
Economic issues are the most important ones for most people in Georgia. However, people are not only concerned with the economy. In this regard, attitudes vary across settlement type, gender, educational attainment, and internet use. Measures of socio-economic well-being and political affiliation contribute little to understanding what issues people prioritize. 
The data presented in this blog post is available here. Replication code for the above analysis is available here.

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