Monday, October 20, 2014

Do Armenians Still View Integration with the EU as Part of a Positive-Sum Game?

On September 3rd 2013 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan surprised many observers, including some in his own government, when he announced that Armenia would sign an agreement with Russia to join the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and spurn a long-negotiated Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union. The move has been dubbed a “U-Turn” as well as a “sudden shift in policy,” although it was predated by landmark Armenian-Russian agreements in 1997 and 2006. Following Sargsyan’s announcement Armenia has continued to pursue simultaneous mutually-beneficial bilateral relationships with both Russia and the EU, a foreign policy orientation commonly called “complementarity.” This balancing act has popular backing, although recent survey data shows that public attitudes have become less favorable toward the EU, especially since 2011. This blog post analyzes data concerning trends in public attitudes toward the EU and Russia as well as academic scholarship on the association and customs agreements, presenting preoccupation with national security on the part of political leadership as well as public opposition to so-called “European values” as possible explanations.

CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) data has shown that the Armenian public expresses overlapping support for closer ties with both Russia and the EU. The 2013 CB found that while 55% of people “rather support” or “fully support” Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurasEC), 40% also “rather support” or “fully support” membership in the European Union. And among those who “fully support” membership in the EurasEC, 60% also “fully support” membership in the EU.

Even following President Sargsyan’s agreement to join the ECU, a large section of the public believes that Armenia can maintain positive relations with both Russia and the EU. In June 2014, the Civilitas Foundation conducted a nationwide telephone survey of Armenian adults which found that 51% of the population believes that “Armenia should deepen relations both with Europe and Russia,” compared to 34% answering that Armenia should deepen relations with Russia only and only 4% responding that Armenia should deepen relations with the EU only.

While support for complementarity remains high, the CB indicates that positive attitudes toward the EU have declined, especially during the two years prior to announcement of the customs agreement. Whereas in 2011 62% of Armenians indicated “Support” for the country’s membership in the EU, in 2013 only 41% did so (for the data presented in this blog post, the values have been re-coded from a five-point scale used in the questionnaire to a three-point scale. Values “Rather support” and “Fully support” have been combined to “Support,” values “Rather don’t support” and “Don’t support at all” have been combined to “Don’t support”).  Over the same span the proportion choosing “Don’t Support” nearly tripled from 8% to 23%. In addition, each year respondents are asked to “assess their level of trust toward the European Union” (values measuring trust were also re-coded from a five-point scale used in the questionnaire to a three-point scale, so that “Fully Trust” and “Somewhat Trust” have been combined to “Trust” and “Fully Distrust” and “Somewhat Distrust” have been combined to “Distrust").  In 2011 37% indicated that they “Trust” the EU, while that figure fell to 27% by 2013. The share of those answering that they “Distrust” the EU increased from 17% to 28% over the same period.

These findings beg the question: why has public support for the EU among Armenians shown a tendency to decrease in recent years? One explanation is that public officials have prioritized the country’s deepening relationship with Russia while refraining from extensive public discourse concerning the EU. According to Delcour (2014) “Russia is widely seen as the security guarantor by the general Armenian public, whereas there is little knowledge of the European Union…Negotiations with the EU were conducted with small groups of experts, with hardly any explanations of their consequences and benefits to the population.”

The security component of the strategic partnership with Russia means that it tends to receive more attention, with Kempe (2013) expressing the view that “while the EU can be seen as an important partner for modernization and soft security, Russia still matters much more for Armenia as far as hard security is concerned.” While official foreign policy and public opinion are not always congruent, scholars such as Gabel and Scheve (2007) assert that government plays an important role in shaping popular attitudes. In Armenia the state has the potential to affect public opinion through influence over the media; in 2013 Freedom House declared that “most of the dominant media are controlled by government or government-friendly individuals.” This suggests that public support for the EU has declined not because of negative treatment in the public discourse but because of a lack of discussion in general.

A second possible explanation for eroding support is the indication that a growing segment of the population is uncomfortable with the purported spread of “European values” in Armenia. Historically close ties with Russia have emboldened pro-Russian voices in the country who oppose the AA primarily for cultural reasons. When the Civilitas poll asked Armenians to pinpoint the “greatest disadvantage of Armenia’s deeper integration with the European Union,” 18% indicated “loss of national identity.” While that number is not high in absolute terms, it appears more significant when contrasted with the fact that only 2% responded “loss of national identity” when asked the same question concerning deeper integration with the ECU. Armenian cultural conservatives tend to prefer closer ties with Russia and the ECU, not seeing danger in Russian cultural influence.

Despite the pro-Russian stance of most cultural conservatives, public opinion surveys confirm the preference for complementarity among a large segment of the Armenian public, even after the announcement of the customs agreement with Russia. However, trust and support for Armenia’s integration with the EU have slightly declined in recent years. This may be due to a relative lack of information about the EU on the part of citizens, as the government tends to prioritize the country’s strategic partnership with Russia while failing to adequately inform the public about the EU. Moreover, a growing segment of Armenians distrust the EU most likely out of the perception that deeper integration with it poses a threat to “national identity,” which in contrast is seen as a non-issue in Armenian-Russian relations. 

To gain more information on public opinion in Armenia, take a look at the CRRC’s online data analysis tool. For deeper insights on the Eurasian Customs Union useful analysis is provided by the Eurasian Economic Commission as well as the European Union Institute for Security Studies.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Active and Employed

Does having more free time mean that you can do more? According to the 2013 CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, the answer is not that simple. Being unemployed may mean that you have more time at your disposal, but it may also mean that you have fewer opportunities to get involved and resources to use for various activities than those who work. This blog looks at activities people get involved in and describes the differences between those who have a job and those who do not.

According to data from CB 2013, 40% of Georgians are either employees (25%) or self-employed (14%). In this survey, those who do not have a job are grouped into the following categories: unemployed (25%), retired (17%), housewives (12%), students (4%) or disabled (2%). One can reasonably expect that people who work are more likely to have less time to participate in different kinds of activities compared to the unemployed. However, CRRC Caucasus Barometer data demonstrates that people who work tend to get involved in different kinds of activities more frequently than those who do not work.

Working people are more likely than the unemployed to participate in activities which involve socializing, meeting new people and helping others. Twenty five percent of those who have a job said that they have volunteered without compensation and 23% have attended a public meeting during the last six months, while only 17% and 13%, respectively, of the unemployed did the same. Also, when asked whether they have done any unpaid or paid work for their family’s business for at least one hour within the past week, more of those who work answered positively compared to the unemployed.

Note: The graph above only gives the percentage of “Yes” responses. It does not give percentages of “No”, “Don’t Know” and “Refuse to Answer”. The chart gives only the answers of respondents who have a job or are unemployed. Housewives, students, retired people, the disabled and others are excluded.

Moreover, when it comes to political participation, working people report higher rates of involvement. Around 90% of both those who have a job and those who do not say they would participate in presidential elections if they were held next Sunday, but when it comes to reality, 90% of working people reported voting in the 2012 parliamentary elections compared to 81% of the unemployed.  Here, it is important to note that according to the Central Election Commission of Georgia, the turnout in this election was only 59.75%. The number of respondents who report that they have or will vote is usually higher than the actual turnout. There are many reasons for this discrepancy; however, this blog does not seek to analyze these reasons.

Those with jobs and without are similar in their frequency of using the internet but differ from each other in respect to their behavior while browsing the internet. As CB 2013 shows, 36% of those who work and 31% of the unemployed say they use the internet every day. The most frequent activities when browsing the internet are similar in both groups, but the frequencies are different between groups. Most of the time, people use the internet to visit social networking sites or to search for information, though those who have a job are less likely to use the internet for social networking sites and are more likely to search for information. They are also more likely to send and receive email, which may be related to their work. 

Note: The graph above only gives the frequency of respondents mentioning these activities. Respondents were asked to list up to three activities and then read from a list of online activities. The chart gives only the answers of respondents who have a job or are unemployed. Housewives, students, retired people, the disabled and others are excluded.

When considering the above-mentioned differences, it is important to note that there are no significant differences in the demographic characteristics of those who work and who are unemployed. They are evenly distributed geographically and by gender. As for the age composition of the two groups, the share of people aged 18 to 35 is higher in the unemployed group (45% compared to 35%). While financial factors are important, alone, they do not explain the differences described in terms of social engagement, especially as activities such as volunteering, attending public meetings and voting do not require significant expenditures.

Thus, people who work are more involved in other social activities than those who do not work. In addition to financial factors, social factors may also be behind these differences. Maybe those who have a job have more opportunities to engage in activities, because they have more connections as they are part of a specific social network due to their work. On the contrary, maybe they have a job, because they already had more social ties before they got a job, and thus are and were actively involved in many different activities. We cannot say for sure, but finding out the answer might be very important as, according to Caucasus Barometer 2013, there are a fair number of unemployed people (25%) in Georgia who may have free time that can be used to serve some good.

In your opinion, why are the unemployed less involved in the social activities discussed in this blog? What is the reason for unemployed people not participating in many social activities? Is it only related to economic factors or are there other factors that could explain these findings?

Share your ideas on the CRRC’s Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Wave of the Future: Optimism, Pessimism and Fatalism in Georgia

A recent CRRC regional blog post analyzed the presence of fatalism in Georgia. The post cited CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) data which shows that in 2013, 28% of Georgians agreed that “everything in life is determined by fate.” While the CB findings demonstrate that a sizeable portion of the adult population is fatalistic about the future, Georgians are increasingly likely to see that future in a positive light, whether it be determined by fate or not. This blog post analyzes survey data and finds a recent trend of Georgians describing both their present economic situation and expected future situation in more positive terms than in previous years. However, survey results also illuminate dissonance in Georgian society, as urban residents and the younger population are more likely to look to the future with optimism than are rural dwellers and older Georgians. Notably, members of the latter groups are more likely to hold fatalistic attitudes.

CB longitudinal data demonstrates that over time Georgians have become more likely to describe their current household standing in positive terms. The survey asks: “Let’s imagine there is a 10-step ladder reflecting the economic standing of all households in Georgia today…On which rung of this ladder do you think your household currently stands?” For the purpose of this blog post values were re-coded from a ten-point scale to a three-point scale, with rungs 1-4 designated as the “low” position, 5-6 designated as the “intermediate” position, and 7-10 designated as the “high” position. In 2009 CB results showed that 64% of Georgians described their household being in the “low” economic position in society. That proportion remains high but has steadily declined since, and by 2013 only 45% of citizens described their household position in the same terms. It should be noted that the largest decline in negative responses occurred from 2009 to 2010. One plausible explanation is that GDP recovered rapidly over the same period, with the World Bank reporting that Georgia’s GDP contracted by 3.8% in 2009 before growing by 6.3% in 2010. As for the “high” position, 11% of Georgians placed themselves there in 2013, compared with only 4% in 2009. It appears that most of the difference on the time series is accounted for by people changing their perception from “low” to “intermediate.”

Not only do Georgians feel better about their current standing, they are looking forward to a brighter future. In recent years the vast majority of adults in the country have seen the future of their households in uncertain terms at best, indicating “Don’t Know” or “Refuse to Answer” on the survey, and pessimistic terms at worst. Those attitudes haven’t disappeared, but public sentiment is becoming more sanguine. After describing their current position, respondents are asked “On which rung of this ladder do you think your household will be standing 5 years from now?” The percentage of Georgians expecting their household to be in the “high” position increased over a span of four years, showing an overall rise from 16% in 2009 to 29% in 2013. By contrast, the percentage of those indicating the “low” position was stagnant.

What is most telling about these numbers is that the proportion of pessimists did not rise, given that the proportion of “Don’t Know” and “Refuse to Answer” responses declined from 2009 to 2013, from 60% to 49% (after peaking at 65% in 2011).  This figure remains relatively high, however. At the same time the share of people indicating “high” and “intermediate” positions increased. Taken in aggregate, these numbers suggest that Georgians are more certain about their futures than they were four years ago, and increased certainty has apparently translated into higher expectations.

The data indicates, however, that residents of urban areas are much more likely to view the future with optimism than rural residents. Of those expecting their household to be in the “high” position in five years, 67% percent lived in urban areas (including Tbilisi). Of those expecting to be on the “low” position, 62% lived in rural areas. Thus we observe an association between urbanization and optimistic economic expectations. There is also a discord between age groups. Those aged 18-35 are the most likely to expect to be in the “high” position, while those aged 36-55 and 56+ are less likely to have that expectation and are increasingly likely to give DK/RA responses. According to the CB 35% of Georgia’s young adults indicated “high” compared to 27% of the middle-aged population and 23% of the elderly. It should also be noted that the under-36 age group constituted a larger proportion of the population in Tbilisi than in other urban (non-Tbilisi) or rural areas (42% of Tbilisi’s adult population is under 36, compared to 36% of the population in other urban areas and 31% of the rural population), so it is unclear whether age group or settlement type is a better indicator of optimism.

The presence of fatalistic attitudes offers a possible explanation for these cleavages. Those residing in Tbilisi are more likely to be optimistic about the future and much less likely to agree that “everything in life is determined by fate,” with the CB 2013 finding that 18% of Tbilisi residents agreed with the statement compared to 29% of urban Georgians (excluding Tbilisi) and 32% of rural inhabitants. However, it must be noted that non-Tbilisi urbanites were more likely than residents of Tbilisi to indicate both expectation of the high economic position and having fatalistic attitudes. As for the age divide, only 23% of those aged 18-35 indicated fatalistic attitudes, compared to 26% of the 36-55 age group and 34% of those 56 and over. Comparing age groups, we observe a negative association between optimism for the future and fatalism.

This statistical analysis indicates that Georgians have demonstrated increasingly optimistic attitudes over the past four years. While that is good news, exuberance should be tempered by the fact that high expectations are largely concentrated in the urban population and those under the age of 35. The lack of optimism amongst the rural and 36+ populations also appears to be associated with the presence of fatalistic attitudes in Georgia. Georgian society is becoming more optimistic on the whole, but growing optimism is not spread evenly amongst the population.

For additional information concerning public opinion in Georgia take a look at our data using the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Georgians Have High Hopes but Little Information about the Association Agreement with the EU

Optimism abounds with regards to the recently signed Georgia-European Union Association Agreement (AA). Most Georgians, however, lack information about the EU and its relation to the country, including the details of the agreement which directly concern the future of Georgia’s economy. The AA covers many areas including national security, migration, human rights and the rule of law but is primarily a free trade agreement with potentially major implications for employment.

Surveys have consistently shown that Georgian citizens are primarily concerned with unemployment and other economic problems, but academic opinions are divided on whether the AA’s impact on unemployment will be positive or negative; Messerlin, Emerson, Jandieri and Le Vernoy  (2011) emphasize the “extremely onerous” costs of complying with EU regulatory standards while Kakulia (2014) argues that short-term costs will be more than offset by augmented inward foreign direct investment and expanded export volumes. This blog post analyzes public opinion surveys as well as academic research on the Association Agreement and finds discordance within the attitudes of the public. While much of the public have high hopes about the country’s integration with the EU, close ties may not improve the employment situation, which the majority of citizens see as Georgia’s most pressing problem.

Georgians tend to view potential EU membership positively, with the CRRC 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey finding that when asked “To what extent would you support Georgia’s membership in the EU?” 34% of adults responded “fully support” and 31% “rather support.” While demonstrating optimism most citizens are ill-informed about the EU and what closer ties mean for the country’s future. For example, in the Eurasia Partnership Foundation’s Knowledge and attitudes toward the EU survey in 2013 only 23% of the population reported familiarity with the Eastern Partnership, (a crucial forum for EU-Georgia dialogue) and only 19% responded “Yes” to the question “Have you heard or not about the Association Agreement with the European Union?

While Georgians overwhelmingly see EU integration in a positive light, their focus rests primarily on the problem of stubbornly high unemployment, which could be profoundly impacted by the conditions of the AA. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer confirmed a series of studies emphasizing public awareness of the unemployment problem, finding that 54% of adults in Georgia view it as the “most important issue facing Georgia,” dwarfing such options as “unsolved regional conflicts” and “problematic relations with Russia.” That should not come as a surprise, as recent numbers from the National Statistics Office of Georgia give the unemployment rate at 14.6%, high by almost any standard, while some studies have found that the actual figure is upwards of 30%.

EU-Georgia relations and unemployment are closely intertwined because the AA includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), meaning that in addition to dissolving tariffs on all imports from EU member states the country will have to adopt EU regulatory standards on products. Academic opinions are split as to whether this will be helpful or harmful to the employment situation. In the words of Vato Levaja of the Free University of Tbilisi, “we need to adjust to the EU regulations, which are, to put it in a nutshell, the luxury of a richer community…you have to pay for it.” This adjustment could be especially difficult for agriculture producers who must bear the financial burden of meeting stricter food safety standards. Some manufacturers will also need to make costly investments in order to improve the quality of their products. Higher operating costs combined with increased foreign competition (due to the removal of tariffs) could hurt the profitability of some firms, putting downward pressure on employment, at least in the short term.

Proponents of the agreement argue that by improving its regulatory standards Georgia will attract more foreign investment and be able to export products to a wider range of foreign markets. More stringent regulation means better products and more productive industries, thereby increasing national wealth and employment opportunities. That may well happen, but the process will be difficult and likely only bear fruit in the long-term. However, as Georgians see unemployment as the biggest issue facing the country it is important that citizens become better informed about the Association Agreement’s economic implications. While Georgians tend to expect positive outcomes from integration the jury is out on whether deeper ties with the EU will help expand employment opportunities.

For additional insights relating to Georgian attitudes toward EU integration refer to this July post concerning expectations for the Association Agreement or take a look at our data using the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool. The website of the EU Delegation to Georgia offers a wealth of information on the Association Agreement.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Russia as a threat: the Ukraine crisis and changing public opinion in Georgia

Following 2012 parliamentary elections, attitudes toward Russia in Georgia shifted. While in 2011 51% of the population considered Russia the main enemy of the country, in 2012 only 35% reported the same. Moreover, the share of Georgians who named Russia as Georgia’s main friend increased by 5%. In a post on the CRRC-Georgia blog, this change was explained by a so-called “spiral of silence”. According to this theory, a person refrains from expressing their ideas freely if they feel that their opinions are in the minority. Davit Sichinava has noted that these results can be explained by some citizens’ desire to make their opinions conform to those of the new ruling party. This post examines how attitudes have changed since 2012 toward Russia and whether events in Ukraine have had any influence on it.

The graph below shows that from November 2012 to November 2013, the share of the population that claimed Russia was a real and existing threat to Georgia peaked at 36%. In April 2014, this number reached 50%. Moreover, the amount of Georgians who believe that Russia poses no threat to Georgia at all, decreased by 10%. What could cause such a rapid change in Georgian’s opinions about Russia making them report that Russia is a real and existing threat to Georgia?

When thinking about Russian and Georgian relations after the 2012 parliamentary elections there are a number of important events to take into consideration: the initiation of Georgian-Russian dialogue in the form of the Abashidze-Karasin negotiations, the re-opening of the Russian market to Georgian products, and the so-called borderization of South Ossetia. Obviously, the opening of Russian markets and direct bilateral negotiations are not likely causes of increased negative attitudes toward Russia, while Georgians are against the borderization policy making it a potential cause of negative attitudes towards Russia. Notably, the so-called borderization policy, which started in May of 2013, marks the beginning of a shift in attitudes toward Russia.

Another important event that may be associated with changes in public opinion is the crisis in Ukraine. While the Ukraine crisis is not directly tied to Georgian-Russian relations, Tbilisi has consistently expressed its support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity. Since the crisis there has been a very apparent change in Georgians’ perceptions of Russia as a possible threat. This is further exemplified by the responses to a question on NDI’s April 2014 survey- “which country bears the most responsibility for the crisis in Crimea?” As the graph below shows, 62% of Georgians consider Russia the country which bears the most responsibility for the crisis in the Crimea. Moreover, 66% of Georgians find Crimea’s unification with Russia unacceptable. It is noteworthy that the events in Ukraine which most experts assess as a direct and open Russian aggression against Ukraine started in March of 2014, directly before the April 2014 survey.                                                                          

It is interesting that in August 2014, support for the statement that “Russia is a real and existing threat to Georgia” declined by 8% compared to April. This could mean that Russia appeared to be more threatening to Ukraine (and hence to Georgia) at the onset of the crisis, rather than now as the conflict has protracted in time.  Russia's role in fueling the crisis in Ukraine may remind Georgians of Russia’s intervention in the separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 1990s or of the 2008 August war with Russia. In sum, it seems that the events in Ukraine aggravated the sense of a potential future threat from Russia, especially considering the similar Euro-Atlantic policy orientations of both Ukraine and Georgia.

Considering the above, it is not surprising that almost half of the population (46%) believes that the actions taken by the Government of Georgia in support of Ukraine are insufficient and additional actions are needed. Notably, 63% of the population approved of the Georgian government’s condemnation of Russia’s actions in the Crimea.

This post has looked at the impact which events in Ukraine have had on the perception of threat expected from Russia. It appears that the increased level of agreement with the statement that “Russia is a real and existing threat to Georgia” in April may be linked to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. This is supported by the fact that most Georgians believe that Russia bears responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine and that Georgians are against Crimea’s unification with Russia. How Georgian public attitude will change toward Russia and whether the crisis in Ukraine will continue to influence it remains to be seen, but readers interested in exploring the issues discussed above can delve further into Georgian perceptions of Russia here.

By Edisher Baghaturia

Monday, September 15, 2014

Living day-to-day: How are fatalism and economic prosperity interrelated in Georgia?

Authors Rahmato and Kidanu (1999) use the phrase “We live only for today” to describe a feeling whereby a person gives up on life and does not know or does not want to think about what will happen the next day. This phrase describes a state wherein people live day-to-day without hope for the future. This sense of helplessness or hopelessness with regard to the future is known as fatalism. According to Oxford dictionary, fatalism is a “belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable.” What can the study of fatalism tell us?  Research by Straughan & Seow (1998), Stephen & Shapiro (2010), and Ruiu (2014), has revealed that fatalism can play a large role in determining a wide range of behaviors such as financial savings decisions, occupational choices, health behaviors, and even natural disaster preparedness. This blog analyzes fatalistic beliefs in Georgia, and explores associations between fatalism, economic status and education.

The CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer 2013 data shows that just over a quarter of Georgians (28%) express fatalistic views by agreeing with the statement that, “Everything in life is determined by fate”. 39% hold the opposite view and 29% are neutral.

Note: This question was re-coded from a 10-point scale to a 3-point scale. The options 1, 2, 3, 4 were grouped into “Everything in life is determined by fate”. Options 5 and 6 were grouped into “Neutral”, and options 7, 8, 9 and 10 were grouped into “People shape their fate themselves”.

What are some potential consequences of being fatalistic? From an economic perspective, as Bernard, Dercon, and Taffesse (2012) claim in their paper, fatalism is equivalent to not making necessary “investments” to improve one’s well-being. Thus, a fatalistic person might refrain from making investments that would improve their well-being, because they believe such investments might not lead to significant changes. CB data shows that fatalism and a person’s economic situation are interrelated in Georgia; 35% of the population who describe their economic situation as “bad” also think that “Everything in life is determined by fate”. Only 19% of Georgians who describe their economic situation as “good” share the same belief.

Note:  Original answer options, “Money is not enough for food” and “Money is enough for food only, but not for clothes” were grouped to create the “Bad” economic condition category. The option “Money is enough for food and clothes, but not enough for expensive durables like a refrigerator or washing machine” was  renamed as “Middle” economic condition. Finally, the original answer options “Can afford to buy some expensive durables like a refrigerator or washing machine” and ”Can afford to buy anything they need” were grouped into the “Good” economic condition.

Bernard, Dercon and Taffesse describe this relationship between fatalism and a person’s economic situation as a vicious circle, whereby a person who believes they are unable to change their life might lack motivation to explore different paths towards a better life (and thus be unlikely to invest necessary resources in achieving a better life). As a consequence, a set of beliefs about the inability to make a positive change would be perpetuated.

What role does education play in this context? Education not only provides access to information, but also, according to Ruiu (2012), improves skills and can enable people to realize their abilities. According to Ruiu, education thus makes individuals less fatalistic, and based on his research, there is a strong negative association between fatalism and education. The CB also shows a negative association between education and fatalism in Georgia. 41% of Georgians who say they have achieved a primary education agree with the statement, “Everything in life is determined by fate”, whereas 22% of Georgians who have completed higher education share the same view.

Note: The following original answer options were grouped into “Primary”: no primary education, primary education, and incomplete secondary education. Secondary education and incomplete higher education were grouped into “Secondary”. Completed higher education and a post-graduate degree were grouped into “Higher”.

To conclude, fatalistic views are associated to an individual’s economic situation and education level, but of course, correlation cannot confirm causation. On one hand, CB survey data shows that fatalistic views tend to decrease as education increases in Georgia. On the other hand, Georgians who share fatalistic views are more likely to describe their economic situation as bad, compared to those who believe that people shape their fate themselves.

By: Tamuna Chkaidze

Monday, September 08, 2014

Is xenophobia on the rise in Georgia?

On September 1, 2014 new rules and regulations came into force for foreigners interested in visiting Georgia. Under the previous visa regime, citizens of 118 countries could stay in Georgia without a visa. Many with visa free travel privileges could receive a visa stamp at the airport that would be valid for 360 days, and simply renew their visa by crossing an international border and returning to Georgia. Even nationals of many countries not covered by this visa free travel regime could receive a visa upon arrival in Georgia. This was a liberal visa regime. Under the new visa regime, a shorter list of foreign nationals will be allowed to visit Georgia for 90 days (within a 180-day period), and can receive a visa stamp upon arrival. The new policy intends to bring Georgia in line with EU policy, and it was prescribed by the EU to allow easier access for Georgians to enter the Schengen Zone under the EU-Georgia visa liberalization action plan (VLAP).

Despite the fact that the policy brings Georgia in line with EU legislation, some have questioned the logic of the law. Specifically, many consider the law to be xenophobic and punitive, as Gavin Slade has argued. This change was likely made so that Georgia would not be an entry point for illegal migration to Europe via Turkey. With all of this in mind, readers may be interested in whether xenophobia is on the rise in Georgia. This post looks at the level of approval of foreigners marrying Georgian women, and at the level of approval of Georgian citizens doing business with other ethnicities between 2009 and 2013 (as a proxy for xenophobic attitudes in Georgia).  

If xenophobia were on the rise in Georgia, one would expect an increasing level of disapproval of doing business with foreigners or Georgian women marrying other ethnicities.  Yet, data from the Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows that xenophobia is not on the rise; approval rates for both interethnic marriage (27% on average) and for doing business with different ethnicities (77% on average) have not changed drastically from 2009 to 2013.

Note: Only ethnic groups that were consistently present in the CB from 2009 to 2013 were included in the average calculation. These include Turks, Russians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Kurds/Yezidis, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Americans, and Jews. This group is referred to as a ‘collection of ethnicities’. During the CB survey, respondents were asked “Would you approve or disapprove of people of your ethnicity doing business with,” and “Would you approve or disapprove of women of your ethnicity marrying,” followed by a list of ethnicities. Respondents were able to respond ‘approve’ or ‘disapprove’. Approve was coded as 1 and disapprove was coded as 0. In the graph above, averages of respondents’ answers to each ethnicity below or equal to 0.50 were coded as disapprove, and averages greater than 0.50 were coded as approve. The same method was used to calculate averages below. 

Although the above graph suggests that there has not been a pronounced increase in anti-foreign feelings in the last five years, some ethnicities are appraised as more favorable for marriage and business than other ethnicities. Generally, Russians, Americans, and Europeans of different ethnicities are viewed more favorably, and Yezidis/Kurds, Chinese, Iranians, Indians, and Turks are generally perceived as less favorable for marriage and business. The graph below shows views for marriage regarding these and other groups in 2013.
The figure also shows that marriages to ethnicities which tend to be Christian receive higher approval rates than to those generally associated with Islam and other non-Christian religions. The figure below gives averages of approval ratings for marriage and doing business with ethnicities that tend to be Christian, and with those that tend to be non-Christian from 2009 to 2013. The figure shows that Georgians have consistently approved of marriage (by 15 to 20 percentage points) with foreign ethnicities that tend to be Christian, than to those that tend to be non-Christian. It also shows that Georgians have been between 5 and 12 percentage points more likely to approve of business with foreign Christians as opposed to foreign non-Christians. Both trends have been stable over time.
Note: The category Christian in the above graph consists of Russians, Americans, Armenians, Ossetians, and Abkhazians. The non-Christian category consists of Jews, Turks, Yezidis/Kurds, and Azerbaijanis. Only ethnic groups that were consistently present in the CB from 2009 to 2013 were included in the average calculation. Calculations were made as described below the first graph in this blog post.

This blog post has shown that the average level of approval of doing business with foreigners, and Georgian women marrying foreigners, has not changed much in the past four years. The blog has also shown that differences in approval rates between specific ethnicities appear to be related to religion. Georgians are more likely to approve of marriage and business relations with ethnicities that tend to be Christian. Importantly, these levels have been quite consistent from 2009 to 2013 which suggests that, with respect to these specific factors, xenophobic attitudes are not on the rise in Georgia.

To explore issues related to marriage and business relations in Georgia, take a look at this blog post on Georgian nationalism, or examine the data directly with CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.