Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Inflation and a Georgian’s choice of fuel

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Makhare Atchaidze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

A global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have both contributed to skyrocketing rates of inflation worldwide. Georgia is no exception, as people reevaluated their preferences for fuel throughout the past two years.

In August 2022, Georgia’s inflation rate stood at 10.9%, with the price of petrol rising by 18% and the price of diesel by 45% compared with those of August 2021 — this is due in large part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In response to rising fuel prices, Georgian drivers have been protesting. In early November 2021, during a period of price increases, Soso Pkhakadze, the chair and president of Wissol Group, one of Georgia’s largest oil companies, stated that fuel prices should be even higher due to globally rising prices. 

While arguably a reasonable point, the comment led to protests among Georgian drivers. The Facebook campaign, No to Fuel Prices, was created on November 3 and more than 162,000 people had joined by April 2022. On 27 March, police detained 20 of the campaign’s protestors for paralysing traffic in central Tbilisi as part of demonstrations over fuel prices. Similar large-scale protests have also taken place in Batumi, Kutaisi, Telavi, and Ozurgeti.

According to Geostat, Georgia’s national statistics office, the price of gasoline in March 2022 increased by 45.7%, while the price of diesel increased by 45.65% compared to the same month of the previous year. 

This is in a context where Georgian drivers already were highly price-oriented when selecting which fuel to purchase. Data from the Transparency International survey on public policy, which CRRC Georgia conducted in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 suggests that low prices and fuel quality were the key factors in people’s decision-making on where to purchase fuel. When respondents were asked what factors affect their choice of fuel, 50% mentioned low prices and 48% indicated that they would prefer higher-quality petrol. A further 15% mentioned proximity to the petrol station. Other factors were mentioned by less than 10% of respondents. 

CRRC Georgia’s Omnibus survey conducted in July 2022 suggests that the importance of fuel prices has increased, with nearly two-thirds (64%) naming low fuel prices as a determining factor — a 14 percentage point increase. Notably, the share of people naming proximity halved between 2019 and 2022.

Note: Caption: Respondents were allowed to give multiple answers. Therefore, percentages do not add up to 100%.

The 2019 data shows that price was a particularly important determinant for people who use non-branded fuel companies, Lukoil customers, and SOCAR customers. In contrast, Rompetrol and Wissol customers were less price-conscious and more concerned with fuel quality.

Note: This chart is based on a binomial logistic regression model. The model includes gender (male, female), age groups (18–34, 35–54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, technical, incomplete or complete tertiary), employment status (employed, unemployed), Wissol fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned), Lukoil fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned), Rompetrol fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned), Gulf fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned), SOCAR fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned), and other fuel use (mentioned, not mentioned).

Given the data above, it is perhaps unsurprising that the vast majority of drivers (96%) are concerned about rising fuel costs, and a large majority (82%) report that they are driving less, according to the July 2022 data.

Taken together, the above shows that drivers are increasingly concerned about the cost of fuel. 

The data used in this article is available here. The replication code for the above analysis is available here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

How Armenians and Georgians feel about the dissolution of the Soviet Union

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Giorgi BabunaSvili, Senior Policy Analyst, and Kristina Vacharadze, Programs Director at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Caucasus Barometer 2021 data shows that a majority of Armenians feel that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was bad for their country, while almost half of Georgians feel that the collapse had a positive impact on Georgia. 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia and Armenia have shared differing yet similar paths. 

Both have experienced wars, revolutions, and economic upheaval, but political direction and public sentiment on major political issues has often diverged. 

Data from the Caucasus Barometer 2021 has shown that a key difference is how the public views the Soviet collapse. In Armenia, a clear majority feels that the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the country worse off, while in Georgia opinion is divided, with half of the public viewing the collapse as having been good for the country. 

The annual survey found that two thirds (67%) of Armenians think the dissolution was bad for the country, whereas around two in five (38%) in Georgia think the same. In contrast, almost half of Georgians think that this was a good thing for the country, while only about a fifth of Armenians agree with the statement.

Opinions were associated with some demographic characteristics.

A regression model found that, in both Georgia and Armenia, people with a higher education were more likely to think that the dissolution of the USSR had had a positive impact than people with only a secondary or secondary technical education. In both countries, younger people were more inclined to say that the dissolution of the USSR was a good thing than older people.

There were no statistically significant differences in attitudes associated with gender, settlement type, or employment. However, wealth was a significant predictor of attitudes in Armenia: wealthier people assess the dissolution of the USSR more positively. The same variable was not statistically significant in Georgia.

Ethnic minorities in Georgia tended to feel less positively about the dissolution of the USSR than ethnic Georgians. Association with ethnicity was not tested in Armenia due to the small share of ethnic minorities in the country. 

What reasons do people give for their views?

The survey also investigated the reasons for people’s opinions. In both Georgia and Armenia, the overwhelming majority of those who felt that the dissolution of the Soviet Union had had a positive impact gave their country gaining independence as the main reason. Of those who felt it had been bad for their country, people’s economic situation having worsened was the most common response. 

However, amongst those who felt that the dissolution of the Soviet Union had had a negative impact, different demographic groups prioritised different reasons. 

Older people in Georgia and Armenia were more likely to resent that travel within the former USSR had become more difficult. 

People with a secondary education or below perceive the lack of free healthcare and education as a greater loss than people with higher education do. 

In Armenia, the country’s economic situation having worsened was of greater concern to people without a higher education. 

Older people and people in rural areas saw damaged ties with friends and relatives as a larger problem than younger people and residents of the capital. People in rural areas in Armenia were also more likely to attribute their negative assessment to a decline in the availability of jobs. 

Overall, Georgians felt more positive than Armenians about the impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on their country, but the reasons that people gave for their assessments were similar in both countries. 

Note: The analyses of different groups’ views in the above uses binary logistic regression, where the dependent variable is either a) thinking the dissolution of the USSR is a good or bad thing, or b) the reason why the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a bad thing. The independent variables included gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, level of education, wealth, and employment status.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Georgian politics leave many feeling alienated

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Silagadze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Recent CRRC Georgia data suggests that half of the public believes that public officials don’t care about their opinions and that they do not have a say in what the government does.

Amid fears of democratic backsliding and as Georgians grow more jaded with the politics of Georgia — be it from opposition or ruling party politicians — data from the Caucasus Barometer 2021 survey suggests that older people, women, and people coming from poorer households feel especially alienated from politics.

Education level and party preference seem to be associated with the degree of political estrangement someone feels. However, in contrast to commonly voiced views, younger people and ethnic minorities do not report particularly high levels of political estrangement.

The Caucasus Barometer asked six questions that made it possible to examine voters’ feelings and attitudes towards the political system and decision-making in the country.

More than two-thirds of the people (69%) do not feel well qualified to participate in politics, 53% consider politics to be too complicated to understand, and half of the public thinks they do not have a say in what the government does (59%) and that public officials do not care about their opinions (51%).

At the same time, a third of the electorate believes that they have a good understanding of the important political issues in the country, while 39% of the public believes that their vote will not make any difference.

Who is more likely to be politically alienated?

The six questions in the graph above were aggregated into an index of political estrangement. The index ranged between total political estrangement at 0 and the absence of political alienation at 12. The mean score on the index was 4.2, suggesting that the public tends to feel estranged from the political system in the country.

Regression analysis suggests that young people, men, people with higher formal education levels, supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party, and people from wealthier households are less likely to feel estranged from Georgian politics than older people, women, people with lower education levels, supporters of the opposition, unaffiliated voters, and people living in poorer households.

The analyses indicate that some otherwise vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, women, and poor people feel especially estranged from politics. In addition, political alienation seems to be correlated with education and political preference — particularly whether or not someone supports Georgian Dream.

At the same time, young people and ethnic minorities, who are often assumed to be politically apathetic and disengaged from politics in Georgia, do not seem to feel particularly alienated from political processes and institutions. Therefore, the reasons for their comparatively higher levels of disengagement from political activities must be sought in other areas rather than in the realm of feelings and attitudes towards politics.  

Note: The above data analysis is based on the OLS regression model which included the following variables: age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), sex (male or female), education (completed secondary/lower or incomplete higher education/higher), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), wealth (an additive index of ownership of 10 different items, a proxy variable), ethnicity (ethnic Georgian or ethnic minority), partisanship (Georgia Dream, opposition, no party/DK), and index of political estrangement (0-12: 0-full political estrangement, 12- the absence of political estrangement).

The data used in this analysis is available here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Do politicians serve Georgia’s public interests?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

A recent CRRC Georgia and NDI poll suggests that roughly half of the Georgian public, regardless of their partisan affiliations, believe that neither the opposition nor the ruling party serves their interests.

Political polarisation in Georgia has little to do with opinions on policy. An analysis of numerous questions on the regular NDI and CRRC polling suggests that the public has consistent preferences and concerns, no matter the party they support: Georgians tend to want a pro-Western foreign policy for the country, they are concerned about the economy’s development and jobs, and they tend to be socially conservative. 

While what the public wants is relatively clear, Georgians do not see the ruling Georgian Dream party or elected opposition figures working towards providing that.

The most recent CRRC and NDI survey suggests that a majority of the public thinks that neither the opposition nor Georgian Dream serves the interests of people like them, although 11% more of the public believe that Georgian Dream serves the interests of people like them.

About half of the country (46%) says neither party acts in the best interests of Georgia or the Georgian people. 

The data show some partisan bent. About one in five (19%) say that the ruling party is working in the best interests of the country, while the opposition is not. One in ten (10%) thinks that the opposition is working in the interests of the country, while Georgian Dream is not. Only one in eight (13%) think that both parties are working in the best interests of the country.

At present, 50% of the country supports no party or has refused to answer which party they support; 27% support Georgian Dream and 24% support an opposition party.

When the above data is broken down by partisanship, the data show mistrust among partisans and non-partisans alike. Nearly half of Georgian Dream’s supporters (47%) report that their party works for the people, while the opposition does not. In contrast, 54% of opposition supporters and 60% of those that report they do not support any party say that neither the opposition nor Georgian Dream is working for the people. One in five opposition supporters (22%) report that the opposition works for the people, but Georgian Dream does not. 

The data should give politicians pause, whether they belong to the ruling party or the opposition.

If most Georgians believe their political parties are not working in good faith, that might be an indicator of a larger issue of miscommunication — whether or not the public’s fears are unfounded.

Moving away from the relentless accusations and infighting that have characterised Georgian politics in recent years and instead adopting a positive vision for the country might help Georgia’s political parties regain the trust of the public.

The data used in this analysis is available here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Most Georgians believe that Georgia is not a democracy

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Silagadze, Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

The share of Georgians who think the country is a democracy is at its lowest for the last decade. Supporters of the ruling party are the exception to this trend, tending to believe that the country’s democracy remains a good example for others. 

Newly released NDI/CRRC data suggests that Georgians are growing increasingly skeptical about democracy in the country. Except for supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party, a majority of all other groups think that Georgia is not a democracy. 

As of 2022 August, only three out of ten Georgians felt Georgia was a democracy. Since 2010, when NDI and CRRC started to ask this question in nationwide surveys, this is the lowest share of the public expressing the opinion that Georgia is a democracy. Similarly, the share of the public explicitly saying Georgia is not a democracy was highest in August 2022. 

Note: There are no data for 2015 and 2016

Logistic regression analysis was conducted to understand the differences between different groups. Age, sex, settlement type, employment status, ethnicity, and wealth are not associated with whether people think Georgia is a democracy or not, while education and party support are. 

People with a tertiary education are more likely to say that Georgia is a democracy than people with secondary or lower levels of formal education. However, a majority of  people of all education levels tend to think that Georgia is not a democracy. 

By far, the largest difference in attitudes to this question are between supporters of different parties. Supporters of the ruling party are 38 percentage points more likely than opposition supporters and 41 percentage points more likely than voters with no party preference to consider Georgia a democracy.

GD supporters constitute the only group in the electorate of whom a majority think that Georgia is a democracy, controlling for other factors.

Another question on the NDI and CRRC August 2022 survey leads to similar conclusions. A quarter of the public (25%) think that Georgian democracy is a good example for neighbours, 31% believe that the country used to be a good example but ceased to be one, and another quarter (25%) feel that Georgia has never been an exemplary democracy. The remaining fifth (19%) of the electorate report that they do not know.

Multinomial regression analysis was conducted to better examine group differences. The results yielded were similar to those of the previous analysis. GD supporters hold exceptionally dissimilar and at the same time optimistic views regarding the quality of democracy in Georgia compared to the rest of the population.

Supporters of the ruling party are 35 percentage points more likely than opposition supporters and 32 percentage points more likely than non-affiliated voters to think that Georgian democracy is a good example for neighbours. GD supporters are also 30 percentage points less likely than opposition supporters and 16 percentage points less likely than non-partisans to believe that democracy in Georgia used to be exemplary, but no longer is.

The fact that the share of the public that considers Georgia to be a democracy is at its lowest since 2010 corresponds with the views of Freedom HouseThe Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Varieties of Democracy index, all of which have commented on Georgia’s democratic backsliding. 

However, GD supporters, in stark contrast to the rest of the public, tend to believe that Georgia is an exemplary democracy even in 2022. 

Note: The above data analysis is based on logistic and multinomial regression models which included the following variables: age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), sex (male or female), education (completed secondary/lower, technical or incomplete higher education/higher), wealth (an additive index of ownership of 10 different items, a proxy variable), employment status (employed, not employed, other) ethnicity (ethnic Georgian or ethnic minority), and party identification (Georgia Dream, opposition, did not name a particular party).

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Do Georgians trust TV?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Kristina Vacharadze, Programs Manager, and Mariam Kobaladze, Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia,  The views presented in the article are of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

In an increasingly polarised media environment, Georgians have mixed feelings about how much TV and TV journalists can be trusted. 

Over the past decade, TV as a source of news has been on the decline in Georgia. With just 53% of those surveyed in 2021 using TV as their primary news source, as compared to 88% in 2009, it is clear that TV has lost its dominance. Nonetheless, it remains the main news source for  half of the adult population.

This fall in TV consumption has taken place against a background of an increasingly divided media environment. Media monitoring studies show that, in recent years, there have been clear trends of polarisation amongst television channels, with many strongly supporting either the ruling party or the opposition. 

This has been reflected in qualitative studies by CRRC-Georgia, in which many people have said that they have to watch news on several television channels to be able to draw reasonable conclusions on events that have happened and how they might interpret them. 

In such an environment, what does the Georgian public think of television and TV journalists? 

Can TV be trusted?

According to the Caucasus Barometer 2021, an annual household survey run by CRRC, 18% of the population does not trust any television channel for news about politics and current events and 14% does not watch television news at all. 

The most trusted television channels for news on politics and current events were found at opposite ends of the political sprectrum - the pro-government Imedi, trusted by a quarter (25%) of the population, and the pro-opposition Mtavari, trusted by 12%. Less than a tenth of the population trusted Rustavi 2 (8%), TV Pirveli (6%), and the Public Broadcaster (4%) more than any other station.

A regression analysis found that trust in TV and TV stations and viewing habits were associated with various demographic characteristics. 

Older people were more likely to watch and trust TV compared to other age groups. 

Ethnic minorities were more likely to distrust TV or not watch it compared to ethnic Georgians. This could be in part related to a lack of Armenian- and Azerbaijani-language programming on Georgian television. 

Working people were more likely to distrust and/or not watch TV news compared to people who did not work. 

People who supported a political party were more likely to watch and trust TV than people who did not support any party, or refused to report a party preference.

There were no patterns associated with settlement type, gender, or education level.

Note: The analysis uses a multinomial regression, where the dependent variable is whether people distrust TV, do not watch any TV channel for news about politics and current events, or trust a specific TV station. The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, level of education, and employment status.

What do the public think of TV journalists?

With a third of the population distrusting and/or not watching news on any television channel, what does the Georgian public think of the performance of TV journalists? 

About half of those surveyed (48%) believed that Georgian TV journalists inform the population about ongoing events in Georgia neither poorly nor well, while approximately a fifth of the population either positively or negatively assesses their work.

A multinomial regression showed that women were more likely to agree with the idea that TV journalists were serving their interests than men were. On the other hand, people living in urban areas assessed the performance of TV journalists more negatively than those living in rural settlements.

Party allegiance was also a significant predictor of people’s views: respondents who supported an opposition party were more positive towards the performance of journalists than supporters of the ruling party, Georgian Dream. 

Wealth (measured as the number of items a household owns from a list of 14) was also a significant predictor: poor people assessed the performance of journalists more positively than wealthier people.

Unsurprisingly, people who watched TV tended to feel more positively about TV journalists than people who do not watch TV.

A regression analysis did not show significant differences in attitudes between different age groups, ethnicities, people with different education levels, or with and without a job.

Note: The analysis uses a multinomial regression, where the dependent variable is whether people agree or disagree with the statement that TV journalists in Georgia are serving the interests of people like them. The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, level of education, wealth, watching TV and employment status.

The data shows a similar pattern with regard to views on whether TV journalists in Georgia serve the interests of the people. Slightly less than half of the population in Georgia (47%) neither agree nor disagree, while around a quarter (23%) believed that TV journalists do not serve the interests of the people, and a fifth (19%) believed that they did. Notably, people have become more pessimistic with regards to this question over the last decade, with a seven percentage point increase in disagreement with this sentiment between 2009 and 2021, and a 13 point decline in agreement with the statement during the same period. 

In the context of a very divided media landscape, it is notable that there is low public trust in television news and outlets. This trust appears to have fallen over the past decade, with fewer now believing that TV journalists in Georgia serve their interests. 

The data used in this post is available here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Who’s to blame for Georgia’s EU candidacy debacle?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dr. David Sichinava, Makhare Atchaidze, and Nino Zubashvili, CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

As Georgian officials ramp up their anti-Western rhetoric, recent CRRC Georgia data suggests that most Georgians are uncertain who to blame for the country’s failed European Union membership bid.

On 17 June 2022, the European Commission decided not to grant Georgia EU candidate status, unlike Ukraine and Moldova. In its memo, the Commission recognised the country’s ‘European perspective’, while pointing at an extensive list of issues it needs to address before its candidacy bid is re-examined.

Officials in Brussels later explained that the EU will return to discussing Georgia’s candidacy status ‘sometime in 2023’, by which time the country is supposed to implement reforms addressing political polarisation, the judiciary, and ‘de-oligarchisation’ among a number of other concerns.

Following the announcement, Tbilisi became the epicentre of mass protests attended by tens of thousands of disappointed citizens. Protestors blamed the government for its inaction. Many alleged that the ruling Georgian Dream party deliberately tanked EU membership candidacy talks.

In the lead-up to the announcement, Georgia’s actions placed the bid into question; the country’s political leadership, including the country’s Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, hinted that they would, “say everything” if the European Union decided ‘unfairly’ on the country’s candidate status. 

On the other hand, Irakli Kobakhidze, the chair of Georgian Dream, bluntly stated that if Georgia were to go to war against Russia, it would ‘have been guaranteed EU candidate status by December’. Adding fuel to the fire, the pro-government outlet Imedi ran a poll asking respondents what Georgia should do if the west asked the country to get involved in a war against Russia. Unsurprisingly, the majority said that the country should reject such a proposal.

As emotions have tempered, CRRC-Georgia’s omnibus survey clarifies how Georgians feel about the candidacy status controversy. Fielded in late July, the survey shows that most Georgians reject Georgian Dream politicians’ allegations that the country’s EU membership status was somehow contingent on Georgia’s involvement in a war against Russia.

Instead, people tend to blame the government’s inaction, polarisation, and the country for simply not meeting membership requirements.  Yet another rather worrying trend shows a small but statistically significant shift in the support for Georgia’s EU membership.

Who is to blame?

Overall, three-quarters of Georgians (76%) know the EU did not grant Georgia candidate status. Those who knew about it were asked what they thought the main reason behind the European Commission’s decision was. A third (30%) were uncertain. About a fifth (18%) blamed the Georgian government’s inaction, while equal proportions (14%) attributed this to political polarisation in the country and Georgia not fulfilling the requirements set for membership.

A further 8% believed that Georgia was not granted candidate status due to opposition meddling and sabotage. Fewer (4%) said that this happened because Georgia did not get involved in a war against Russia, with 3% blaming the Russian government. Close to 1% named options such as the government not complying with the agreement brokered by the President of the European Council Charles Michel, or that the EU does not need Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s supposed informal rule, former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s imprisonment, and the Ukrainian government’s stance towards Georgia. Close to 5% named other options or refused to answer.

Does the public believe the West asked Georgia to start a war with Russia?

No — most Georgians do not think that the EU candidacy bid was contingent on the country starting a war with Russia. Respondents were initially informed that some Georgian politicians claimed that Georgia would have only become an EU candidate if the country had waged war against Russia or opened a ‘second front’.

Next, they were asked whether or not it was true that Georgia would only be granted candidate status if it was involved in a war. Sixty per cent of Georgians said that this claim was either not true at all or mostly not true. Only one in six (17%) believed that the claim was either mostly or absolutely true. Importantly, close to a quarter (23%) were unsure, while a further 1% refused to answer.

Partisanship, place of residence, ethnicity, wealth, and education predict whether or not someone believed the statement. While a majority across the political spectrum reported that the statement that Georgia would have gained candidate status if it had engaged in a war against Russia is false, about a quarter of Georgian Dream supporters believe in the statement. Almost two-thirds of opposition supporters and those who say that no party is close to their views say that the statement is false. More than one-third of respondents who do not know or refuse to state their political preferences are ambivalent about whether or not the above-mentioned statement is true or false.

Ambivalence predominates among ethnic minorities and those with lower socio-economic standings. Notably, it also declines with increases in wealth: those who are most well-off are also the most polarised when assessing whether or not the statements about Georgia’s involvement in the war are true.

Where to now?

The European Commission handed Georgia an extensive list of priorities it expects the country to deliver on for candidacy status. The poll shows that most Georgians are sceptical that the government will be able to implement the necessary reforms the EU requested.

When asked whether or not they expect the Georgian government to implement the reforms, the plurality (45%) says they do not expect it to happen, with 17% saying they are not expecting reforms to move forward and 29% believing that it is more unexpected than expected by the end of the year.

By comparison, 29% expect the Georgian government to comply with the EU’s recommendations, about a quarter believe that it is more expected than unexpected that the government will implement the reforms, and 4% think that it is totally expected that the government will complete necessary reforms for Georgia’s EU candidacy status. A quarter of Georgians are unsure (25%).

Several civil society activists suggested that a technocratic government should oversee the implementation of the reforms. When asked whether or not they approved of creating a technocratic government tasked with implementing the reforms needed to fulfil the EU candidacy criteria, the plurality (42%) said they disapproved, 29% approved. More than a quarter were uncertain (26%).

Who is an oligarch?

Among the conditions the EU set for Georgia was the ‘implement[ation] of the commitment to “de-oligarchisation” by eliminating the excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political, and public life’.

While the opinion did not give a conclusive answer as to whom the Commission considered to be an oligarch, Georgian officials were quick to respond. In a 12 July Facebook post, Irakli Gharibashvili, the country’s prime minister, fiercely rebuked the suggestion that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of Georgian Dream and a former Prime Minister, is still in charge.

Gharibashvili even penned another letter to Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, where he requested that she distance herself from a European Parliament resolution that called for sanctioning Ivanishvili.

CRRC Georgia asked who the public thinks the EU considers an oligarch in their statement. Notably, more than half said that they didn’t know who the European Commission was hinting at. Among those that did have a concrete response, a third (35%) consider Ivanishvili to be the oligarch in question. Few (3%) named the currently imprisoned Former President Mikheil Saakashvili or Davit Kezerashvili, a businessman and a former defence minister. A further 2% named Mamuka Khazaradze, a co-founder of TBC Bank and the Lelo party, or Vano Chkhartishvili, a Shevardnadze-era businessman and alleged power broker under Ivanishvili. 

Interestingly, those who support Georgian Dream (51%), non-partisans (55%), and those that don’t know which party is closest to their views (62%) are more likely to be uncertain, while a majority of the opposition supporters (60%) believe that the EU was singling out Ivanishvili.

Is Euroscepticism spreading among Georgians?

CRRC Georgia’s omnibus survey shows that most Georgians (68%) still support the country’s membership in the EU fully (53%) or partially (15%). This is slightly less, though still broadly comparable, to previous levels of support in earlier surveys. The 2020 Caucasus Barometer showed that five percentage points more (73%) expressed full or partial support for EU membership.

In a similar survey fielded in mid-March 2022, EU support stood even higher at 75%, indicating a seven-point decrease over the course of five months. Still, this finding should be viewed with some caution, given that the surveys had different questions, which in turn can moderate or exaggerate support.

The decline in support for Georgia’s EU membership appears to stem from changing views among Georgian Dream supporters. In the 2020 Caucasus Barometer survey, Georgian Dream supporters backed Georgia’s EU membership by eight percentage points more compared to the July 2022 survey (68%).

Many in Georgia are afraid that the controversy surrounding EU candidacy might undermine public support for Georga’s EU membership. CRRC Georgia’s omnibus poll paints a rather complex picture. EU support runs high, and the majority disagrees with the baseless allegations that the West is dragging the country into a war against Russia. Nevertheless, survey results hint that some Georgians, particularly supporters of Georgian Dream, might be questioning their support for the EU. Whether this is the start of a real shift in public opinion or a statistical blip remains to be seen.

Note: Differences across groups are identified using regression models. Reported figures might not sum up to 100 due to rounding errors. A replication code for the analysis above is available here. Marginal frequencies and crosstabulations are available here.