Monday, February 01, 2016

The Georgian public's perceptions of the EU’s and Russia’s influence on the country

Numerous news reports in 2015 focused on foreign influence in Georgia (for instance, see the Financial Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Foreign Affairs for some of the stories related to Russian influence), but how does the Georgian public see the situation? This blog post takes a look at how much influence the Georgian public think two foreign powers, the EU and Russia, have on Georgia compared with how much influence they think these powers should have, using August 2015 National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia survey findings.

The Georgian public thinks that Russia has more influence on Georgia than it should have. Forty-nine percent of Georgians assess Russia’s political influence on Georgia as somewhat or very high, while only six percent thinks it should be so. Sixty-eight percent think Russia’s political influence on Georgia should be low or that they should have no influence at all. When it comes to cultural influence, the mismatch is smaller although the pattern remains similar – 43% of Georgians assess Russia’s cultural influence as low  or none, while 58% think that it should be low  or none. When it comes to economic influence, 30% of Georgians assess Russia’s influence on Georgia as somewhat or very high, while only 12% think it should be so.

In comparison with Russia, the influence that the Georgian public thinks the EU should have in Georgia is closer to influence Georgians think it does have, but there is still a mismatch, especially when it comes to assessments of political influence.

The share of Georgians who think that Russian influence on Georgia has increased since 2012 is higher than the share of those who think that EU influence has increased in the same period (44% and 17%, respectively).

When it comes to foreign influence on Georgia, Georgians clearly think that Russia has much more political, economic, and cultural influence than it should have. The assessments are much more similar in case of the EU. Notably, more Georgians perceive Russian influence as having increased since 2012 than those who think the EU’s influence has increased.

Want to explore the data in more depth? Take a look here, using our online data analysis tool.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Georgian public’s awareness of visa liberalisation with the EU: Facts and expectations

The visa liberalisation agreement between Georgia and the EU is expected to enter in force in Summer 2016, allowing Georgian citizens holding biometric passports to enter and stay in Schengen area countries without a visa for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. EU-Georgia Visa Liberalisation Dialogue was launched in June, 2012. In February 2013, Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) was presented to Georgian authorities. The European Commission’s December 2015 progress report stated that “given the outcome of the continuous monitoring and reporting carried out since the launch of the EU-Georgia Visa Liberalisation Dialogue, the Commission considers that Georgia meets all the benchmarks set in respect of the four blocks of the second phase of the VLAP.”  Visa liberalisation, however, in no way gives Georgians the right to work, study or become residents of Schengen area countries – for these purposes, a labor, study or immigration visa will be needed.

Visa liberalisation is considered a significant success of Georgian foreign policy and is an important step towards country’s EU integration through increased mobility. It is crucial to know, however, to what extent the population of Georgia is aware of the specific aspects of visa liberalisation, hence – how informed their opinions about this process are.

Before the European Commission’s December 2015 progress report mentioned above, CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey, conducted in October 2015, asked a series of questions measuring the population’s awareness of the then-expected visa liberalisation process. When asked, will successful completion of the visa liberalisation process benefit or not ordinary people living in Georgia, only 12% responded ‘no,’ while 32% answered they believed it would benefit ordinary Georgians. The remaining 56%, however, answered either “Don’t know” or said they did not know what the visa liberalisation process was (26% and 28%, respectively), with a small share refusing to answer the question. Hence, questions about specific aspects of the visa liberalisation process were only asked to those who answered either “yes” or “no” to this question i.e. just under a half (45%) of the total sample.

Importantly, only slightly over half (53%) of this group knows that only those Georgian citizens who possess biometric passports will be able to benefit from visa liberalisation, with 28% answering “Don’t know.” Even fewer (45%) are aware that the conditions of the visa liberalisation agreement will be effective only if the length of stay in EU countries does not exceed three months; this question resulted in the highest share (37% of the eligible group) answering “Don’t know.” Even more worrying is the finding showing that 42% of this group wrongly thinks that visa liberalisation will allow the Georgian citizens who have already emigrated gain living and work permits in the EU countries, without having to apply for additional residency documents – a major misunderstanding of what visa liberalisation is about.

 Note: These questions were asked only to those who answered either “Yes” or “No” to the previous question, “In your opinion, will successful completion of the visa liberalisation process benefit or not benefit ordinary people living in Georgia?” (i.e. 45% of the total sample). 

Although those living in Tbilisi tend to have slightly better knowledge compared to those living in other cities/towns or villages, the difference is not striking, and it cannot be claimed that the Tbilisi population is very well informed about specific aspects of visa liberalisation.

There are, though, interesting variations in knowledge by age. While Georgians of all age groups respond quite similarly to the question about whether or not visa liberalisation conditions apply if a person does not hold a biometric passport, younger Georgians tend to be better informed that the visa liberalisation agreement will be effective only if the length of stay in EU countries does not exceed three months and that visa liberalisation does not actually mean that Georgian citizens who have already emigrated will gain living and work permits in EU countries.

These findings strongly suggest that an awareness raising campaign about what the visa liberalisation process with the EU actually implies is crucial. A successful campaign will help to ensure that the population of Georgia has adequate expectations of it and makes informed migratory decisions to the EU countries once visa liberalisation enters into force.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Georgian society’s attitudes towards forced ‘volunteering’

Although the history and contextual background of volunteering in Europe vary from country to country, in most western societies, the development of volunteerism is associated with the emergence of civil society organizations, which appeared on the scene as a result of the crisis of the welfare state when governments could no longer manage to respond to the growing needs of society. Until the end of the 1990s the situation was different, though, in many socialist states, where the citizens were often forced to ‘volunteer’ for state controlled organizations. This practice had nothing to do with actual volunteering and would sometimes lead to human rights abuses. At the time, one of the common forms of this phenomena was ‘community service,’ e.g. organized cleaning of large public spaces, usually carried out on Saturdays (Shabatoba in Georgian). For many people living in socialist countries, it was an obligatory activity, often of a political character, and widely used by the state propaganda machine.

A number of recent studies argue that currently observed negative attitudes towards volunteering in some of the post-socialist societies are a consequence of Shabatoba and similar experiences (UNV, 2010; GHK, 2010; Ekiert and Foa, 2011). At the same time, there are other studies (UNV and UNDP, 2009) arguing that it is impossible to generalize any finding about how people felt and still feel about forced 'volunteering' practices.

Currently, attitudes towards Shabatoba-type activities are all but straightforward in Georgia. This blog post looks at how these attitudes differ by age, level of education, and previous volunteering experience, based on the findings of CRRC’s April 2014 Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey, funded by East-West Management Institute (EWMI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to the abovementioned UNV and UNDP 2009 study, if older generations tend to remember socialist era unpaid work programs with certain affection, for the younger generations, it is often hard to understand how such forced work could have been enjoyable. Considering this finding, one would expect younger Georgians to have less positive attitudes towards Shabatoba-type activities, compared to representatives of older generations. Surprisingly, however, the survey results show that representatives of different generations report quite similar attitudes towards potential forced ‘volunteering’ in today’s Georgia. The majority of Georgians of all age groups agree with the statement that “Georgia would be better off today, if the government forced us to volunteer,” although a slightly smaller share of young people (18-35 years old) agree with it, compared with those aged 36 and older.

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record answers to the question, the answer options for the question “In the Soviet Union there were Shabatoba-s, when people were jointly cleaning up public spaces. What do you think about having similar activities in Georgia now?” On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the opinion “We are lucky that the government does not force us to volunteer,” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the opinion “Georgia would be better off today if the government forced us to volunteer.” For this blog post, the answers were grouped as follows: codes 1 through 4 were labeled as “We are lucky that the government does not force us to volunteer.” Codes 5 and 6 were labeled as “Neither agree nor disagree with any of the statements.” Codes 7 through 10 were labeled as “Georgia would be better off today if the government forced us to volunteer.” Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis. 

A number of studies conducted in the EU and in some of the post-socialist states (although not in Georgia) have shown that people with higher education tend to volunteer more than people with secondary education (UNV and UNDP, 2009; GHK, 2010). One might expect that the opinions about whether a government should be forcing citizens to volunteer or not would also differ by level of education. In fact, according to our survey results, those with higher education are slightly less inclined to agree with the statement that it would be better if the government forced citizens to volunteer, compared to those with secondary technical or secondary or lower education.

Note: The answer options for the question, “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?”  were grouped as follows: options “No primary education”, “Primary education (either complete or incomplete)”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were grouped into “Secondary or lower.” Options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were grouped into “Higher than secondary”.

Notably and rather unexpectedly, those who have previously been engaged in volunteering (for example, have planted a tree outside their own property or have cleaned a public space) report slightly more often that Georgia would be better off today if the government forced citizens to volunteer, compared with Georgians who have not participated in such activities.

Note: A new variable was computed for this chart based on the questions, “Have you planted a tree outside your property during the past 6 months?” and “Have you helped to clean public space during the past 6 months?”  The answer “Yes” in the new variable means participation in at least one of the abovementioned activities, and “No” means participation in neither. 

To sum up, the findings presented in this blog post are rather unexpected. The majority of Georgians think the country would be better off today if the government forced citizens to volunteer, and this attitude varies only slightly by age and level of education. Probably the most unexpected of these findings is that those with volunteering experience support this idea slightly more often than those who have not been involved in volunteering activities previously, and this correlation proves to be statistically significant, although relatively weak.

To learn more about volunteering in the South Caucasus, take a look at earlier blog posts, What We Know About Volunteering in Georgia, Volunteerism in the South Caucasus and Community support and volunteerism in the South Caucasus.  If you wish to know more about Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia surveys, visit our Online Data Analysis tool or take a look at the Volunteering and Civic Participation report.

Monday, December 28, 2015

People to rely on - Georgians and their social networks

[In this last blog post of 2015, CRRC Researcher Tamuna Khoshtaria reflects on one the most important aspects of Georgian society – people to rely on, i.e. relatives, friends, neighbors.]

When I was studying in Germany, the dormitory’s housekeeper told me: ‘I have seen students of many nations coming here to live, and many of them were homesick at some point, but for Georgians, it has always been the hardest to live abroad.’

He had a point. Now, almost ten years later, what keeps me in Georgia are, for the most part, my friends and the people I can rely on – my social circle. Many people around me feel the same way. The findings of CRRC’s 2014 survey on Volunteerism and Civic Engagement let us see how valuable social networks of friends, relatives and neighbors are for Georgians.

The overwhelming majority of Georgians (92%) say they have close friends. Of these, 21% report getting together with their close friends every day, 34% at least once a week, and a further 22% at least once a month. If we break down the data by gender, we see that compared to females, slightly more males manage to meet with their friends on a daily basis (24% vs 18%). Also, young people (18 to 35 years old) manage to get together with friends more frequently than those who are older (30% vs 16%).

At the same time, most people in Georgia are quite open to new friendships: 73% disagree with the statement that they already have many friends and do not need to make new friends. Roughly the same share (74%) agrees with the statement that they enjoy meeting new people.

Half of the Georgian public reports they have not gained new friends during the last 12 months. For those who did though, new friends are most often found through the old ones.

Note: Respondents could select more than one answer option.

Close relatives are another important part of social networks. Half of the Georgian population reports seeing close relatives who do not live in the same household at least once a month. The majority (66%) say they always or often discuss private problems with them.

Neighbors represent another important part of Georgians’ social networks. Fifty-six percent of the population says they know all the neighbors in their neighborhood. Another 24% says they know more than ten families in their neighborhood, and only 17% knows ten or less families. The share of those who know all of their neighbors is higher in rural settlements (68%), in the big cities (57%) and in other urban settlements (66%), compared to Tbilisi, where only about a third of the population (34%) report so.

Knowing their neighbors implies talking to them, and 64% of Georgians say they talk with their neighbors every day. Another 25% say they talk at least once a week. These talks with neighbors quite often turn into discussing different issues. Twenty-nine percent report always or often discussing common problems in the neighborhood, and 23% say they always or often discuss politics with their neighbors.

These results show that Georgians do not lead isolated lives. They have people around them whom they can trust and count on when it comes to good and bad times. Half (52%) of Georgians agree with the opinion that there are plenty of people they can rely on when they have problems, and 74% say there are people who would look after them if they needed to, without expecting any compensation. Importantly, this support seems to be a two-way street, as 64% of Georgians also say they can be helpful to many people outside of their families.

The people we are around and who we rely on could be the main motivation for many Georgians to stay in the country, even when there are possibilities to emigrate and improve one’s living conditions. Though it is hard to talk about others – I know I am one of those Georgians.

To learn more about the social networks of the Georgians, take a look at the data used in this post using our Online Data Analysis tool, here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

No, Putin is not winning Georgia away from Europe. Here are the facts.

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on Monday, December 21, 2015. The original post is available here. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any of the sponsors of the survey which this article is based on. The data on which this article is based is available here.]

By Dustin Gilbreath

Last Friday, after years of diplomatic wrangling over the course of two administrations, the Republic of Georgia received a report from the EU green lighting visa free travel within the European Union in the near future. Yet, media accounts from earlier this year suggested that Georgia was undergoing a “Russian turn”.

That appeared to be true last May, when an NDI-CRRC public opinion poll declared that 31 percent of Georgians favored ECU membership. Have voters in the Republic of Georgia suddenly begun to prefer an affiliation with the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union over their existing affiliation with the European Union?

If true, it would be shocking. Since its independence in 1991, Georgia has favored Europe overwhelmingly. Polling has found levels of support for the EU that Brussels could only dream of elsewhere in Europe, and serious ongoing problems between Georgia and Russia would naturally strengthen those pro-Europe leanings.

Certainly, many observers have taken that poll number to heart. Nearly a dozen publications and organizations—such as the Financial Times, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Endowment, and Brookings Institution—have cited the number. It even seems to have influenced a Roll Call op-ed, the first sentence of which cited “recent news accounts” on Georgia and Ukraine. Almost every news account on Georgia at the time cited the number.

But that number hasn’t changed since 2013, when the Caucasus Barometer examined support for Georgian Customs Union membership. Moreover, the number by itself is misleading. The data show far fewer Georgians are consistently pro-Russian. ”The Russian turn” has been overstated.

Two Unions, Four preferences

In August, Georgians were asked whether they approve of the Georgian government’s goal of joining the EU and whether Georgia should join the Eurasian Customs Union. Twice as many Georgians prefer the EU to the Eurasian Union, 61% to 31%. This has been largely consistent over time, although support for the EU has had its ups and downs with a slight decline in recent years. Nonetheless, support for the Eurasian Customs Union has never been more than half the level of support for the EU.

Georgians fall into four consistent groups about union membership. Here’s the largest one: 39% say they would vote for the EU and against the Customs Union (marked in the graph below as pro-EU). Only 15 percent would vote for the Customs Union and against the EU. The joiners, 12 percent, support membership in both unions. And the isolationists, 5 percent, would vote against both unions. Another 11 percent don’t know how they feel about either union, and 17 percent had responses that didn’t really have a clear interpretation.

Why would any Georgians support economic union with the nation’s former oppressor, Russia?

To read on, please visit the Washington Post's Monkey Cage:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What We Know About Volunteering in Georgia

[This post originally appeared in]

By Nino Zubashvili

Following the June 13, 2015 flood in Tbilisi, hundreds of volunteers helped to clean the disaster-affected zones of the city, which stirred the hope that volunteerism is on the rise in Georgia. In the past, studies on volunteering in Georgia conducted by non-governmental organizations (such as Helping Hand and the Civil Society Institute) claimed that volunteerism had not taken root in Georgian society, and CRRC-Georgia surveys have consistently shown a mismatch between attitudes and actions regarding volunteering in Georgia. Nonetheless, a closer look at the level of volunteering in Georgia, comparing it to Europe, and Georgian society's attitudes towards the importance of volunteering show fertile grounds for volunteerism in Georgia.

The mismatch

CRRC-Georgia's 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey findings show that 68% of Georgians find it important for a good citizen to do volunteer work. In contrast, only 19% of Georgians reported volunteering during the past six months before the survey was carried out in fall of 2013 - a clear gap between actions and attitudes. Interestingly, while the share of the population highlighting the importance of volunteerism for good citizenship increased between 2011 and 2012, the share of Georgians who actually volunteered did not change much. Notably, volunteering is still not considered as important as following traditions, voting in elections or supporting people who are worse off. 

Despite the existing mismatch, if we compare Georgia to other European states, the level of volunteering is not particularly low. A study on volunteering in the European Union carried out in 2010 by the British consultancy GHK Holdings Limited showed that the highest rates of volunteering hovered around 40%, but only in a few states (Austria, Netherlands, the UK and Sweden). In fact, European volunteering rates were largely comparable to those in Georgia, ranging from 10%-19%, and European states like Italy and Greece actually had even lower rates (less than 10%). 

Who volunteers, and who thinks it is important to volunteer?

When thinking about the prospects for the development of volunteerism in Georgia, it is important to know who tends to volunteer, which in turn would allow policy makers, NGOs and social entrepreneurs to understand where to best direct programs aimed at promoting volunteerism. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey findings show some differences in volunteering between socio-demographic groups. The elderly (aged 56 and older) are slightly less active (14% reported volunteering) than 18-35 and 36-55 year olds (20% and 22%, respectively), but this lower activity level could probably be explained by the infirmities of age. Interestingly, males tend to volunteer more than females (25% and 14%, respectively) and inhabitants of rural areas are slightly more actively engaged in volunteering (24%) than inhabitants of the capital (14%) and other urban areas (15%). In contrast to the European states studied in the above-mentioned GHK study, where the level of education tends to be connected with the level of volunteering, in Georgia an individual's level of education does not seem to matter with regard to involvement in volunteering. 

Like actual volunteering activity, attitudes towards the importance of volunteering do not change much by level of education, nor do they change by respondent's age or gender. Settlement type however, is a differentiating factor and fewer Tbilisians think that volunteering is important for a good citizen (60%), compared to other urban and rural dwellers (68% and 72%, respectively). This is all the more striking when we breakdown by age groups within settlement type. Even though the majority of volunteers following the 2015 floods were clearly young, in Tbilisi, young people were the least likely age-settlement group to think that volunteering was important for a good citizen. 

The level of volunteering that followed the Tbilisi flood and Georgian society's agreement that volunteering is important show that there is potential in the country for the level of volunteering to increase. Policy makers, civic society and social entrepreneurs alike should consider ways to work off of the obvious spirit of volunteerism embodied by the cleanup efforts and the already supportive attitudes towards volunteerism in Georgia. 

Interested in more data about volunteerism? Check the upcoming Caucasus Barometer 2015 data that will be available by the end of the year or take a look at the 2014 Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey at

Monday, November 30, 2015

Parenting, gender attitudes and women’s employment in Georgia

In Georgia, unemployment is high, and it is higher among women than men. Policy changes are definitely needed not only to increase the employment opportunities, but also to ensure more equal employment opportunities for men and women. However, survey findings show that changes in Georgians’ attitudes towards gender roles are no less needed, as the population does not always support the idea of women having paid jobs – especially so, when they have young children. This blog post looks at what the population of Georgia thinks about working mothers and their ability to care for their children.

Women’s employment can be beneficial for families and societies in many ways. The potential benefits for children when they have working mothers were recently described in an article published by the Harvard Business School. The findings of a cross-national survey covering 24 countries suggest that it is good for children under the age of 14 if their mothers work, instead of staying at home full time. The study showed that the sons of working mothers are more caring for family members compared with the sons of stay-at-home mothers. Probably more importantly, daughters raised by working mothers had greater career success and more stable relationships than the daughters of stay-at-home mothers. Other studies indicate that the relationship between women’s attitudes early in life towards gender roles and their later employment is recursive: “women’s early gender role attitudes predict their [adult life] work hours and earnings, and women’s work hours predict their later gender egalitarianism” (Corrigall and Konrad, 2007).

In October 2014, CRRC-Georgia conducted a nationwide public opinion poll for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on attitudes towards gender issues in Georgia. A representative sample of 3885 respondents was interviewed in order to explore their attitudes towards women’s participation in society and politics as well as ideas about how to improve women’s position in society.

The survey’s results indicate that female unemployment may not be considered a serious problem by Georgians, because women are believed to be capable of self-realization even if they do not have a job. Moreover, unemployed mother’s children are believed to be better off compared to the children of employed mothers. The chart below shows that 65% of Georgians believe “It is better for a preschool aged child if the mother does not work” and a smaller but still considerable share (37%) is more radical, disagreeing with the opinion that “Employed mothers can be as good caregivers to their children as mothers who do not work”. Over half (55%) of Georgians think that because of household responsibilities, women cannot be as successful in their career as men, and just below half of the population (44%) think that “Taking care of the home and family satisfies women as much as a paid job”.
Exploring these findings by gender shows that women are less likely to share traditional views regarding gender roles. Women are especially critical of the opinion that “Taking care of the home and family satisfies women as much as a paid job”, and 54% of Georgian women disagree with this opinion compared to 39% of men. It is also noteworthy that men have slightly but consistently higher rates of answering “Don’t know,” or refusing to answer these questions, which might mean that they are not really aware of women’s preferences and abilities when it comes to work-family balance.
Exploring the data by age shows that there is a tendency among young people to hold slightly more egalitarian views on gender roles compared to the older generations. Those who are 56 and older are less likely to think that “women and men equally need a job to feel self-realized,” than their younger fellow citizens.
To sum up, the data suggests that the higher level of women’s unemployment in Georgia compared to men’s may be caused, to a certain extent, by public attitudes towards gender roles. The good news is that women and young people share more egalitarian views, suggesting that the vicious circle between attitudes towards women’s employment in Georgia and their actual employment may have already started break down.

To take a deeper look into the data, explore it on our Online Data Analysis tool.