Tuesday, August 03, 2021

How Megi Bakradze’s death affected vaccine hesitancy in Georgia

[Note: This post first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and do not in any way reflect the views of the World Bank, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.]

When Georgian nurse Megi Bakradze died following an allergic reaction to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in March, there were fears that vaccine hesitancy could grow. But how did her death really affect how people feel about vaccination?

According to previous data analysis, Georgia has among the largest vaccine hesitancy problems in the world. One incident which is widely seen to have exacerbated the issue was the death on 18 March of Megi Bakradze. Bakradze was a nurse who experienced an allergic reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine and passed away just after having gone on television to support the vaccine rollout. Her death was later ruled to be due to negligence. The tragedy nonetheless sparked fears in Georgia around vaccination.

Newly released data from just a week after the tragedy suggests that while vaccine hesitancy shot up following her death, it recovered in the two weeks following. Forthcoming data suggests vaccine hesitancy has recovered to levels comparable to prior to the tragedy.

A February NDI and CRRC Georgia poll suggested that 35% of the public wanted to be vaccinated against COVID-19, 53% did not, and the remainder were uncertain or refused to answer. 

A World Bank survey which CRRC Georgia fielded from 24–30 March — after Bakradze’s death — suggested that only 24% of the public wanted a vaccine, 62% did not, and 14% were uncertain. 

While the questions on the surveys were slightly different, these differences were minimal suggesting that this large of a difference would not be explained by the question wording alone.

While vaccine hesitancy likely increased as a result of Bakradze’s death, the data suggests that as more time passed from the incident, vaccine hesitancy declined.

While on 24 March, only 16% of surveyed respondents wanted to be vaccinated, by 29 March, 28% did. At the start of the fieldwork, 69% answered that they did not want to be vaccinated, but by the end this number had declined to 57%.

The share responding ‘don’t know’ fluctuated by several points with no clear trend over the course of the fieldwork. 

This analysis is supported by a regression analysis, which suggests that controlling for the characteristics of respondents, there was a 1.5 percentage point increase per day in interest in getting vaccinated.

Note: Data for 30 March is not shown on the chart above as only six respondents were interviewed on this date. On prior days of fieldwork, between 256–403 respondents were interviewed.

More recent data from a forthcoming survey suggests that vaccine hesitancy has now returned to the level identified in the February CRRC and NDI survey.

While vaccine hesitancy appears to have declined to levels similar to before the Megi Bakradze tragedy, the data shows that it still has far to go until a large enough share of Georgia’s population is interested in a vaccine to protect the public.

Note: The analysis above is based on a logistic regression. The outcome variable is whether or not someone wants a COVID 19 vaccine. The regression controls for age (continuous), education level (Bachelor’s degree or higher versus no tertiary education), gender composition of the household (mixed, women only, men only), number of household members, date of interview, settlement type (Tbilisi, other urban, town, rural), and sex. 

The data used in this article is from the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice COVID-19 High-Frequency Survey 2020-2021 Wave 1-3 (Ref. GEO_2020_HFS_v02_M) and is available here


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Georgia may be the most homophobic country in Europe

[This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia, and Giorgi Babunashvili, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article reflect the views of the authors' alone and not the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

Survey data suggests that Georgia may be the most homophobic country in Europe.

Recent events in Georgia have once again highlighted the extent of homophobia in Georgia, and survey data suggests that the country may be the most homophobic on the continent.

On 5 July, a homophobic riot took place in Tbilisi. While the riot is a tragedy, it also reflects the fact that Georgia is the most homophobic in Europe for which data is available on the International Social Survey programme (ISSP) survey

Given the participation of priests in the riot, one might expect more religious people to be more homophobic. However, the data suggests that homophobia is prevalent throughout society and how important religion is in someone’s life is not correlated with homophobic attitudes. 

The ISSP survey asked respondents in 33 countries, mainly in Europe, whether sexual relations between two adults of the same sex are always wrong. In Georgia, 84% said it was always wrong, compared with an average of only 37% among all countries. 

The next closest country on the survey was Turkey, with 80% of the public there reporting that same-sex sexual relations were always wrong. By comparison, only 69% of Russians reported the same. In Hungary, which the European Union is currently suing for passing homophobic legislation, roughly half as many (45%) people said it was always wrong. Neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan were not part of the survey.

The data also varies by age and sex. Young people tended to be less homophobic than older people and women tended to be more homophobic than men, with the exception of men and women in the 35–54 age range, who were equally homophobic. 

In the most recent riots, priests played an active role. This too is perhaps unsurprising given that priests also engaged in violence in the 2013 International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia homophobic riots. Further, the church established the ‘Day of Family Purity’ in the years following the 2013 riots to prevent events marking International Day Against Homophobia from being held. 

In this regard, the data tends to suggest that Orthodox Christian countries are more homophobic than others. The only exception to this pattern was that the one Muslim country in the dataset, Turkey, was more homophobic than Orthodox countries on average. 

While Orthodox countries appeared to be more homophobic overall than countries where other religions predominate, how strongly someone evaluates the importance of religion in their lives was not correlated with whether or not they hold a homophobic view. This suggests that religious belief is not necessarily the issue, rather, that generalised homophobia in society is.

The riots witnessed on 5 July show Georgia has a problem with homophobia, to put it lightly. The data suggests that it is among the worst in Europe. While the church instigated violence, individual religiosity does not appear to be the culprit in whether or not someone is homophobic. 

The data used in this article are available here.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Mental health and the pandemic

[Note: This post first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Tsisana Khundadze and Mariam Kobaladze, Senior Researchers at CRRC Georgia. The views presented within this article are the authors’ alone, and do not reflect the views of UN Women, UNDP, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.]

Nearly half of Georgians’ report negative impacts on their psychological health because of the pandemic, and women have been one of the worst affected groups. 

Although the pandemic has been primarily a physical health crisis, it has also had large effects on people’s mental health. The pandemic altered the way people study, work, and travel — as well as almost every other aspect of everyday life.

Research from other countries has shown the pandemic has led to a significant rise in symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder. 

The Rapid Gender Assessment survey CRRC-Georgia conducted for UN Women and UNDP in October 2020 asked the adult population of Georgia if their own or their children’s psychological health had been affected as a result of the Coronavirus. 

The results showed that women were significantly more likely to experience psychological health challenges as were people who experienced delayed access to services and significant changes to their everyday lives.

Unsurprisingly, given the uncertainty and stress involved in the pandemic, large shares of Georgians report they or their children experienced negative psychological outcomes from the pandemic. Data from the Rapid Gender Assessment survey shows that COVID-19 negatively affected around half of Georgians’ psychological health. In contrast, only 19% of Georgians who have children report that their children experienced psychological issues.

Although the majority of the population did not experience major issues in accessing basic services, around a third (31%) of Georgians reported some or major difficulties in accessing health services. Overall, 40% reported having at least some difficulty in accessing one of the services listed on the chart below. Aside from accessing services, 25% of working people also experienced a significant change in that they started working from home.

Plausibly, experiencing difficulty in accessing the important services listed above or significant changes in daily life would increase someone’s stress and anxiety levels. To explore whether this took place, a series of regression models testing for associations between these issues in addition to demographic factors are explored below.

The first regression analysis shows that women were 1.4 times more likely to report experiencing mental health issues than men. There were no significant differences between age groups, settlement types, education levels, employment statuses, or whether or not the household had children living in it.

Challenges with access to basic services are associated with mental health problems, but not the move to remote work. The more difficulty a person encountered in accessing basic services, the more likely they were to report that their mental health was affected. While a person with no difficulty accessing services had a 42 percent chance of experiencing mental health problems, a person who had difficulty accessing six services had an 87 percent chance of experiencing them. 

Note: This chart was generated from a regression model. The model includes sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, higher than secondary), employment status before pandemic (employed, not employed), change in typical workplace (which shows if a person had to start working from home instead of the office. Change in typical workplace, no change in typical workplace), having children in the household (no children, household has children), and an index of difficulty in accessing various services.

A second regression analysis also shows a number of differences between those who reported their children experiencing mental health challenges during the pandemic. 

People living in the capital were 1.5 times more likely to say their children experienced issues with mental health compared with people in other urban and rural areas. There were no significant differences between genders, age groups, education levels, and employment statuses when controlling for other factors. Notably, there were gender-related differences when the regression only considered demographic factors, but the association was no longer significant after taking into account non-demographic variables.

People who experienced a change in their typical workplace were 1.9 times less likely to say their children experienced mental health issues than people who did not have any significant changes in the workplace. The more difficulty a person encountered in accessing basic services, the more likely they were to report their children’s mental health was affected. Additionally, people who reported that their own mental health was affected by COVID-19 were around six times more likely to say their children’s mental health was affected, compared to people, who did not say their own mental health was affected. 

Note: This chart was generated from a regression model. The model includes sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, higher than secondary), employment status before pandemic (employed, not employed), change in typical workplace (which shows if a person had to start working from home instead of office. Change in typical workplace, no change in typical workplace), reporting COVID-19 affecting own mental health (not affected, affected), and index of difficulty in accessing various services.

About half of the public experienced mental health problems as a result of the pandemic, and women were particularly likely to admit they experienced issues around this. Above and beyond all other factors though, people who had trouble accessing basic services were most likely to be affected.

The data used in this article is available here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Who lies about how they voted?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Koba Turmanidze, President at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article represent the views of the author alone and do not necessarily coincide with the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

When the wording of questions in post-election polling is modified, the responses from survey respondents change along partisan lines. 

Self-reported election turnout in post-election surveys is often considerably higher than official turnout records. The gap likely stems from picking too many active voters as respondents since voters are also more likely to participate in surveys. Yet another potentially more substantial reason is over-reporting due to social desirability bias: respondents feel they are under social pressure to demonstrate fulfilment of their civic duties on election day. 

This blog describes a replication of a widespread approach to reducing social desirability bias in self-reported turnout by asking the turnout question in three different ways: a traditional direct question, providing an example of turnout over-reporting, and including face-saving answer options in the turnout question. 

The question wording did not have an effect on self-reported election turnout overall, because different partisan groups reacted to the question-wording in different ways. Non-partisans and opposition supporters were less likely to report turnout when additional information was provided. In contrast, telling Georgian Dream supporters about turnout over-reporting increased over-reporting among Georgian Dream supporters.         


Many studies have demonstrated that wording matters for turnout questions: when respondents are exposed to a straightforward ‘yes’ and ‘no’ question about their participation in recent elections, they tend to over-report. However, when respondents are also given an option to select face-saving responses in addition to ‘yes’ and ‘no’, self-reported turnout decreases. 


A large-scale study of 19 surveys in five democracies, which used the face-saving response option, ‘I usually vote, but did not this time’, showed mixed results. In 11 surveys, face-saving options significantly decreased self-reported voting, while it had no effect in the remaining eight cases.


According to official data, 57% voted in Georgia’s parliamentary elections in 2020, while 75% said they did on the Caucasus Barometer survey right after the elections. To investigate whether people report their voting differently depending on the question wording, an experiment was conducted on CRRC-Georgia’s omnibus survey (12-19 April, 2021). 

The sample was randomly split into three equal groups. One group received a traditional direct question about whether they voted or not in the October 2020 parliamentary elections. The second group received information about the discrepancy between official statistics and survey results (57% official, 75% reported) before asking about their own turnout. The third group could select two additional options in addition to ‘yes’ and ‘no’: ‘I intended to vote, but could not manage at the last moment’ or ‘I did not intend to vote, but was asked at the last moment and did not refuse’.

At first glance, the data appear to suggest voters over-report turnout no matter the question formulation. On the traditional direct question, 77% reported voting. When the over-reporting message was included, the number declined to 73%, though the difference is not statistically significant. The question with additional face-saving options also resulted in a substantively similar number (79%).  

Looking at who was more or less likely to report voting, partisans were significantly more likely to report voting than non-partisans (i.e. those who could not name any party closest to their views or were not sure if such a party existed). Likewise, residents of rural areas were more likely to report turnout than voters in Tbilisi. Voters with tertiary education, voters above the age of 55, and employed people reported voting more often than voters with no tertiary education, younger voters, and those not working.  


While the three types of questions made no difference for the population at large, they had significantly different effects on supporters of different parties. For non-partisan voters, the over-reporting message worked as intended, decreasing reported turnout from 74% to 64%. On the other hand, face-saving options did not change answers of non-partisans significantly. For Georgian Dream voters, the over-reporting message had the opposite effect. When they heard that the public significantly over-reported turnout in recent elections, their reported turnout increased from 79% (on the direct question) to 91%. For opposition supporters (all parties combined except for the ruling party), face-saving options had the expected negative effect, it reduced reported turnout from 88 to 74%.


This survey experiment showed that question-wording does not have an effect on reported turnout, overall. However, the reason for the overall zero effect is that different question types have different and opposing effects for different partisan groups. While for non-partisans and opposition supporters more nuanced question wording significantly decreased self-reported turnout, for ruling party supporters, the over-reporting message served as a mobilizing factor. When exposed to the information that over-reporting was a norm, they felt that they had to over-report even more.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

CRRC’s 7th Annual Conference: The South Caucasus after a Turbulent Year

On June 25 and 26, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia hosted the 7th annual methods conference. This year the conference focused on the changing landscape of the South Caucasus and the turbulent year witnessed in the region. From the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the political crisis in Georgia, speakers focused on what and how they are studying the changing landscapes in the region.

The first day of the conference featured two panels, one focused on COVID 19 and related innovations in social science and policy research. The second focused on politics and democratization in the South Caucasus.

The first day also featured two keynote addresses. In the first, Dr. Gevorg Yeghikyan described how big data from taxis and public transport could be used to improve urban planning. In the second, Dr. Jennifer McCoy presented research on the democratic hypocrisy hypothesis and experimental work on how presenting out groups as threats erodes democratic support.


The second day of the conference also featured two panels, with the first looking at how societies are changing in the South Caucasus. The second explored the prospects for conflict transformation in the South Caucasus.

 


The conference concluded with a keynote speech from Dr. Laurence Broers. Dr. Broers' address focused on how we can study the recent developments in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

 


The full conference video is available for viewing here: Day 1 and Day 2.

The conference agenda and abstract book is available here


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The gap between Georgian Dream supporters and everyone else is widening

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint publication of CRRC and OC Media. It was written by Nino Mzhavanadze, a researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, NDI, or any related entity.

Whether one considers themselves to be a supporter of Georgian Dream or not appears to be the single biggest factor in their view that Georgia is ‘heading in the right direction’ or not. 

The share of the public thinking the country is going in the wrong direction has fluctuated dramatically over the years. But which groups have been more or less pessimistic over time remains an open question. The merged dataset of NDI and CRRC Georgia surveys from 2014 to 2021 suggests that throughout the fluctuations in attitudes, the largest determinant of whether people are pessimistic or optimistic about the direction the country is headed in is the party they support. 

Fluctuations in views of where the country is headed

Georgians’ views of where the country is headed have fluctuated together with Georgia’s often turbulent social, political, and economic situation.

The devaluation of the Georgian lari, starting in November 2014, is concomitant with the decline in views of the country’s direction between August 2014 and April 2015.  Negativity continued to rise in the next wave of the survey in November 2015. From this point, negativity in views of the country’s direction declined until November 2016. After a slight uptick in negativity between June and December 2017, negative attitudes were largely stable between 36% and 39% until April 2019. 

From April 2019, the level of negativity in the country steadily climbed, reaching 53% of the public viewing the country’s direction negatively in December 2019. The period between April 2019 and December 2019 coincides with the large-scale protests over the visit of Russian politician Sergei Gavrilov as well as subsequent failures to deliver promised reforms.

In the first post pandemic survey in August 2020, the rate of negativity dropped to 32%. This likely stems from Georgians’ positive assessments of the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. 

However, the three NDI surveys since suggest that this lull in negativity has receded, with 44% of the public thinking that the country is headed in the wrong direction and only 25% in the right direction as of February 2021. Increased pessimism likely stems from the political crisis which followed the October 2020 elections, and has only recently been largely, though not fully, resolved. 


What predicts pessimism and optimism?

While the above highlights major fluctuations in attitudes towards the country’s direction, a key question remains: which groups in society are more or less pessimistic?

People in Tbilisi and other urban areas are eight and five percentage points more likely to agree with the idea that Georgia is going in the wrong direction than people in rural areas. 

People who have secondary technical or a lower level of education are two to four percentage points more pessimistic than those with higher education.

People who do not have a job are three percentage points more likely to report that the country is going in the wrong direction.

Above and beyond all of the above, which party someone supports is the best predictor of whether someone thinks the country is headed in the right or wrong direction. Opposition party supporters are 34 percentage points more likely to have a negative view of where the country is headed, on average, controlling for other factors. Those who support no party are 21 percentage points more likely to have a negative view of where the country is headed. 

Aside from being the best overall predictor, supporting an opposition party or no party predicts views about the country’s direction for each wave of the survey when analysed independently. And while the influence of party support as a predictor has fluctuated over time, it has been increasing overall.

In April 2014, supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party were 5 percentage points less likely to think the country was going in the wrong direction compared to supporters of no party. Opposition supporters were 22 percentage points more likely than Georgian Dream party supporters to think the country was going in the wrong direction. 

The gap in views has fluctuated, but increased overall. In February 2021, Georgian Dream supporters were 46 percentage points less likely to think the country was going in the wrong direction compared to opposition supporters, a 24 percentage points increase in the gap in perceptions. Similarly, the gap in perceptions rose by 23 percentage points between Georgian Dream supporters and non-partisans. The changes in the gap between Georgian Dream and supporters of the opposition and non-partisans are also highly correlated (a 78% correlation between the two sets of marginal effects). These data taken together suggest a widening gap between the perceptions of Georgian Dream supporters and everyone else in Georgia.

As assessments of Georgia’s direction have changed over time, several factors have been associated with relatively minor differences in views of where the country is headed. While demographics explain some of the variation in people’s views, the party people support explains more than all of the other factors combined. Whether this is caused by supporting a given party or whether people change their party when their views of the country’s direction change is an open question. What the data do suggest though is that there is a widening gap between the perceptions of Georgian Dream supporters and everyone else in society.

Note: The above analysis is based on a logistic regression, where the dependent variable is a negative assessment of the country's direction, and the independent variables include gender, age, settlement type, education, employment status, partisanship, and survey wave.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Who smokes in Georgia?

[Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, the Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

An estimated 11,400 people die in Georgia due to tobacco consumption annually. Data from Caucasus Barometer 2019 suggests that efforts to counter smoking should likely focus on men, people in Tbilisi, and poorer individuals.

No one questions whether tobacco consumption is a public health scourge: tobacco is estimated to cause eight million deaths a year worldwide. In Georgia, in 2016, 29% of the 15+ population was estimated to be a smoker, making Georgia 33rd in the world for smoking prevalence at the time among 146 countries for which data was available. 

Overall smoking prevalence in Georgia is relatively high. Almost one-third of the public (29%) reported smoking in 2019.  This compares with 30% in 2013 and 35% in 2008, suggesting a decline of six percentage points between 2008 and 2019.  

Data in the 2019 Caucasus Barometer suggests that men in particular are significantly more likely to be smokers than women. While women have a nine percentage point chance of smoking, controlling for other factors, men have a 55 percent chance of smoking. 

In reality, the gap is likely smaller than this data suggests when it comes to sex. A large majority of the public (80%) think it is never acceptable for a woman to smoke. In this regard, it is reasonable to believe women would not necessarily report that they smoke to an interviewer. 

A study by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) suggests that this is in fact the case. In the study, respondents were administered a urine test to check whether they had actually been smoking. It found that 12% of women had traces of tobacco in their body as opposed to the 9% that reported smoking on the survey. While this suggests the gap is likely being smaller than the data suggests, there likely remains a large divide.

Aside from sex, people’s age, settlement type, and household economic situation predict whether or not they smoke. Younger people are less likely to report smoking than people in the 35–54 age range, as are older people. The smaller share of older smokers likely stems from tobacco-related mortality. People in Tbilisi are almost twice as likely to smoke as people in rural areas. Similarly, people are 1.5 times as likely in other urban areas, compared with rural areas, to smoke. The poorest households in Georgia are 3 times as likely to smoke as the best off. 


Aside from who smokes, the data also tells us how much smokers smoke. Again sex predicts how much people smoke, as does people’s level of education. Controlling for other factors, female smokers smoke 12 cigarettes a day less than male smokers. People with a higher education smoke 5 cigarettes less per day compared with those with only secondary education or lower.

Although the data from the Caucasus Barometer is promising in that it shows that smoking prevalence has declined over the years, there are still a relatively large number of smokers in Georgia. 

The data suggests that anti-smoking campaigns need to target men in particular. Similarly, smoking is most common among poorer households and in Tbilisi, suggesting a need for increased anti-smoking efforts among these populations.

Note: The above data analysis is based on logistic and ordinary least squares regression models which included the following variables: age group (18-35, 35-55, 55+), sex (male or female), education (secondary or lower/vocational/higher), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), wealth (an additive index of ownership of 9 different items, a proxy variable), and employment situation (working or not).