Monday, September 16, 2019

What divides and what unites Georgian society?

[Note: This article was published in partnership with OC-Media, here.]

The last year has seen a number of conversations about polarization in Georgia. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, even commented on the issue in his Batumi speech.  One of the components of polarization, though not the sole factor, is division in society over actors, issues, and institutions.

While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.

Although ethnic minorities perceive fewer divisions, they also think that different issues divide the country: minorities are more likely to think that western actors create division, while ethnic Georgians are more likely to blame Russia and domestic institutions.

One factor does unite ethnicities however: the most commonly cited source of division, no matter the respondent’s ethnicity, was politicians.

The survey asked about whether 11 issues, actors, and institutions unite or divide Georgians as a society. The results suggest that politicians are most widely viewed as divisive.  Even Russia was viewed as less of a divider than politicians in Georgia. In contrast, religion and educational institutions were considered to unite society more than any of the other issues, actors, or institutions asked about. Uncertainty (don’t know responses) was greatest about NGOs (28%) and Euro-Atlantic institutions (24% for NATO and the EU).

 To further explore perceptions of division, a simple additive index of the above questions was created to carry out further analysis, with respondents receiving one point for each item they reported divided society. On average, individuals named seven items as dividing society. One in twelve (8%) reported that none of the issues asked about divide society and one in twenty (5%) reported that all of the issues asked about divided society.


The results of a regression analysis on the above index suggests that a number of socio-demographic groups perceive more issues, actors, or institutions as divisive. Ethnic Georgians, Tbilisians, and people with higher levels of education report that more groups are dividing society, all else equal. The difference is rather small for education, with people with vocational and higher education perceiving about one half of one issue more on average.

By comparison the difference is rather sharp with ethnicity. Ethnic Armenians perceive almost two issues less on average, and ethnic Azerbaijanis note around 2.5 issues less on average. The difference between settlement types falls in between, with inhabitants of rural areas highlighting about one issue less than those in Tbilisi, and those in other urban areas falling between the capital and rural areas.


With ethnicity, there are three sources of the observed differences. First, ethnic minorities express uncertainty more often than ethnic Georgians. This is particularly true of ethnic Azerbaijanis who report don’t know more often than ethnic Armenians.

Second, among those that said each of the above issues either united or divided the country, there are differences in attitudes related to foreign policy. Ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis are significantly less likely to report that Russia divides the country, and significantly more likely, albeit to a smaller degree, to report that NATO divides the country. Ethnic Azerbaijanis also report the EU divides the country at a greater rate.

Third, ethnic Georgians are much more critical of domestic actors. Georgians are more likely to say that politicians, educational institutions, the Georgian media, the country’s leaders, the current economic system, law enforcement, and NGOs divide the country.

While there is a division in perceptions of what divides the country between ethnicities, one thing is common among ethnic groups: of all the issues, actors, and institutions asked about on the survey politicians are the most commonly cited source of division.

Note: The above analysis was based on an ordinary least squares regression model. The model’s dependent variables was the number of issues respondents named as divisive in the survey. The independent variables included age, sex, wealth (proxied through number of assets owned), educational attainment (secondary or less, vocational, at least some tertiary), ethnicity (Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani), settlement type (capital, other urban, rural), and employment status (have a job versus not having a job). The data used in the analysis is available here. Replication code for the analysis is available here.


Dustin Gilbreath is the Deputy Research Director of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the National Democratic Institute or any related entity.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Easterlin Paradox and Happiness U-curve in Georgia

Two of the more prominent findings from the study of happiness are that money does not buy it (up to a point) and that young and old people are happier than those in between. That money does not buy happiness is often referred to as the Easterlin Paradox. It highlights that between and within countries happiness increases with wealth, but only up to a certain point, at which increases in wealth are associated with marginal gains in happiness. That the elderly and young are happier is referred to as the happiness U-curve. This finding has been found to hold in the West, but not in the former Soviet space, where the elderly are the least happy. This blog looks at these phenomenon in Georgia.

On the 2018 UN Women and CRRC Georgia survey, respondents were asked to rate their self-reported happiness, from “Extremely unhappy” to “Extremely happy” on an eleven point scale. A plurality of respondents reported being extremely happy (40%). By comparison, only 1% reported being extremely unhappy.


In agreement with previous studies on happiness within the post-Soviet space, increased household economic status was associated with higher levels of happiness. Individuals who were wealthier were more likely report a happier response on the scale. In contrast, those who have relatively few assets reported lower levels of happiness. However, once respondents have three out of the eleven assets asked about or more, reported happiness increases at a marginal rate, as the Easterlin Paradox would predict.



The U-shaped happiness curve does not hold in Georgia, as happiness generally decreases with age. The presence of children, sex, settlement type, household size, whether or not the respondent was displaced by conflict, and education level were not associated with happiness.



The above data suggests that the Easterlin paradox appears to hold in Georgia, with individuals becoming happier with greater wealth, up to a point. As in other post-Soviet countries, older people are generally less happy, again re-affirming the lack of a u-curve in happiness in the region.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordinary least squares regression, where the dependent variable is the respondent's self-reported happiness level. The independent variables are respondents’ household economic status (measured with an asset index, composed of ownership of 11 assets), age, sex (male, female), education, settlement type, displacement status, household size, and age’s interaction with the presence of children in the home. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here. The data for the above analysis can be found here.


The views presented in the above blog post do not represent the views of UN Women, SDC, or any related entity.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Internal Displacements’ Impact on Attitudes towards Gender Relations

As a result of the conflicts in the 1990s and in 2008 in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, nearly 6 percent of Georgia’s population is internally displaced. Previous studies have suggested that internal displacement from conflict can alter attitudes towards gender relations, and specifically perceptions of women’s household authority, tolerance of domestic violence, and attitudes towards women earning money.

This may be related to the psychological impacts of conflict and displacement on everyday household gender dynamics. Some have theorized that displaced women’s roles in the household often shift to that of breadwinner, and in response men push back by becoming more of a dominant presence in the home.At the same time, women reject their new leadership role by becoming more accepting of the idea of male authority.

A matching analysis, which compares individuals with similar social and demographic backgrounds except for whether or not the respondent had been displaced by conflict, using a 2018 nationwide survey CRRC conducted for UN Women shows that the previously noted differences in attitudes are present among Georgia’s conflict displaced population.

In the survey, male respondents in general were more likely to believe that men should have the final word in the household. However, both male and female respondents displaced by conflict were more likely to believe that men should have the final word in the household than individuals not displaced by conflict that had otherwise similar backgrounds.

As it relates to domestic violence, non-displaced women were least tolerant of domestic violence as a means to keep the family together, while female displaced respondents and non-displaced male respondents were more tolerant. Moreover, male respondents displaced by conflict were more tolerant in their attitudes towards domestic violence for the sake of family preservation than all other respondents.

In relation to women earning money, female respondents were more likely to believe that a woman earning more than her husband would cause problems regardless of whether they were displaced by the conflict. However, male respondents not displaced by conflict were less likely to believe that women earning more would cause relationship problems than men displaced by conflict.

Men and women displaced by conflict are more tolerant of domestic violence over the non-displaced in Georgia. Males displaced by conflict are more likely to believe men should have the final word in the home over non-displaced individuals, and non-displaced men are less likely to believe that if women earn more than their husbands, it will cause relationship problems. These findings support past research suggesting that the process of internal displacement can lead to adverse gender norms.

Note: The above analysis is based on the use of matching together with a regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the respondent's attitudes towards gender relations. The independent variables are displacement status and sex.  The individuals in the sample were matched on the following characteristics: parental education level, age, ethnicity, settlement type, and sex. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here.

The views presented in the above blog post do not represent the views of UN Women, SDC, or any affiliated entity.


Monday, August 26, 2019

Attitudes toward politicians are related to evaluations of institutional performance

How citizens evaluate the performance of the state is often a reasonable proxy for its performance. In Georgia, evaluations of public institutions are mixed. While a number of social and demographic variables are associated with people’s perceptions of state performance, so too are people’s attitudes towards political parties and politicians. This shows once again how politics is personalized in Georgia.

The 2019 April CRRC/NDI data suggests that social and-demographic characteristics, including settlement type, ethnicity, and age are associated with perceptions of state performance. Ethnic minorities and rural residents tend to evaluate public institutional performance higher than ethnic Georgians or urban dwellers. In addition, young Georgians think public institutions perform well more often than older people.

Besides demographics, attitudes toward politicians are associated with attitudes towards institutional performance.  Positive attitudes towards Georgian Dream politicians are associated with more positive assessments of government performance. Interestingly, the same holds for attitudes towards opposition politicians, albeit to a weaker degree.


Note: An ordinary least squares regression model was used to generate the above chart. To measure the population’s attitudes toward institutional performance a public institutions evaluation index was created based on assessments of the following public entities: the current government, Sakrebulo (local councils), Parliament, Courts, Georgian Army, Georgian Police, Office of the ombudsman, Office of the Chief Prosecutor, and Public Service Halls. Attitudes towards the government and opposition affiliated politicians index are measured based on attitudes toward individual politicians asked about in the questionnaire. The regression model also included the following co-variates: Which party is closest to you? (First choice); intention to vote in the parliamentary elections; main sources of information; education level; employment status; age; gender; ethnicity, asset ownership index and settlement type. 

Partisanship also matters. Georgian Dream supporters evaluate institutional performance more positively than United National Movement or other opposition party supporters do.



While partisanship matters, attitudes towards government affiliated politicians still matter despite party affiliation when it comes to evaluation of public institutions. When supporters of different parties have positive attitudes towards GD politicians, they are more likely to evaluate government performance positively no matter what party they support.


Evaluations of public institutions are linked to how citizens see politicians. The more positive are people’s attitudes towards politicians, the more positive they are about institutional performance. This holds no matter the party of a given politician. However, partisanship still matters, with opposition supporters less positive about government performance than supporters of the Georgian Dream. Taking both of these factors together, suggests that attitudes toward government affiliated politicians is more important however.  Taken together, this suggests that institutional performance assessments in Georgia remain tied to personality.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Georgian Language Proficiency and Perceptions of Government Performance among minorities in Georgia

Integration of ethnic minorities into Georgian society is a significant challenge. As a result of ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis’ linguistic separation from ethnic Georgian compatriots, some research suggests their ability to participate in government has been low. Indeed, programming aimed at minority integration in Georgia often focuses on language skills. But, the question remains, how do ethnic minorities that are proficient in Georgian perceive the government? The April 2019 CRRC and NDI data suggest that, while ethnic Armenians that speak Georgian at an advanced level have worse attitudes towards government performance in Georgia, ethnic Azerbaijanis that speak Georgian at an advanced level have better attitudes.

Ethnic Azerbaijanis and Armenians generally have positive perceptions of the current government. Almost two thirds (62%) of ethnic Azerbaijani’s and about half (51%) of ethnic Armenians rate the current government as having performed well or very well. By comparison, Georgians rate government performance more negatively.


Further analysis, however, suggests that ethnic Armenian’s perceptions of the government are more negative if they report they have an advanced proficiency in Georgian. In contrast, ethnic Azerbaijani’s perceptions of government are more positive when they report knowing Georgian at more advanced levels.


Knowledge of Georgian language among ethnic minorities is associated with perceptions of government performance. However, for Armenians knowledge is associated with more negative attitudes, while for Azerbaijanis it is associated with more positive attitudes.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordered logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the respondent's perceptions of the current government's performance. The independent variables are knowledge of Georgian interacted with ethnicity and sex, age group, education, , household size, employment status, settlement type, and household economic status. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here

Monday, July 29, 2019

Perceived Threats to Georgia’s Security

Russian aggression is a key security issue for Georgia. In August 2008, a war broke out over the South Ossetia region with Russia party to the war. Since the war, there have been attempts to restore economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries. Some in Georgia support a policy of having closer ties with Russia. Still, the April CRRC/NDI 2019 survey shows that the public continues to see Russia as a threat.

A majority of the population of Georgia (59%) perceives Russia-related threats as the top threat to Georgia’s security. About a fourth (24%) of the population named other issues. Around a fifth (18%) cannot identify a threat to national security of Georgia and answered “don’t know”.

Note: The threats to Georgia’s national security considered as Russia related include the response options: “Occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia”, “Russian propaganda”, “Russian military aggression”, “Economic dependency on Russia”, and “Energy dependence on Russia”. 

Further analysis shows that threat perceptions vary with ethnicity, settlement type, sex, and education level. Compared to ethnic Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians are more likely to name other threats as the top issue for Georgia. In addition, minorities tend to report “don’t know” more often compared to ethnic Georgians. Compared to people in rural areas, those who live in the capital report “don’t know” rarely. People with secondary or lower levels of education say “don’t know” more often than people with higher education. Women are less likely to name other threats compared to men.


Note: On the above chart, base variables for each category are as follows: male, 18-34 age group, Georgian ethnicity, rural, higher than secondary education, and Georgian Dream supporter. The category “No party” consists of individuals that responded none or don’t know when asked which party was closest to them. The liberal group consists of New Rights, Bakradze-Ugulava - European Georgia, the Republican Party, the Free Democrats, the New Political Center – Girchi, the Movement State for the People, Political Platform - New Georgia, and European Democrats. The other grouping consists of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Free Georgia, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, Left Alliance, Industry will save Georgia/Industrialists, the Georgian Conservative Party, the Georgian Labor Party, the Unity of Georgian Traditionalists, Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia, and Georgian Troupe.

Different political parties have different views about Georgia’s relationship with Russia. Yet, there is no significant difference between Georgian Dream (GD) and United National Movement (UNM) supporters when it comes to threat perceptions. However, compared to GD supporters, those who identify with liberal parties are less likely to name other threats. In contrast, supporters of parties in the other grouping compared with liberal ones tend to name threats besides Russia more often. Those who report that they do not support a particular party are more likely to report they do not know what Georgia’s top security threat is, and they are less likely to mention a Russian threat.

While parts of Georgia are occupied by Russia, some do not see Russia related threats as the primary security issues the country faces. Still, a majority do. Ethnic minorities tend to name Russian threats less than ethnic Georgians. Support for different parties is also associated with threat perceptions, with parties outside the mainstream being less likely to name Russia as a threat.

Note: The above analysis is based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the top threat to Georgia’s national security. The independent variables are party support, gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, education, and household economic status. Replication code of the full analysis is available here. The data used in the blog is available here.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future Project Meets in Tbilisi

The fifth international meeting of the Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future’s (CHIEF project) was held on July 17-18, 2019 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The meeting gathered all nine partner countries involved in the three year international project funded by the EU. Overall about 40 researchers attended the meeting from UK, Georgia, Latvia, Spain, Turkey, India, Germany, Slovakia, and Croatia. In Georgia, CRRC-Georgia is leading the project.



The project aims to explore young people’s (aged 14 to 25) cultural literacy and identity through conducting research in schools, non-formal and informal institutions; and improve cultural literacy and appreciation of diversity through partnerships with a diverse range of policy and cultural institutions. It also aims to build an effective dialogue between young people, education practitioners, civil society activists, community leaders and policymakers to facilitate a future of Europe based on more inclusive notions of cultural heritage and cultural identity.

To achieve its’ goals, the project is using a combination of a survey in schools, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with young people, and participant observations in all participant countries.

During the two day meeting, participants discussed works in progress. In addition, the leads of the work packages presented the next steps of the fieldwork and led discussions on methodology and different approaches.


To stay up to date on the CHIEF project check out the project’s website here, and follow CHIEF on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.