Monday, January 15, 2018

One in six in Georgia think the country is a member of the EU

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media and written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Recent years have seen Georgia’s ties to the European Union grow, with the Association Agreement, including the preferential trade regime it introduced known as the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area signed in 2014 and the granting of visa liberalisation for citizens of Georgia in 2017.

Both represent significant steps towards integration with the EU for Georgia. As part of reaching these milestones, Georgian legislation is being harmonised with the EU’s in a number of fields. The country, however, is currently neither a member of the EU nor even a candidate for membership.

Recent steps towards closer EU integration may have lead some in Georgia to mistakenly believe the country is an EU member. Sixteen percent of the population of Georgia reported in May 2017 that the country was a member of the European Union, and a further 10% answered ‘don’t know’, according to the fifth wave of the Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union survey (EU survey), which CRRC-Georgia carried out for the Europe Foundation.

By comparison, in 2015 only 5% of the population thought Georgia was a member and 12% reported not knowing. While the data show no notable changes over time for people of different age groups (2015, 2017), the answers provided by men and women, as well as those provided by ethnic Georgians, did change between 2015 and 2017.

The increase in thinking the country is a member of the EU is mainly among the ethnic Georgian population. While in 2015 the ethnic minority population reported that Georgia was a member of the EU slightly more often than the rest of the population, in 2017 ethnic Georgians reported that Georgia was an EU member at the same rate as the ethnic minority population. The share of the ethnic minority population who reported that they didn’t know whether Georgia was or was not a member of the European Union increased by 11 percentage points between 2015 and 2017.

Ethnicity aside, it also appears that women were more likely to be mistaken about Georgia’s EU membership than men in 2017. While only 6% of women thought that Georgia was a member of the EU in 2015, 22% did in 2017. By comparison, 5% of men thought that Georgia was an EU member state in 2015 and 10% reported so in 2017. This increase has no clear explanation and requires further research.

This misperception suggests that clearer communications are needed about Georgia’s relationship with the EU, and Georgia’s status in the EU integration process.

The data used in this article is available from CRRC-Georgia’s Online Data Analysis Tool.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Visa liberalization: Which groups in Georgia are expected to benefit most from it?

The introduction of visa free travel to the Schengen zone countries for Georgian citizens was one of the most prominent news stories in Georgia in 2017. It was also highly publicized and presented by the country’s government as a significant achievement on the way to European integration. Do people in Georgia agree with this assessment? And which groups of the population does the public think will actually benefit from the opportunity? CRRC’s 2017 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey results shed some light on these questions.

In Fall 2017, 40% of the population reported not personally knowing any Georgian citizen who had traveled to the Schengen zone countries visa-free in the six months since visa liberation came into force on March 28, 2017. Another 40% reported knowing such people or traveling themselves. Since the question addressed a rather short period of time (six months), the latter 40% can be considered a rather large share. Unsurprisingly, this share increases to 59% in the capital. While 20% answered “Don’t know” at the national level, only 7% did so in the capital, compared with 27% in other urban settlements and 23% in rural settlements. Quite unexpectedly, whether a person knows or does not know those who have benefited from visa liberalization does not seem to be explained by reported assessments of household’s economic situation.

CB also asked which groups of the population will benefit most from visa-free travel to the Schengen zone countries. No answer options were provided during the survey. The respondents could come up with up to two answers. According to 10%, everyone will benefit from visa liberalization, while 3% reported that no one will.

Interestingly, in a number of cases these expectations are quite different for people who personally know beneficiaries of visa-free travel or have benefited themselves, and for people who do not know those who have benefited from visa liberalization. The differences are especially prominent with students, potential short-term visitors, and the unemployed. Those who personally know beneficiaries of visa-free travel or have traveled themselves believe more that students, potential short-term visitors, and the unemployed will benefit from visa liberalization. Those who personally do not know any beneficiaries of visa-free travel have a rather pessimistic view, reporting that rich people, politicians and high level officials will benefit most from visa liberalization. Notably, they also answer "Don't know" more often.

These findings suggest that a lack of exposure to people who have actually benefited from visa liberalization may lead to a more pessimistic view of visa liberalization’s potential for citizens of Georgia. In contrast, personally knowing those who have traveled visa free appears to be connected to the belief that it’s not just the rich and powerful who will benefit from the chance to travel to most of the EU countries visa free.

To have a closer look at CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer data, visit our Online Data Analysis portal after February 1, 2018.

Monday, January 01, 2018

New Year twice, even if you don’t believe in Santa [Re-post]

[Note: This week, we are re-posting our New Year’s 2016 blog post. Happy New Year from the CRRC-Georgia team!]

December. Cold. Christmas decorations in the streets. New Year. Champagne. Satsivi and gozinaki. Presents. Santa Claus. December 25. Or January 7? Then New Year once again, but the old one. Resolutions for the New Year and the wish on New Year’s Eve that is bound to come true.

On December 1-13, 2016, CRRC-Georgia asked the population of Georgia about their New Year’s plans. Unsurprisingly, people mostly follow established traditions. A large majority (73%) plan to ring in the New Year at home. Nine per cent will meet it in a friend’s or a relative’s home. Meeting the New Year in the street or in a restaurant or a café is not yet common, and only one per cent of people in Georgia plan to do so. Another 15% had not decided in the first half of December where they would celebrate the New Year.

Since a large majority of people celebrate New Year’s Eve at home, holiday decorations are important. Only 4% of the population does not plan to have a Christmas tree. A large majority (76%) will have an artificial tree and about one tenth (13%) a natural tree. Almost two thirds (59%) also plan to have chichilaki.

Traditionally, one of the main components of New Year’s Eve celebrations is the feast. Of the dishes from the New Year’s table, over one third of Georgia’s adult population prefers satsivi, about a fourth gozinaki, and about one tenth fried piglet.

For many, New Year’s Eve is associated with presents. About two thirds (62%) of Georgia’s population plan to buy presents for family members. Some people used to believe or still believe that presents come from the Georgian version of Santa, tovlis babua. It appears that about one third of Georgia’s adult population believed in Santa through the age of 10. However, almost one fourth (24%) never believed in Santa. Despite this, the magic of New Year’s Eve is not lost on the majority. Two thirds of the population (66%) have made a wish on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve, with its feast, tree and fireworks, is celebrated twice in Georgia. An absolute majority of people (88%) say they celebrate the so called Old New Year on January 14 as well as the ‘regular’ one, on January 1. People also seem to be interested in the Chinese calendar and closely follow which animal is the symbol of the coming year. Last year, a majority (68%) planned to or already had bought a rooster souvenir for 2017, the year of the rooster.

Just as New Year is celebrated twice, so is Christmas. About two thirds of the population (64%) believe Christmas should be celebrated on January 7, when the Orthodox Church celebrates it. However, about one tenth of people (12%) say Christmas in Georgia should be celebrated on December 25. At the same time, not so small a share of the population (18%) says that Christmas, like New Year’s Eve, should be celebrated on both these days in Georgia.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Gender (in)equality on TV

Stereotypes are an inseparable part of every society, and present in many parts of everyday life. Georgian society is no exception in this regard. For example, some professions like teaching are stereotypically thought of as “women’s professions” while others like being a soldier are considered “men’s professions”.  The media is considered one of the strongest means through which stereotypes are strengthened or broken. In Georgia, TV is the most important media, given that according to CRRC/NDI data, 73% of the population of the country name television as their primary source of the information. In order to understand the dynamics around gender-based stereotypes on TV, CRRC-Georgia monitored the main evening news releases and political talk shows broadcast during prime time (from 18:00 to 00:00) on five national and three regional channels from September 11 to November 12, 2017 (Channel One of the Public Broadcaster, Adjara, Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, Trialeti, Gurjaani, Odishi) with the support of the UN Joint Program for Gender Equality with support from UNDP Georgia and the Swedish government.

The monitoring suggests that gender related stereotypes and gender equality issues in the media matter. While there were cases when journalists tried to break gender stereotypes through covering stories of successful women in spheres that are not generally associated with women, the results show that journalists often lack gender sensitivity.

The main findings of the monitoring include:

  • Some topics are almost always associated with either women or men. Stories about education (schools, kindergartens), culture, healthcare and the environment mostly include female interlocutors. Schools and kindergartens are almost exclusively reported as women’s topics, which strengthens the stereotype that childcare is women’s more than men’s business. On the other hand, topics related to the military, foreign policy, transport, and sports are mostly covered with male respondents; 
  • As for the political talk shows the number of male guests was far greater than the number of female guests;
  • One of the main goals of the monitoring was to identify stories which strengthened or weakened gender stereotypes. Stories that fostered gender stereotypes far exceed coverage that challenged them; 
  • Language on television is not always gender neutral. Phrases such as ‘representatives of the weaker sex’ and ‘the beautiful sex’ where used on a variety of TV channels, while men were referred to as ‘the stronger sex’. Professions were also sometimes differentiated as either “men’s” or “women’s” jobs. These expressions feed inequality between men and women. However, these terms were used infrequently, and more commonly used by guests than journalists. 
  • There are objective reasons why journalists cannot maintain gender balance in their news items or talk shows. For example, there are fewer women in leading positions in politics. This reality makes it more difficult for media to weaken stereotypes. Therefore, the audience mainly watches how men make decisions and are involved in political debates, which strengthens stereotypes about women’s roles in the society.

The media monitoring shows that gender inequality and stereotypes require more attention. To try to break stereotypes, the media and journalists should become more sensitive to the issue. At the same time, the underlying inequalities in society should also be addressed in order to enable the media to challenge stereotypes.

The full report on the gender-based media monitoring in the pre-election period is available here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The perceived importance of history and civic engagement: Recent MYPLACE publication

In 2011-2015, CRRC-Georgia was involved in an EC-funded project MYPLACE: Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement. Sixteen academic partners from 14 countries (see the map below) investigated the forms and causes of young people’s civic (dis)engagement across Europe. 

Palgrave recently published one of the outputs of the MYPLACE project in a volume titled Understanding Youth Participation Across Europe: From Survey to Ethnography. MYPLACE project leaders Hilary Pilkington, Gary Pollock and Renata Franc edited the volume. The chapter ‘History in Danger and Youth Civic Engagement: Perceptions and Practice in Telavi, Georgia’ discusses perceptions about history, and the forms of ‘practicing history’ in one of the MYPLACE research locations in Georgia, Telavi and was written by CRRC staff members, Tamar Khoshtaria, Mariam Kobaladze and Tinatin Zurabishvili. 

The article shows that there is, on the one hand, vast empirical data demonstrating that the population of Georgia, including young people, report history and traditions are very important for them. There is, on the other hand, evidence that this ‘importance’ hardly goes beyond words, and even the most simple and passive forms of engagement in historical activities, such as visiting museums, are not actually practiced. 

The chapter tries to explain this discrepancy, largely focusing on a controversial architectural ‘rehabilitation project’ in the historical center of Telavi, initiated in spring, 2012. For part of the population, young people included, this project led to perceptions of the historical monuments as endangered due to architectural mismanagement. The respondents often felt that, as a result of the reconstruction works, the history of the town was getting ‘damaged,’ or lost. Moreover, forgetting history was often seen as an indicator of the nation’s downfall. But did such perceptions lead to increased civic engagement? 

No, they did not. This led the authors to conclude that this was “a missed opportunity from the point of view of potentially stimulating civic engagement. <…> [T]he young respondents report disengagement from politics and negative attitudes towards politicians and political activities even when they report being unhappy with the changes that take place in the society” (p. 311). 

Thorough investigation of the reasons for such disengagement deserve further research. In the meantime, readers interested in the chapter can find the book here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Evaluation of the Impact of the Agricultural Support Program

CRRC-Georgia carried out a quasi-experimental, post-hoc, mixed methods impact evaluation of the Agricultural Support Program (ASP) between December 2016 and April 2017 in collaboration with the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Agricultural Support Program took place in Georgia between 2010 and 2015. It consisted of two components: 1) Small Scale Infrastructure Rehabilitation and 2) Support for Rural Leasing. For the infrastructure component, the project aimed “to remove infrastructure bottlenecks which inhibit increasing participation of economically active rural poor in enhanced commercialization of the rural economy” according to project documentation. Within the infrastructure component, three types of infrastructure were rehabilitated or built: 1) Rehabilitation of primary and secondary irrigation canals; 2) Rehabilitation of bridges used to bring cattle to pasture; 3) The construction of drinking water infrastructure.

In line with the Internal Office of Evaluation of IFAD’s methodology, impact was assessed across five specific domains. These include: (i) household income and assets; (ii) human and social capital and empowerment; (iii) food security and agricultural productivity; (iv) natural resources, the environment and climate change; and (v) institutions and policies. While the focus of the evaluation is on the rural poverty impact criterion, the performance of the programme has also been evaluated for impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The evaluation assessed not only “if”, but also “how” and “why” the programme has or has not had an impact on selected households and communities in the programme area. To this end, the evaluation team adopted a mixed methods approach including a household survey, focus group discussions, in depth interviews, and key informant interviews. The survey consisted of 3190 interviews, with 1778 interviews in control households and 1412 in treatment households.

In order to test for impact, the team used a quasi-experimental survey design. The driving idea behind quasi-experimental analysis is to use counterfactuals to understand what would have happened in the communities which received interventions had the intervention not taken place. Given that ASP did not make use of randomization, a two staged matching procedure was used to achieve balance on observable variables. First, treated communities were matched with non-treated communities on a number of variables. Second, after data collection households were matched using multivariate matching with genetic weights. Finally, when feasible, a differences in differences approach was used, with changes measured rather than only the 2016 outcome. Regression analyses were then used to estimate effects.

The key findings of the impact analysis include:
  • Indirect beneficiaries of the leasing component – individuals who sold grapes to companies that received leases – had substantively large increases in agricultural incomes;
  • Analyses often suggest little if any impact when it comes to rural poverty. However, context is important. During the project period, ASP was a small part of the very large aid inflows to Georgia, much of which was directed to the area where ASP activities took place. Hence, a lack of significant changes suggests that ASP performed on par with, but not better than other aid projects which took place in control communities;
  • Project outreach in the small scale infrastructure communities was inadequate, resulting in less effective project design and missing an opportunity for the development of human and social capital;
  • The project’s main success within the food security and agricultural productivity impact domain is the increase in amount of land irrigated; the project does not appear to have had any detectable impact on food security;
  • ASP does not appear to have contributed to the sustainable development of the agricultural leasing sector in Georgia;

To read more about the impact evaluation, see the full report, which is available here.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Are Georgians as tolerant as they claim to be?

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media and written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

On 15 November, the Ministry of Culture announced it would give ‘Georgian tolerance’ the status of intangible cultural heritage. Historically, Georgia may have exhibited relatively high levels of tolerance, with many pointing to the reign of King David the Builder in the 12th century. David is celebrated for presiding over the start of the country’s golden age, and many point to his encouragement of other ethnicities settling in Georgia as a good example of Georgian tolerance.

Yet, recent events in Georgia like the far-right March of Georgians, numerous incidents targeting Georgia’s Muslim community, and the 2013 riots during International Day Against Homophobia suggest Georgia has a ways to go when it comes to tolerance.

Survey data also consistently suggest modern day Georgia lacks tolerance towards minorities of all stripes, though is more tolerant than neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to Caucasus Barometer data, Georgians generally disapprove of Georgian women marrying other ethnicities, a common proxy for tolerance in international surveys.

The graph below shows the net approval rating of women marrying other ethnicities between 2009 and 2015. Net approval ratings show whether attitudes are more positive or negative towards an individual or subject overall. The only positive net approval rating is for Russians and only in 2015. Every other net approval rating is less than zero suggesting more Georgians disapprove of women of their ethnicity marrying other ethnicities than approve.  This includes many ethnicities which the Ministry of Culture is presumably celebrating the country’s tolerance towards such as Armenians, Azeris, Abkhaz, Jewish people, and Ossetians.

The data also shows a clear religious bias. The chart below shows the average net approval of women in Georgia marrying ethnicities associated with Christianity and other religions. The graph shows that ethnicities traditionally associated with religions besides Christianity are less approved of by about 20 percentage points.

Note: Ethnicities associated with Christianity in the above graph include Russians, Armenians, Armenians living in Georgia, Ossetians, and Abkhaz. Ethnicities not associated with Christianity include Azeris, Azeris living in Georgia, Jewish people, Kurds, and Turks.

While Georgia lacks in tolerance, when compared with its neighbors in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia is welcoming. The graph below shows the net approvals for each ethnicity on the Caucasus Barometer between 2009 and 2013. The general pattern holds whether or not Armenians and Azerbaijanis attitudes towards each other are taken into account.

Note: Average net approvals were calculated using all ethnicities that were asked about in all three countries as well as the two South Caucasian neighbors of each country. Titular ethnicities were excluded from the calculation. Caucasus Barometer was not carried out in Azerbaijan in 2015.

While Georgia is more tolerant than its neighbors, it still has a long way to go, especially if it wants to match the famed tolerance of King David the Builder.

The data used in this article is available from CRRC-Georgia’s Online Data Analysis Tool.