Monday, May 30, 2016

People who trust NGOs are more active

NGOs play an important role in Georgian society, weighing in on issues as diverse as energy policy and the budget. An important question however is, how much do people trust NGOs and are those who trust NGOs different from those who don’t? This blog post looks at how people who report trusting NGOs in Georgia differ from those who report distrusting them in terms of their social and political engagement.

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer surveys (CB) regularly ask about trust in NGOs. In 2015, 23% of the population reported fully or rather trusting NGOs, while about the same share reported fully or rather distrusting them. In addition, a large share of the population (42%) reported neither trusting nor distrusting NGOs. The share who answered that they “don’t know” if they trust or distrust NGOs has declined from 31% in 2012 to 14% in 2015, which may indicate that awareness of NGOs has increased in recent years. The share of the Georgian public which trusts NGOs (sum of “fully trust” and “rather trust”) has more or less stayed the same since 2011, while the share which distrusts them (sum of “fully distrust” and “rather distrust”) has increased from 9% in 2012 to 20% in 2015.

People who trust NGOs are slightly more socially and politically active (i.e. attend public meetings, vote, etc.), than those who distrust NGOs. In 2015, 25% of those who trust NGOs reported attending a public meeting during the six months prior to the survey, while only 15% of those who distrust NGOs reported doing the same. This finding has been consistent over the past few years.

Note: Answer options “fully trust” and “rather trust” are combined in the columns “Trust”, and answer options “fully distrust” and “rather distrust” are combined in the columns “Distrust”. 

Those who report trusting NGOs also say they would participate in presidential elections if they were held next Sunday more often than those who distrust NGOs. In 2015, 78% of those who trust NGOs said they certainly or most probably would participate in elections if held next Sunday, while a slightly lower share (69%) of those who distrust NGOs said the same.

People who report trusting NGOs are more socially and politically active than those who distrust them, as demonstrated by CB data on public meeting attendance and intention to participate in elections.

For more on trust in NGOs in Georgia, see this Caucasus Analytical Digest article and for more data from CB 2015 take a look at our Online Data Analysis tool here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The fury before the storm

The Georgian Parliamentary by-elections held on October 31, 2015 are regarded by some Georgia watchers as a ‘final rehearsal’ for the 2016 general elections,  and the results have been hotly debated. Tamar Khidasheli, who represented the Republican Party and the Georgian Dream Coalition (GDC), defeated her opponent from the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Irma Inashvili, by a margin of less than one percentage point.  The results were met with intensive questioning not only from representatives of the Alliance,  but some members of the ruling coalition as well.  Opponents were especially critical of the ‘special electoral precinct’ of the Ministry of Defense where Mukhrovani Military Base personnel voted.  Although, the special precinct existed during the previous elections, Khidasheli’s opponents argued that votes from the military made an outsized contribution to the victory of the Republican candidate.  They also accused the former majoritarian of Sagarjo and current Defense Minister of the Republican Party, Tinatin Khidasheli, of unlawful interference in electoral matters.  The situation reached a nadir when Transparency International Georgia approached the prosecutor’s office to start an investigation of the Sagarejo elections, although the investigation was later stopped.  This blog post does not look at any would-be procedural violations in the Sagarejo elections, but does describe the geographic, demographic and ethnic peculiarities of voters which could have contributed to Tamar Khidasheli’s victory in the elections and will likely be of consequence to the general elections.

The absolute difference in votes between Khidasheli and Inashvili constituted only 559 votes. Votes cast at special precincts are counted at “mother” precincts, and vote counts at special precincts are published together with the “mother” precinct count. Hence, it is impossible to distinguish between the vote counts of the two.  As the graph below shows, even if the results at the special precinct and its “mother” precinct were to be annulled, Khidasheli would be the likely winner. However, the margin of victory would have been only 87 votes.  Clearly, every vote was significant for Khidasheli’s victory.

Note: The height of the bars corresponds to the number of votes for each candidate, the labels denote vote share. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding error.

Voting patterns in Georgia differ across location, ethnicity and religious denomination.  Eighty percent of Sagarejo’s population lives in rural areas, and about forty percent are ethnic Azerbaijanis.  Historically, ethnic minority votes in Georgia constitute an important source of electoral support for ruling political parties.  Looking at the demographic peculiarities of the Sagarejo by-elections gives interesting insights into the voting behavior of municipality residents.

The graph below shows election results disaggregated by settlement type. In urban areas, Inashvili won decisively. The race was relatively close in Georgian villages, but again the opposition candidate came out on top. In Azerbaijani precincts, the Republican candidate overwhelmed her opponent.

Note: The height of the bars corresponds to the count number of votes for each candidate, the labels denote vote share received in each settlement. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding error.

While the chart above shows that votes from Azerbaijani villages were decisive for the victory of Tamar Khidasheli, when comparing the geographic and demographic peculiarities of each candidate’s supporters, it is clear that the socio-demographic make-up of Khidasheli’s voters was similar to that of participating voters overall. On the other hand, urban voters and voters from Georgian villages disproportionately supported Inashvili.

It can be argued that the victory of the ruling coalition candidate in the Sagarejo elections was largely a result of the support of ethnic Azerbaijani voters, whilst Inashvili’s supporters were mainly ethnic Georgians. This finding isn’t all that surprising, and follows a general pattern from Georgian elections past: Azerbaijanis in Sagarejo municipality almost always support the government. In 2012 parliamentary elections, the United National Movement gained 83% of votes in Azerbaijani villages, whilst in Georgian settlements the party barely won one third of votes. A year later, the Azerbaijani population of Sagarejo voted overwhelmingly (58%) for the presidential candidate of the new government.

The victory of the government-endorsed candidate in Sagarejo by-elections was mostly influenced not by the special precinct, but by the support of the municipality’s ethnic Azerbaijani population. As in the past, in the 2016 parliamentary elections, ethnic minority support for the ruling party is likely to be significant.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fearing for the children – how living with children affects homophobic attitudes in Tbilisi

Following the controversial events of May 17, 2013, CRRC-Georgia conducted a survey in order to gauge the opinions and attitudes of the adult residents of Tbilisi towards homosexuals and their rights. Among the various outputs following the survey was  a series of blog posts exploring statistical predictors of homophobia. The findings indicated that a low level of education was one of the strongest predictors of homophobia among Tbilisi residents and that men had a higher probability of being homophobic than women, particularly when the men believed that homosexuality was an inborn rather than an acquired trait. This blog post looks deeper into the predictors of homophobia in Tbilisi by testing for a statistical relationship between homophobia and living in a household with one or more children under the age of 18. Our findings suggest that there is a significant relationship between these two variables, although it is different for men and women.

Unlike the previous series of blog posts on homophobia, weighted data is used for the descriptive analysis in order to make more accurate projections about the attitudes of Tbilisi residents. As was the case with the previous blog posts, we measure homophobia using the question, “[Whom] would you not wish to be your neighbor most?” Respondents were asked to choose one of the six groups presented on a show card: drug addicts, black people, adherents of a different religion, people having different political views, homosexuals, and criminals. Those who chose homosexuals (31% of those who answered this question) were deemed to be homophobic.

As the chart below shows, overall, there is no difference in the share of people reporting homophobic attitudes between those living in households with children and those living in households without children (32% and 31%, respectively). The findings, however, are very different separately for men and women. Specifically, we find that the share of Tbilisi females who are homophobic is 7% higher when one or more children live in their household, while it is 13% lower among men.

Logistic regression confirms the importance of having one or more children living in the household as a predictor of homophobic attitudes. According to the model, women with child(ren) in the household are 207% more likely to be homophobic when age, gender and education are controlled for. For men, though, the likelihood decreases.

So why do women tend to be more homophobic when they live with children, and why do men tend to be less homophobic? While further research focused specifically on this issue would be needed to determine the exact cause behind this finding, one possible explanation to the first part of the question is that women may be confusing homosexuality for pedophilia; another possibility is that women may be afraid that homosexuals potentially living next door might influence children into homosexuality (especially provided that, according to the findings presented in a previous blog post, women, more so than men, believe homosexuality to be an acquired trait). In regards to the second part of the question, men may feel that their masculinity has been confirmed once they have children (see here for more information), and thus they feel less threatened. It should be noted, however, that this latter explanation would only apply to those men who have their own children, while the survey data only tells us whether they live in a household with children, but not whether those children are or are not their offspring. For this reason, it may be useful in future studies to investigate the effect of having one’s own child(ren) on homophobic attitudes, in addition to more generally living with children.

The findings presented in this blog post show that women are more likely to be homophobic when there are child(ren) living in their household whereas the opposite is true for men. This finding suggests possible approaches to address homophobia, such as information programs speaking directly to mothers, and women in general, regarding the “nature versus nurture” debate, pedophilia, the nature of homosexual companionship, and the harms of viewing homosexuality as an abnormality. For men this may be more of a struggle with personal sexual identity and insecurities. In any case, a dialogue on the root-causes of homophobia is an important part to combating discrimination against sexual minorities.

The dataset of this survey, as well as respective documentation are available at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Trends in the Data: Public support for democracy is slowly waning in Georgia

Following the first ever peaceful transition of power in Georgia’s 2012 parliamentary elections, the country improved its position in the Freedom House and Polity IV democracy rankings. Results from the latest polls, however, show that public support for democracy in Georgia has declined over the past few years. Weakening support for democracy can pose a serious problem for the process of democratic consolidation in Georgia, that is, the institutionalization and maturation of Georgia’s democracy. Reversion to a non-democratic system is unlikely in consolidated democracies, where a democratic system is accepted as “the only game in town”. Public opinion polls make it possible to measure public’s support for democracy. This blog post looks at how attitudes towards democracy have changed in Georgia in recent years.

According to CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, nearly half of the population of Georgia (47%) agrees that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government”, and only 16% thinks that “in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable”. However, if we compare these findings with previous waves of CB, it is clear that during the past four years, support for democracy has declined in Georgia. It was rather stable from 2011 through 2013, with approximately two thirds of the population reporting that democracy is the best form of governance. While in 2011, only 8% thought that “in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable”, this share doubled in 2015. The share of those who answered ”for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have”, also increased during the same period.

Note: Options ‘Don’t Know’ and ‘Refuse to answer’ are not shown on the above chart. CB was not carried out in 2014. 

Notably, the share of the population who consider Georgia a democracy has declined. According to CB 2011, half the population characterized Georgia as either ”a full democracy” (8%) or ”a democracy but with minor problems” (42%). In 2015, only 3% and 20% reported the same. The share of those who characterized Georgia as ”a democracy but with major problems” or ”not a democracy” increased.

It might be expected that one of the reasons why support for democracy declined would be the weakening of democratic values. Although a number of indicators can be used to test this,  CRRC data  do not suggest that this is the case. Support for democratic values has, in fact, visibly increased. For instance, the share of the population who agrees with the statement that “people should participate in protest actions against the government, as this shows the government that the people are in charge” has increased.  Since 2012 the share of the public agreeing with this statement has been at least twice as large as the share of those who agreed with the opposite statement.

Although, over time, the share of the population who regard Georgia as a democracy declined, the data shows that freedom of speech has likely been strengthened. For instance, since 2009 the share of those who agree that in Georgia people have the right to openly say what they think increased from 55% to 72% in 2015, while the share of those disagree with the opinion halved.

There is, thus, no empirical evidence confirming that the decline in public support for democracy in Georgia is caused by the weakening of democratic values. Hence, the reasons for the decline described in this blog post likely lay elsewhere.

When Georgia’s democratic development is discussed, public opinion is often forgotten. As this blog post has tried to demonstrate, the political elite should not take public support for democracy for granted. Attitudes towards democracy, like other attitudes, may often be changing. Further research is needed to understand the causes of this, since democratic consolidation is less likely without public support.

To find out more about public attitudes in Georgia, visit CRRC’s online data analysis tool.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How the EU sees Georgia: The Georgian population's perceptions

Although a majority of the population of Georgia approves of the Government of Georgia’s stated goal to join the European Union (EU), reported trust in the EU declined between 2011 and 2015. According to Europe Foundation’s Knowledge and attitudes towards the EU survey conducted by CRRC-Georgia, 22% of the Georgian public reported fully trusting the EU in 2011. In 2013 and 2015, the respective shares were only 4% and 3%. The share of those reporting they “trust” the EU moderately, rather than “fully trust” it, also declined from 47% to 31%. Distrust in the EU, on the other hand, increased in all age groups (between 2011 and 2015) and all settlement types (between 2011 and 2015), both among men and women (between 2011 and 2015). Moreover, the EU is increasingly perceived as a threat to Georgian traditions, as described in a recent blog post. This blog post looks at the Georgian public’s changing perceptions of EU-Georgia relations focusing on how Georgians think their country is perceived by the governments and citizens of EU member states.

In 2011, 41% of the population of Georgia reported believing that a majority of EU member states would like Georgia to enter the EU. Four years later, only 32% gave the same answer, while the share of those answering negatively doubled. Importantly, almost 50% of the population cannot answer this question. Similarly, in 2015, 18% answered that, in their opinion, a majority of European citizens wouldn’t like Georgia to enter the EU, compared to 11% in 2011. 

The decline of the share of the population that believe the EU will welcome Georgia as a member state may be related to the finding that the population of Georgia sees their country’s EU accession as less likely. While 33% of the population of Georgia thought in 2011 that the country would join the EU in 5 years or less, 18% did so in 2015. Today, 16% of the population thinks Georgia will join the EU within ten years – twice the share of 2011. The share of those answering that Georgia will never join the EU rose from 2% in 2011 to 11% in 2015.

Over time, the Georgian population thinks that citizens of the EU as well as the EU governments are less inclined towards integrating Georgia into the Union. More clarity and realism concerning Georgia’s potential for EU membership certainly could help to avoid a slow backslide towards less EU support for strong relations between Georgia and the EU in the years to come. The public should be aware that EU membership is a long-term prospect at best rather than an immediate future. This may avoid a sense of betrayal and frustration with slow progress.

To explore the data in more depth, take a look at our online data analysis tool or take a look at some of CRRC’s recent blog posts (see here, here and here). 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The population of Georgia on “good citizenship”

Although many people agree that being “a good citizen” is important, there is a great variety of ideas on what being “a good citizen” means. CRRC’s 2013 and 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) surveys asked respondents to rate the importance of the following seven qualities for being “a good citizen”: always obeying laws, supporting the government on every occasion, voting in elections, following traditions, volunteering, helping people who are worse off than themselves, and being critical towards the government. This blog post discusses Georgia’s population’s assessments of these qualities.

As in previous years, of these seven qualities, helping people who are worse off and following traditions are reported to be the most important qualities of “a good citizen” in Georgia. Always obeying laws and voting are considered somewhat less, however, still quite important qualities. At the same time, supporting the government on every occasion or being critical towards the government are not reported to be as important.

In 2015, the seven qualities have been assessed slightly differently than in 2013. The largest change is a 12% decrease in the reported importance of supporting the government on every occasion. The assessment of importance of voting in elections has slightly decreased (by 7%), although almost within the margin of error, and the importance of helping people who are worse off has slightly increased (7%).

Note: A ten-point scale was used to record answers to these questions, where code ‘1’ corresponded to the answer “Not important at all” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the answer “Extremely important”. For this blog post, codes 1 through 4 were grouped as “Not important”, codes 5 and 6 as “Neither important nor unimportant” and codes 7 through 10 as “Important”. Only the shares of those assessing the respective quality as important (codes 7 through 10 of the original scale) are shown on the charts of this blog post. 

People living in the capital, other urban and rural settlements have slightly different views on what qualities a good citizen should have. Compared to the opinions of those living outside Tbilisi, voting, always obeying laws, volunteering and being critical towards the government are reported in the capital as more important, while supporting the government on every occasion – as less important. Following traditions, though, is considered highly important in all settlement types.

The data also shows that those who believe that, in general, people shape their fate themselves assign higher importance to such qualities of a good citizen as voting in elections, volunteering and being critical towards the government, compared to those who think that everything is determined by fate. The results of a Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test show, this finding is statistically significant.

Note: A ten-point scale was used to record answers to the question on fatalism. The original answers were recoded so that codes 1 through 5 were combined in the category “Everything is determined by fate” and codes 6 through 10 were combined in the category “People shape their fate themselves”.

Of the seven possible qualities of a “good citizen” offered in CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey, the population of Georgia assesses following traditions and helping those who are worse off as the most important ones. Assessments of most of the qualities of a good citizen slightly differ by settlement type. Notably, those who think that everything in life is determined by fate assign less importance to voting in elections, volunteering and being critical towards the government. For more data, visit our Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Attitudes toward public opinion polls in Georgia

In his book Polling and the Public Herbert Asher notes that findings of public opinion polls have significant effects on citizens’ attitudes and behavior. This is clearly true in Georgia where public opinion polls (especially those focused on political attitudes) are widely discussed by politicians, experts, and the media. Using CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data, this blog post examines attitudes towards public opinion polls in Georgia.

Generally, the public’s trust in the results of public opinion polls is mixed in Georgia. One-third of the population reports trusting poll results, another third reports a neutral attitude, and 21% reports distrusting them. A small share of the population either does not know anything about the polls, answers “Don’t know” or refuses to answer this question.

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record answers to the question: “Generally speaking, to what extent would you say you trust or distrust the results of public opinion polls conducted in our country?” On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the option “Do not trust at all” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the option “Completely trust”. For this blog post, the answers were grouped as follows: codes ‘1’ through ‘4’ were labeled as “Distrust”; codes ‘5’ and ‘6’ were labeled as “[In the middle]”; codes ‘7’ through ‘10’ were labeled as “Trust”. Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were combined. 

Reported trust in the results of public opinion polls varies in different demographic groups. Tbilisi residents tend to report slightly higher trust compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. Those who are younger (18 to 35 years old) also report higher trust than those who are 56 years old or older. A slightly greater share of those with higher than secondary education reports trusting poll results compared to those with secondary or lower education.

Note: Only shares of those who reported trusting public opinion poll results are shown in the chart. The answer options for the question on education level 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”.

Interestingly, nearly half (46%) of those who report trusting the media also report trusting poll results, and statistical correlation of the answers to these two questions is significant. By comparison, only a quarter (26%) of those who distrust the media report trusting poll results.

Note: A 5-point scale was used to record answers to the question, “Please tell me how much do you trust or distrust Georgia’s media?” For this blog post, answer options "Fully trust" and "Rather trust" were combined into "Trust media"; ”Rather distrust" and "Fully distrust" were combined into "Distrust media". Options "Don't know" and "Refuse to answer" are not shown on the chart.

Attitudes toward public opinion poll results in Georgia are mixed, and nearly equal shares of the population trust, distrust or neither trust nor distrust the results. There are, however, some differences between those living in different settlement types, as well as between representatives of different age groups, and those having different levels of education. Generally, those who report trusting the media tend to trust the results of public opinion polls.

To learn more about public opinion polls, take a look at earlier blog posts including Ask CRRC | Survey vs Census and Pre-Election Polls | what would be needed. To learn more about how CRRC collects data, take a look at this video or read CRRC-Georgia’s Research Guidelines