Monday, April 13, 2015

The political climate in Georgia, 2012-2014: Increased nihilism or room for new political actors?

In October 2012, the Georgian Dream Coalition (GDC) obtained 54.97% of the party list vote, winning the majority of seats in Parliamentary elections. The United National Movement (UNM), then the ruling party, moved into the opposition with 40.34% of the vote. This was the first occurrence since Georgia’s independence when there was a peaceful, electoral handover of power. Two and a half years have passed, and the next parliamentary elections are on the way, planned to be held in 2016. While the two major parties continue to compete on the political arena to sustain and obtain voters’ support, survey data on political attitudes shows that there may be room for new political actors. This blog post describes the dynamics of attitudes towards GDC and UNM from November 2012 through August 2014 using survey data from the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The data is nationally representative of the adult (18+) Georgian-speaking population in Georgia.

Support for the United National Movement, measured indirectly by the answers to the question, “Which party is closest to you?” has been stable since November of 2012 when 10% of the population named the UNM as their first choice while answering this question. This share has not changed much since. About 30% reported in November 2012 liking two of the UNM leaders, Mikheil Saakashvili and Gigi Ugulava, and these numbers have also not changed much since. Vano Merabishvili’s rating declined from 28% in November 2012 to 17% in June 2013 and has remained at this level since. Giga Bokeria has been one of the least liked UNM politicians for the last two years, while Davit Bakradze has been the most liked.

Note: Only “Like” responses are shown on the chart. 

Unlike the UNM, GDC’s support fluctuated during this period. In November 2012, 63% named GDC as their first choice when asked about the party closest to them. This rating started decreasing in the following months, but went up again in November 2013. In April 2014, there was a larger drop in support for the GDC, when 42% named GDC as their first choice.
Similar to party support, most GDC leaders’ ratings were over 60% in November 2012. In the beginning of 2013, these numbers started to decline, and dropped even more in August 2014. In 2012 and 2013, Bidzina Ivanishvili was the most liked GDC leader, though in 2014 the share of people who reported they liked Ivanishvili decreased. In August 2014, Irakli Alasania was the most liked GDC leader, followed by Irakli Gharibashvili and Davit Usupashvili.

Note: Only ’Like’ responses are shown on the chart. This question was not asked about Irakli Alasania, Irakli Gharibashili and Kakha Kaladze until November 2013.

Unsurprisingly, the data also shows that support for the United National Movement and Georgian Dream Coalition closely resembles the public’s assessment of their respective performances. The share of people reporting that the UNM was performing well was 14% in November 2012 and has not changed much since. As for the Georgian Dream Coalition, the respective share was 65% in November 2012, and after consistent downward movement (with the sole exception of November 2013) it reached 23% in August 2014.

Another visible trend concerns the share of those who answered “no party”, “don’t know” or “refuse to answer” when asked about the party closest to them. An increasing share of people have reported that no existing political party is closest to them, rising from 5% in November 2012 to 30% in August 2014. About one fifth of the population answered either “don’t know” or “refuse to answer” to this question in November 2012, and by August 2014, this share dropped to 8%.

Thus, though support for the UNM has remained stable, albeit at a low level, support for GDC has shown a downward trend. Since November 2012, fewer people have evaded answering the question about the party closest to them, and more reported there is no such party. Could these findings mean that there is a space for new parties in the Georgian political arena, or do they indicate increased political nihilism? Share your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook page here.

More data from NDI public opinion surveys and detailed information about the methodology are available here.

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