Monday, December 28, 2015

People to rely on - Georgians and their social networks

[In this last blog post of 2015, CRRC Researcher Tamuna Khoshtaria reflects on one the most important aspects of Georgian society – people to rely on, i.e. relatives, friends, neighbors.]

When I was studying in Germany, the dormitory’s housekeeper told me: ‘I have seen students of many nations coming here to live, and many of them were homesick at some point, but for Georgians, it has always been the hardest to live abroad.’

He had a point. Now, almost ten years later, what keeps me in Georgia are, for the most part, my friends and the people I can rely on – my social circle. Many people around me feel the same way. The findings of CRRC’s 2014 survey on Volunteerism and Civic Engagement let us see how valuable social networks of friends, relatives and neighbors are for Georgians.

The overwhelming majority of Georgians (92%) say they have close friends. Of these, 21% report getting together with their close friends every day, 34% at least once a week, and a further 22% at least once a month. If we break down the data by gender, we see that compared to females, slightly more males manage to meet with their friends on a daily basis (24% vs 18%). Also, young people (18 to 35 years old) manage to get together with friends more frequently than those who are older (30% vs 16%).

At the same time, most people in Georgia are quite open to new friendships: 73% disagree with the statement that they already have many friends and do not need to make new friends. Roughly the same share (74%) agrees with the statement that they enjoy meeting new people.

Half of the Georgian public reports they have not gained new friends during the last 12 months. For those who did though, new friends are most often found through the old ones.

Note: Respondents could select more than one answer option.

Close relatives are another important part of social networks. Half of the Georgian population reports seeing close relatives who do not live in the same household at least once a month. The majority (66%) say they always or often discuss private problems with them.

Neighbors represent another important part of Georgians’ social networks. Fifty-six percent of the population says they know all the neighbors in their neighborhood. Another 24% says they know more than ten families in their neighborhood, and only 17% knows ten or less families. The share of those who know all of their neighbors is higher in rural settlements (68%), in the big cities (57%) and in other urban settlements (66%), compared to Tbilisi, where only about a third of the population (34%) report so.

Knowing their neighbors implies talking to them, and 64% of Georgians say they talk with their neighbors every day. Another 25% say they talk at least once a week. These talks with neighbors quite often turn into discussing different issues. Twenty-nine percent report always or often discussing common problems in the neighborhood, and 23% say they always or often discuss politics with their neighbors.

These results show that Georgians do not lead isolated lives. They have people around them whom they can trust and count on when it comes to good and bad times. Half (52%) of Georgians agree with the opinion that there are plenty of people they can rely on when they have problems, and 74% say there are people who would look after them if they needed to, without expecting any compensation. Importantly, this support seems to be a two-way street, as 64% of Georgians also say they can be helpful to many people outside of their families.

The people we are around and who we rely on could be the main motivation for many Georgians to stay in the country, even when there are possibilities to emigrate and improve one’s living conditions. Though it is hard to talk about others – I know I am one of those Georgians.

To learn more about the social networks of the Georgians, take a look at the data used in this post using our Online Data Analysis tool, here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

No, Putin is not winning Georgia away from Europe. Here are the facts.

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on Monday, December 21, 2015. The original post is available here. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any of the sponsors of the survey which this article is based on. The data on which this article is based is available here.]

By Dustin Gilbreath

Last Friday, after years of diplomatic wrangling over the course of two administrations, the Republic of Georgia received a report from the EU green lighting visa free travel within the European Union in the near future. Yet, media accounts from earlier this year suggested that Georgia was undergoing a “Russian turn”.

That appeared to be true last May, when an NDI-CRRC public opinion poll declared that 31 percent of Georgians favored ECU membership. Have voters in the Republic of Georgia suddenly begun to prefer an affiliation with the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union over their existing affiliation with the European Union?

If true, it would be shocking. Since its independence in 1991, Georgia has favored Europe overwhelmingly. Polling has found levels of support for the EU that Brussels could only dream of elsewhere in Europe, and serious ongoing problems between Georgia and Russia would naturally strengthen those pro-Europe leanings.

Certainly, many observers have taken that poll number to heart. Nearly a dozen publications and organizations—such as the Financial Times, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Endowment, and Brookings Institution—have cited the number. It even seems to have influenced a Roll Call op-ed, the first sentence of which cited “recent news accounts” on Georgia and Ukraine. Almost every news account on Georgia at the time cited the number.

But that number hasn’t changed since 2013, when the Caucasus Barometer examined support for Georgian Customs Union membership. Moreover, the number by itself is misleading. The data show far fewer Georgians are consistently pro-Russian. ”The Russian turn” has been overstated.

Two Unions, Four preferences

In August, Georgians were asked whether they approve of the Georgian government’s goal of joining the EU and whether Georgia should join the Eurasian Customs Union. Twice as many Georgians prefer the EU to the Eurasian Union, 61% to 31%. This has been largely consistent over time, although support for the EU has had its ups and downs with a slight decline in recent years. Nonetheless, support for the Eurasian Customs Union has never been more than half the level of support for the EU.

Georgians fall into four consistent groups about union membership. Here’s the largest one: 39% say they would vote for the EU and against the Customs Union (marked in the graph below as pro-EU). Only 15 percent would vote for the Customs Union and against the EU. The joiners, 12 percent, support membership in both unions. And the isolationists, 5 percent, would vote against both unions. Another 11 percent don’t know how they feel about either union, and 17 percent had responses that didn’t really have a clear interpretation.

Why would any Georgians support economic union with the nation’s former oppressor, Russia?

To read on, please visit the Washington Post's Monkey Cage:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What We Know About Volunteering in Georgia

[This post originally appeared in]

By Nino Zubashvili

Following the June 13, 2015 flood in Tbilisi, hundreds of volunteers helped to clean the disaster-affected zones of the city, which stirred the hope that volunteerism is on the rise in Georgia. In the past, studies on volunteering in Georgia conducted by non-governmental organizations (such as Helping Hand and the Civil Society Institute) claimed that volunteerism had not taken root in Georgian society, and CRRC-Georgia surveys have consistently shown a mismatch between attitudes and actions regarding volunteering in Georgia. Nonetheless, a closer look at the level of volunteering in Georgia, comparing it to Europe, and Georgian society's attitudes towards the importance of volunteering show fertile grounds for volunteerism in Georgia.

The mismatch

CRRC-Georgia's 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey findings show that 68% of Georgians find it important for a good citizen to do volunteer work. In contrast, only 19% of Georgians reported volunteering during the past six months before the survey was carried out in fall of 2013 - a clear gap between actions and attitudes. Interestingly, while the share of the population highlighting the importance of volunteerism for good citizenship increased between 2011 and 2012, the share of Georgians who actually volunteered did not change much. Notably, volunteering is still not considered as important as following traditions, voting in elections or supporting people who are worse off. 

Despite the existing mismatch, if we compare Georgia to other European states, the level of volunteering is not particularly low. A study on volunteering in the European Union carried out in 2010 by the British consultancy GHK Holdings Limited showed that the highest rates of volunteering hovered around 40%, but only in a few states (Austria, Netherlands, the UK and Sweden). In fact, European volunteering rates were largely comparable to those in Georgia, ranging from 10%-19%, and European states like Italy and Greece actually had even lower rates (less than 10%). 

Who volunteers, and who thinks it is important to volunteer?

When thinking about the prospects for the development of volunteerism in Georgia, it is important to know who tends to volunteer, which in turn would allow policy makers, NGOs and social entrepreneurs to understand where to best direct programs aimed at promoting volunteerism. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey findings show some differences in volunteering between socio-demographic groups. The elderly (aged 56 and older) are slightly less active (14% reported volunteering) than 18-35 and 36-55 year olds (20% and 22%, respectively), but this lower activity level could probably be explained by the infirmities of age. Interestingly, males tend to volunteer more than females (25% and 14%, respectively) and inhabitants of rural areas are slightly more actively engaged in volunteering (24%) than inhabitants of the capital (14%) and other urban areas (15%). In contrast to the European states studied in the above-mentioned GHK study, where the level of education tends to be connected with the level of volunteering, in Georgia an individual's level of education does not seem to matter with regard to involvement in volunteering. 

Like actual volunteering activity, attitudes towards the importance of volunteering do not change much by level of education, nor do they change by respondent's age or gender. Settlement type however, is a differentiating factor and fewer Tbilisians think that volunteering is important for a good citizen (60%), compared to other urban and rural dwellers (68% and 72%, respectively). This is all the more striking when we breakdown by age groups within settlement type. Even though the majority of volunteers following the 2015 floods were clearly young, in Tbilisi, young people were the least likely age-settlement group to think that volunteering was important for a good citizen. 

The level of volunteering that followed the Tbilisi flood and Georgian society's agreement that volunteering is important show that there is potential in the country for the level of volunteering to increase. Policy makers, civic society and social entrepreneurs alike should consider ways to work off of the obvious spirit of volunteerism embodied by the cleanup efforts and the already supportive attitudes towards volunteerism in Georgia. 

Interested in more data about volunteerism? Check the upcoming Caucasus Barometer 2015 data that will be available by the end of the year or take a look at the 2014 Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey at