The judiciary is essential to the functioning of a state. Hence, not only is its good performance important, but so are perceptions of the courts’ impartiality. In 2011 and 2014, CRRC-Georgia conducted two nationally representative public opinion polls funded by East-West Management Institute and the United States Agency for International Development. The surveys explored Georgians’ knowledge, trust and perceptions of the judiciary. Survey findings suggest that the situation has not changed much during this period, although there was a slight increase in the share of the population who reports completely agreeing that, in Georgia, everyone is equal before the law – from 34% in 2011 to 43% in 2014. Nevertheless, there are still representatives of certain social groups that people do not expect the courts will treat impartially.
During the survey interviews, a number of scenarios were offered to the respondents about representatives of various groups who were hypothetically charged with the same crime they did not commit. The respondents were asked who, in their opinion, would be more likely to be found guilty – rich or poor; Georgian or non-Georgian; Orthodox or non-Orthodox; heterosexual or a representative of a sexual minority.
While over 60% of the population claims in 2014 that Georgians and non-Georgians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, heterosexuals and a representative of a sexual minority have the same chance of being found guilty or innocent when charged with an identical crime they did not commit, the population thinks that being rich or poor does make a difference – 43% answer that a poor person is more likely to be found guilty. Importantly, though, the most frequent answer reported by 49% in 2014 is that both a rich person and a poor person have the same chance of being found guilty or not guilty. Interestingly, 52% of the residents of the capital report a poor person is more likely to be found guilty, while only 40% think a rich person and a poor person will have the same chance in court. This suggests that the population in Tbilisi is less likely to perceive courts as impartial compared with the population in the rest of the country.
Note: Don’t know and refuse to answer responses are not displayed on the chart.
Thus, although from 2011 to 2014 there was a slight increase in the perception that in Georgia everyone is equal before the law, almost half of the population still does not expect the courts will treat the rich and the poor equally.
For more information about the surveys on the judiciary, please take a look at the data here. A report comparing the results of the two waves can be found here.