Monday, July 16, 2018

Murder on Khorava Street: The public’s knowledge and attitudes towards the Court decision

In early December 2017, two schoolchildren were killed on Khorava Street in Tbilisi. On May 31st, 2018, Tbilisi City Court announced the decision on the Khorava Street murder case. The announcement caused mass demonstrations led by Zaza Saralidze, a father of one of the murdered children.


On June 19-26, 2018, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey on people’s knowledge about the Court decision and their evaluation. The survey resulted in 1005 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The average margin of error of the survey is 2.8%.

The vast majority of people in Georgia (96%) have heard about the Khorava street murder. However, only 17% of those who have heard about the case know what the Court decision was: the sentencing of one defendant for murder and the other for attempted murder. The majority of people in Georgia (61%) did not know what the Court decided. Others had inaccurate or partial information. Nine percent thought the Court found one defendant not guilty and sentenced the other for murder. Five percent thought the Court found both defendants not guilty, and two percent thought the Court found both defendants guilty of murder. Tbilisians were slightly more aware of the decision than people outside Tbilisi (a 7-10% difference).




Those who had heard about the Court decision on the Khorava Street case were asked to evaluate its fairness. Only eight per cent evaluated the decision as fair. The majority (77%) said the decision was not fair. People who thought the case was unfair were asked why they thought it was unfair. The three most frequent answers included 1) The Prosecutor’s Office was covering for influential people’s relatives (28%); 2) The low quality of the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office (8%); and 3) Influential people were covering for people close to them (7%). 




General injustice in the country was named by 3% of the population. In Tbilisi, the Court decision was evaluated as fair more than in other locales (a 5-7% difference).

When asked, “Which of the following is the responsibility of the Courts, prosecutor’s office, Ministry of Interior or other actors/bodies?”, 7% said the Courts were responsible for collecting evidence to prove the defendant is guilty and 12% said the Court was responsible for collecting evidence to prove the defendant is innocent. Large shares of the population responded ‘Don’t know’ to these general knowledge questions about collecting evidence (33% and 38%).

Following the mass street protests led by Zaza Saralidze, the government took two major steps in their political response: the Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze resigned and a temporary investigative commission was established in the Parliament of Georgia to study the process of investigation of the case. Half the population (50%) support Shotadze’s resignation, about one fifth (19%) do not support the decision, and about one third (30%) don’t know what to think. People who have heard about the murder case were divided over the parliamentary commission: 28% said the Commission would manage to establish the truth and 32% said it would not manage to do so. One third (33%) did not know whether the temporary investigative commission would establish the truth about the case and seven percent knew nothing about the commission at all.




In Georgia, the vast majority of people have heard about the Khorava Street murders. Yet, they lack knowledge about the Court decision. Nevertheless, they evaluated it as unfair and blamed the Prosecutor’s Office for the most part. The political responses to the murder – the resignation of the Prosecutor General and the establishment of a parliamentary investigative commission – were generally supported by those who were aware of them. However, many were uncertain about these responses.

This blog post has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of CRRC-Georgia, EMC, and IDFI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Monday, July 09, 2018

What predicts foreign policy preferences?

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media on July 9. It was written by Koba Turmanidze. Koba Turmanidze is the President of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgia’s population has consistently expressed strong support for European Union and NATO membership while approval of membership in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has been quite low. A recent RAND Corporation publication challenges these observations, suggesting that the population of several post-Soviet states — including Georgia — fear Russia and therefore, prefer equally good relations with Russia and the West.

Whether this is a viable option for Georgia is beyond the scope of this writing. Instead, it focuses on a key claim within the RAND report: that a rational calculus about potential punishment from Georgia’s northern neighbour undergirds a preference for neutrality. Further inspection of CRRC’s 2017 Caucasus Barometer survey, which was used by RAND, suggests the data do not support this argument. Rather, the data suggest that the key difference between people who support Western-oriented, Russia-oriented or neutral foreign policies in Georgia is values.

The RAND report discusses balance of power during and after the Cold War, arguing that the most significant disagreement between Russia and the West stems from their contest to exercise influence over the ‘in-between states’, i.e. states which Russia has geopolitical interests in and which have not been accepted into the EU or NATO. These countries include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. According to the report, in these states people fear that tensions between Russia and the West are detrimental to their national interests, and therefore, they prefer neutrality over alignment with any political or economic bloc.

Fear of Russia does not influence people’s preferences
Do perceptions of tensions between Russia and the West have implications for popular support for Western or Russia-led alliances? Examination of the same data RAND used shows no statistically significant relation between fear of tensions between Russia and the West and support for Georgia’s membership in either Western or Russia-led alliances. Moreover, fear of those tensions does not influence people’s preferences for either of the neutral options they could have named on the survey (having equally good relations with both alliances or joining neither).



Note: Predicted probabilities are based on a multinomial logistic regression model. 

Rather than fear of Russia, people’s foreign policy preferences reflect a deep value-based division in Georgia, which the RAND report fails to acknowledge. To demonstrate this, consider the impact of a question on whether people endorse democracy as ‘the only game in town’.

The 2017 Caucasus Barometer asked respondents to select one of three different statements about democracy. Approximately half (52%) agreed with the statement that ‘Democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’. These supporters of democracy are significantly more likely to support Georgia’s membership in Western organisations compared with those who do not think that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. Importantly, support for democracy has no significant impact on other answer options: it neither changes the level of support for membership in Russia-led organisations nor influences neutral options such as ‘both’ or ‘none’.


Note: Predicted probabilities are based on multinomial logistic regression models as above.

A similar analysis on attitudes towards the role of the government (i.e. whether the government is expected to be like a parent or like an employee) re-affirms that values rather than a fear of punishment by Russia are at the heart of foreign policy preferences in Georgia. Those who believe the government should be work for the people are more likely to support the country’s membership in Western organisations compared to those who think the government should be like a parent. At the same time, attitudes towards the government have no significant impact on popular support to Russia-led alliances or to neutral choices.

Supporters of a pro-Western orientation in Georgia are a coherent group: they have clear values such as believing that the government should work for the people rather than act as a parent, and they support democracy over other forms of governance. Such coherence is less pronounced among supporters of neutrality and totally absent among supporters of Russia-led alliances.
Public opinion in Georgia follows the logic of ‘where you stand depends on where you sit’: people’s foreign policy preferences are not merely driven by fear of Russia’s potentially violent reactions to the geopolitical manoeuvres of a neighbouring country. Instead, a pro-Western orientation is deeply rooted in people’s values.

The replication code for this blog post is available here. The data used in this article is available from CRRC’s online data analysis portal.

Note: Predicted probabilities in the above charts are based on multinomial logistic regression models where the dependent variables have five options: join EU/NATO, join EAEU/CSTO, have equally good relations with both, join none, or don’t know. Key independent variables are (1) support to democracy, (2) support to neutrality vs alignment with a bloc, and (3) (dis)agreement with the statement whether the tensions between Russia and the West are detrimental for Georgia. Control variables include basic demographic characteristics such as age, gender, settlement type, perceived economic rung, employment status, and household’s economic conditions measured as monthly spending and borrowing of money for food or utilities.

Monday, July 02, 2018

The population of Tbilisi on street dogs

Street dogs are a common sight on the streets of Tbilisi. How do people’s attitudes towards them vary by age, gender, and whether or not someone lives in the center or outskirts of the city? Results of a November 2017 phone survey CRRC-Georgia carried out for a British charity Mayhew provide some answers to these questions.

Forty per cent of Tbilisi’s population reported positive attitudes towards street dogs, 39% neutral, and 20% negative. Women and men and people in central and non-central neighborhoods of Tbilisi report positive and negative attitudes at similar rates. People over the age of 56 report negative attitudes slightly more often than people under this age.




Why do the 20% of the population who report negative attitudes not like street dogs? Their majority (67%, although margins of error are higher for this relatively smaller subgroup) report a “general fear of dogs” as the main reason. The data suggests that women fear dogs more than men, which is not a finding unique to Tbilisi. Research from other contexts (e.g. see here and here) also indicates that women in general are more likely to report fearing dogs than men.

To explore the data in this blog post, visit our Online Data Analysis portal.