Monday, June 17, 2019

Do Georgians understand what gender equality means?

[This article was co-published with OC-Media. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and do not reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any affiliated entity.]

The terms ‘gender equality’ and ‘feminism’ are increasingly used in public discourse in Georgia. In 2010, Georgia passed a law on gender equality. Popular TV shows often discuss the topic, and Georgia’s Public Defender reports on the issue. Yet, survey data shows that Georgians often appear not to understand what gender equality means.

In October 2014, the CRRC/NDI survey asked the population whether they thought that there was gender equality in Georgia or not. Only a fifth of respondents said there was, though twice as many people reported that women and men in Georgia have equal opportunities to succeed in any field.
Even though they touch on the same subject, the difference between the answers to these questions is significant, suggesting a misunderstanding in what the population understands by the term ‘gender equality’.

The CRRC/NDI December 2017 survey asked whether people had positive or negative associations towards gender equality, equality between men and women, and feminism, two terms that basically mean the same thing and another that means advocating for the other two.

The data shows that the majority of Georgia’s population has positive associations towards ‘equality between men and women’ and ‘gender equality’. However, they have more negative than positive associations with the term ‘feminism’. An even larger share is uncertain about what types of associations they have with the term feminism.


People of different genders, age, and levels of education report similar associations towards equality between men and women, with a majority indicating positive associations towards the expression. A slightly smaller share of the population of the capital reports positive associations compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. In ethnic minority settlements, even smaller shares hold positive attitudes and more say they don’t know whether their associations are negative or positive.



A similar situation is observed with the term ‘gender equality’. While there are no differences by gender, age, and education level, a smaller share of the population of the capital report positive attitudes, compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. Moreover, an even smaller proportion of people from ethnic minority settlements say they have positive attitudes and more than 40% say they don’t know if their associations are positive or negative.



As for the term feminism, there is more variance in people’s attitudes across various demographic groups. People over 55 indicate more frequently that they don’t know if their associations are positive or negative compared to younger people. People from rural areas and minority settlements are much more likely to say they don’t know if they have positive or negative associations.

The difference is especially visible when comparing people with different levels of education. Forty-seven per cent of people with secondary or lower education indicate they don’t know if their associations are negative or positive, while 40% of people with secondary technical education and only 25% of people with tertiary education state the same. People with tertiary education are more capable of providing a response compared to those with lower levels of education.



People have more positive associations with the expression ‘equality between men and women’ and less positive associations with ‘feminism’. In all demographic groups, people have the least clear attitudes towards feminism, frequently responding they don’t know what associations they have with the term.

Why this might be a case?

One albeit speculative explanation hints to the relative novelty of the idea of feminism in Georgia’s public discourse. Even though feminism implies equal rights for men and women, the explicit accent on one gender might trigger negative attitudes.

At the same time, heated verbal exchanges which often accompany televised discussions on gender equality are unlikely to help create positive associations with feminism. Nevertheless, this is only speculation and further research could clarify why people are less likely to have an opinion about feminism or be positive about it.

Tsisana Khundadze is a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the views of the National Democratic Institute, CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

The data used in this article is available here.


Monday, June 03, 2019

It’s the economy stupid: An experiment on Georgian support for the European Union

Georgians are enthusiastic in supporting the country’s accession to the European Union. Since 2012, when the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia started tracking attitudes, three quarters of Georgians approved of the government’s goal of joining the EU, on average. What motivates Georgians to support the Union, or alternatively, to abandon support? A survey experiment included in the latest CRRC/NDI poll suggests potential economic burdens have a modest yet significant effect on support for membership. Results do not support the common belief that a potential military threat from Russia dampens Georgians’ support for the EU.


Over the years, a utilitarian hypothesis for public support of the European Union has gained traction: the potential economic gains associated with EU membership explain popular attitudes in Western Europe as well as in countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. At first glance, economic factors are key for Georgian support for the EU. When prompted on reasons for approving the country’s EU membership, Georgians most frequently pick the opportunity to improve Georgia’s economy. In contrast to support, security appears to be the main reason why people oppose EU membership

Although these findings are suggestive, people’s stated reasons often hide other potential causes. Moreover, less is known about whether potential economic and security trade-offs have a compounding effect on decision making to approve EU membership. In the April 2019 CRRC/NDI poll, CRRC carried out a survey experiment to learn more about these issues. Respondents were randomly presented four vignettes describing potential economic benefits and losses of EU membership. To assess whether a potential security threat might cancel out or exacerbate the effects of more utilitarian statements, two out of the four vignettes included an additional sentence on a potential security threat from Russia. 

After hearing vignettes, respondents were asked their voting intentions on a hypothetical EU membership referendum (see figure above). The results suggest that a potential economic loss (“increasing prices”) increases the probability of voting against EU membership. The effect is rather small – presenting the statement on the potential economic burden of EU membership increases the probability of voting against EU membership by five percentage points. These findings might be explained through the concept loss aversion. According to this idea, humans are more likely to act to avoid losses rather than working for a gain or pleasure. Thus, not surprisingly, Georgians are more concerned with potential losses associated with EU membership than its benefits. Although a plausible cause, a further experiment testing whether people react to the idea that joining the European Union could decrease prices would better pinpoint whether loss aversion is at work or not in this case.


Importantly, none of the other treatments including the combination of the Russian threat and increasing prices changed attitudes. It is hard to crack the mechanism why a doubly negative statement does not affect respondents’ feelings, when one of the statements alone does. One speculative explanation suggests that potential benefits associated with the European Union overpowers or cancels out the effects of ominous Russian threat as the latter is almost ever-present in the country’s life. Nontheless, more research is needed in order to test whether this is a plausible explanation.
  
What do these findings tell us? Null results suggest that many Georgians have attitudes towards the country’s foreign policy goals that are not easily swayed. Positive attitudes are relatively prone to change even when communicating potential economic and security threats. Importantly, among other utilitarian factors economic costs have the highest potential to move Georgians against integration in the European Union among the lines of argumentation tested. 

To explore the data in the blog above, visit caucasusbarometer.org. Replication code for the analysis used in this blog is available here. A full presentation of the results of the recent CRRC/NDI poll is available here.