Monday, April 06, 2020

Appointment of Supreme Court Justices: What people in Georgia know and think about the process

In the beginning of September 2019, the High Council of Justice provided a list of 20 Supreme Court Justice candidates to the Parliament of Georgia for approval. In September-November 2019 parliament conducted the hearing process for candidates, and on December 12th 2020 14 candidates were appointed to Supreme Court. The Georgian media covered the process extensively.

But, what does the public in Georgia know about the process of appointment of the Supreme Court Justices, and what is their attitude towards the newly appointed justices and judicial institutions? A phone survey conducted on January 30 - February 10, 2020 suggests that people in Georgia are divided between trusting and distrusting judicial institutions. While more than half of the public have heard about the Supreme Court appointment process, they have little trust in it, and largely have not heard of the new justices.

The majority of the Georgian speaking population (63%) reports that they have heard about the hearings in parliament for Supreme Court candidates, and more than half of the population (54%) says that they are aware of the outcomes of the hearings.  More than half (55%) of those who have heard about the appointments report that they do not trust the process. Similarly, more than half (53%) of the people who had heard of the process think that parliament carried out the appointment process unfairly.

The survey asked respondents whether justice will improve, stay the same or get worse if the candidates were appointed as Supreme Court Justices. About one fourth of the adult Georgian speaking population (26%) reported that the appointment of the 14 candidates will improve justice in the country, the same share (26%) think that the state of justice will stay the same. About a fifth of the population (20%) believe it will get worse. The remainder either did not know or refused to answer the question.  A similar question was asked on a September 2019 survey: “If these 20 candidates are appointed to the Supreme Court, do you think justice in Georgia will improve, stay the same or get worse?” The results have not changed substantively between waves of the survey, with a slight decline in the share responding don’t know and slight increase in the share responding it would have a positive impact.

The survey asked the respondents who were aware of the appointment process to share their first association about it. Almost one third (32%) did not provided any association, responding don’t know. The top five associations included “Unfairness” (14%), “Distrust” (14%), “Biased” (5%), “Fight” (5%), and “Open process” (4%). Overall, 11% reported a positive association, while 53% reported a negative one. One percent of responses were neutral. Two percent of population refused to answer the question.

The survey asked about whether each candidate should or should not be appointed to the Supreme Court. Most people had not heard about the candidates.  Approximately one tenth of the population approved of the appointments of Nino Kadagidze (11%), Giorgi Mikautadze, (11%), and Shalva Tadumadze (10%). All other candidates had lower levels of approval.

Respondents were asked to name the most important events of the Autumn/Winter, 2019-2020, but were allowed to name up to 3 events. Only 3% of Georgian-speaking adult population named the appointment process of Supreme Court justices. The most commonly named events were the protests in response to the failure to pass a proportional electoral system (13%), Dr. Vaja Gaprindashvili’s abduction (10%), and the mass arrests of the aforementioned rally participants (10%). Half of respondents (49%) could not identify a most important event during the period. 

The public is divided in whether they trust the High Council of Justice, Supreme Court, and the court system in general. The chart below shows that about half of the public trusts and distrusts each of these institutions. This result has not changed since September, when the same questions were asked on another survey.

The public is divided in their trust towards judicial institutions, such as the High Council of Justice, Supreme Court, and the court system in general.  More than half of the population has heard of the Supreme Court justice appointment process, however most of them do not trust the process and believe that the Parliament of Georgia did not lead the appointment process fairly. Despite this, few people found the Supreme Court appointment process to be among the most important events of the Autumn/Winter of 2019-2020. The majority of people in Georgia say that they have never heard about the candidates.  Among those who are aware of the appointment process, attitudes are more negative than positive.

Note: 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.

On January 30- February 10, 2020, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey to understand people’s knowledge of and attitudes towards the Supreme Court  appointment process. The survey resulted in 766 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The theoretical margin of error of the survey is 3.5% for estimates near 50%, 3.1% for estimates near 75% and 25%, and 2.1% for estimates near 10% and 90%.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

How think tanks can support the COVID-19 response through survey data

[Note: This article was originally published at On Think Tanks. It was written by CRRC Georgia's deputy research director, Dustin Gilbreath. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

COVID-19 is likely to be the largest challenge the world has faced since the Second World War. In the last two weeks, unemployment claims in the US have exceeded the highest number recorded during the great recession. And the virus is expanding at an exponential rate. While some governments have responded in a generally effective manner (for example Georgia), many have been laggards in their response.

Just as think tanks played a critical role in the aftermath of the Second World War, they too can play a role in supporting governments through and after the present crisis. Providing accurate, timely, and actionable quantitative research is one such way that think tanks could provide immediate support to response efforts. While John Hopkins University is mapping COVID-19 data to enable an understanding of the virus’s spread, there is a clear need for data on a wide array of other issues.

Here I run through some of the main challenges and areas in which governments will need data to inform their response, and share a research proposal concept note, in the hope that it will support other think tanks to develop their own proposals and work towards better-informed solutions faster.

Social measures to contain the virus

At present, the main challenge facing the world is containing the virus. While this is a medical phenomenon, it is also clearly a social one. Indeed, social distancing and self-isolation are the key strategies being promoted at the moment. For these to be effective, however, compliance is critical. Public opinion polls have the potential to not only estimate levels of awareness of important practices, but also which groups are more or less likely to comply with them. With this public opinion data, government efforts can be more targeted at encouraging social distancing and isolation among different groups.

Economic consequences
The economic downturn is the second major issue the world faces. With all but essential businesses shutting down in many countries, and lower consumer demand across a wide range of sectors even if businesses remain open, the world is clearly headed for recession. But how many people have lost jobs? And in which sectors? Which regions have been hardest hit? Again, public opinion polls can provide estimates for all of these.

Governments traditionally rely on large samples of face to face interviews for economic statistics. This means that economic data is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future. In its place, telephone surveys have the potential to provide a reasonably accurate understanding of how many people are out of work or facing issues around food security, among other economic issues.

Cross-cutting issues
Aside from containing the virus and the economic collapse directly, polling has the potential to address a wide range of cross-cutting issues, from gender divisions in care work to Russian propaganda.

For example, around the world, women do a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work. With children home from school, the increased levels of care work may mean that the crisis impacts women more than men along some domains. Surveys can measure these and help inform policy efforts to alleviate these impacts.

Disinformation or propaganda is another key issue with important implications during the crisis. To take an example from Georgia, Russia has long spread propaganda in the country about the Lugar Lab, suggesting that it is a biological weapon development centre. The Lab has played a critical role in Georgia’s response to the virus. Opinion polls can enable an immediate understanding of how propaganda is spreading and inform messaging efforts against Russian propaganda.

An example survey research data concept note
Clearly, surveys have the potential to inform a wide array of policies. Indeed, in places like the UK, the Government has already commissioned them to inform response efforts. However, developing countries are less likely to be able to afford or have experience in polling in response measures. Given this, donors need to step up now more than ever to enable a strong response.

In support of helping think tanks do just this, here is CRRC-Georgia’s concept note for survey data collection to inform the COVID-19 response in Georgia. Although, at the time of writing, we have not received funding (if you want to fund something like this, do get in touch), we felt that this proposal might help other organisations to rapidly create their own proposals, in turn cutting down the time between proposals and funding being delivered to enable effective response. Response time aside, we hope sharing the proposal will encourage potential collaboration and learning from each other (we’d be happy to hear others thoughts on this).

Monday, March 30, 2020

Air pollution in Tbilisi nearly halved by Covid-19 measures

[Note: This article was co-published with OC Media. It was written by Ian Goodrich, a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

Particulate matter in Tbilisi’s air has fallen by as much as 45% following the introduction of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to analysis of air quality data by CRRC Georgia.

The findings reflect broader global trends which have seen dramatic decreases in air pollution levels in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture show a clear fall in air pollution in the Georgian capital.

The plot below examines overall pollution levels in Tbilisi over the last month, overlaid on the same period for the last three years.

It highlights key dates in the COVID-19 crisis, specifically the first registered case, on 26 February, the closure of bars and restaurants and restrictions on entry into the country on 16 March, and the declaration of a state of emergency on 21 March.

Note: Two-day rolling average of the mean of normalized values for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10).

Total pollution appears to be lower following the closure of bars, restaurants, and borders. The data also suggest that in the case of these closures, falls in pollution appear to have preempted policy decisions. The pattern that emerges should be intuitive for anyone who has looked outside in Tbilisi over the last few weeks.

Air pollution is however strongly seasonal, peaking and falling throughout the day, week, and year. It is also closely tied to weather patterns: strong wind, for example, will disperse pollutants. Modelling allows these factors to be taken into account when determining the overall impact of Covid-19 measures.

Models have been created for levels of five key pollutants in Tbilisi, examining particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10), carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The models adjust for seasonal factors using Facebook’s Prophet tool, and weather using daily data from NASA.

The models show that following the declaration of emergency, almost all categories of air pollution fell. The only exception to this pattern is sulphur dioxide which has remained relatively constant throughout.

The most dramatic impacts from COVID-19 related measures are seen for particulate matter pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10) with each falling by 40%–45% after the emergency declaration, approaching half their pre-crisis rate.

Interestingly, for these substances, a sharp fall was present prior to the introduction of emergency measures. It is possible that this drop may be a consequence of the decline in vehicle traffic as workplaces and recreational venues began to close.

In contrast, other substances only declined following the introduction of emergency measures. Differences in change patterns are likely attributable to the different sources of pollutants.

Notably, changes are most pronounced for particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, substances related to transportation.

No significant change was observed for sulfur dioxide, which is more closely associated with coal and oil burning for power generation.

These pronounced changes show the profound impact of human activity on the capital’s air. The restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 are by necessity severe, but also temporary. As life returns to normal and the crisis abates, policymakers may reflect on these changes when considering how to tackle air pollution.

Note: The data and replication code for the analysis presented above is available here. The data analysis used an interrupted time series design, a quasi-experimental method which tests for significance in difference between points in a time series before and after a cut-off. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Know English and how to use a computer?

A slightly jeering expression in Georgia when speaking about employment prospects suggests that to get a job, you need to know English and how to use computers. Data from Caucasus Barometer 2019 shows there’s a bit of truth in the jest.

Overall, 40% of people on the survey reported having a job. A logistic regression including basic demographic variables, like settlement type, age, gender, minority status and education, suggests that people between the ages of 35 and 54, men, and those with higher education have higher chances of being employed, controlling for other factors. Other demographic factors do not show statistically significant differences.

Aside from the above demographic characteristics, knowledge of English and of computers was also looked at to test the anecdote.  People who report knowing English at a basic level or higher are eight percentage points more likely to be employed, controlling for other factors. Knowing how to use a computer at even a basic level has an even larger effect for 19 percentage points, controlling for other factors. The social and demographic characteristics described above remain significant after controlling for knowledge of English.

Note: Two different logistic regression models were used to generate chart above: (a) self-reported employment in relation to the knowledge of English and (b) self-reported employment in relation to the knowledge of computer. The knowledge question were recoded. Options:  “Beginner”, “Intermediate”, and “Advanced” were coded as ”Beginner or higher”. “No basic knowledge” stayed the same. The regression model for both cases also included the following demographic co-variates: age; gender; ethnicity, education and settlement type. 

In general, these findings align with perceptions of what factors are most important for getting a good job in Georgia. People name education as one of the most important factors for getting a good job in Georgia.

Age, sex, knowledge of English and how to use a computer, and education, are associated with employment in Georgia. This confirms the anecdotal evidence. However knowledge of using a computer in comparison to the knowledge of English appears to be a more important factor for getting a job in Georgia.

To explore more the Caucasus Barometer 2019 survey findings for Georgia, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal. Replication code for the data analysis is available at CRRC’s GitHub repository here.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Trust in institutions continues its steady decline in Georgia

[Note: This article was co-published with OC Media. The article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Trust in institutions has been on the decline in Georgia for a decade now. For instance, the level of trust in religious institutions declined from 86% of the public reporting trust in 2008 to 71% in 2019, with the decline being particularly prominent among Orthodox Christians, the main religious group in the country.

Although there has been a decline in trust in most institutions, the decline has been starkest when it comes to political institutions. Newly released data from the Caucasus Barometer 2019 suggests this decline has continued, with the largest decline surrounding trust in the President, Salome Zourabishvili.

Between 2017 and 2019, there were no major increases in trust in institutions. Concomitantly, there were five declines in trust beyond the margin of error. The largest decline in trust was in the president — a 21 percentage point drop.

This likely reflects the change over from Giorgi Margvelashvili to Salome Zourabishvili as president in 2018. Zourabishvili gained office in a heated presidential election, the quality of which was problematic according to some observers. Moreover, few approve of her performance: only 12% reported they viewed her performance positively in a July 2019 NDI and CRRC survey. Hence, the decline is in some senses unsurprising.

Note: Trust in institutions was measured using the question, ‘I will read out a list of social institutions and political unions. Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where code “1” means “Fully distrust”, and “5” means “Fully trust”. First, please tell me how much do you trust or distrust Georgia’s [Institution]?’ Responses of ‘fully trust’ and ‘trust’ are combined into trust for the purposes of this writing.

Aside from the president, there were also declines in trust in parliament and the courts of seven percentage points. There were also declines in trust in the healthcare system and executive government of six and five points, respectively.

While this shows that in the short term, there has been a decline in trust in institutions, there are also notable mid-term trends when it comes to trust in political institutions.

There was a high point in trust in the parliament and executive government in 2012, when the Caucasus Barometer survey took place shortly after the parliamentary elections which unseated the United National Movement.

Similarly, there was an increase in trust in the presidency after the first wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey after Giorgi Margvelashvili was elected (The 2013 wave took place during the presidential election). However, these trends have since reversed, reflecting the growing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the country.

While there have been several mid-term trends in the data, taking the long view suggests that the drop in trust is a longer-term phenomenon that is larger than the administration of one political party or another.

Trust in all the domestic institutions asked about on the Caucasus Barometer survey have declined since the question was first asked, with the exception of the Army.

Not only has trust declined for all institutions aside from the Army, it has generally done so by large amounts. Compared with 2008, trust in the President has declined by 35 percentage points, in the media by 30 points, and in the Public Defender’s Office and banks by 29 and 28 points respectively. Even the highly trusted police force has experienced a five-point decline in the share of the population reporting they trust them since 2008. The average decline in trust was 17 percentage points between 2008 and 2019.

Note: Trust in political parties was first measured in 2012. Trust in local government was first measured in 2009. All other institutions were first measured in 2008.

The drops in trust in institutions in Georgia are not the only sign that all is not well. Data from other sources suggest that people increasingly think Georgia is heading in the wrong direction.  Fewer people are optimistic about the state of Georgia. Fewer people are satisfied with life. There have been large drops in the belief that most people can be trusted in Georgia. Taken together, the above points to stagnation in Georgia.

The data used in this blog post is available here.

Monday, March 09, 2020

What kind of electoral system do Georgians actually want?

[Note: This article was written by David Sichinava, Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity. The article was co-published with OC-Media.]

On 8 March, Georgia’s political leaders agreed on a new electoral system under which 120 seats will be allocated via proportional elections and 30 seats will be allocated via direct election of candidates.
The long-fought-over electoral reform was a compromise which represents two steps forward after three steps had been taken back.

The debate over Georgia’s electoral system fueled last year’s political crisis. As the parliament ditched a promised constitutional amendment instituting fully proportional elections for the legislature instead of the current mixed system, opposition parties and civil society groups hit the streets of Tbilisi to protest.

EU-mediated talks between the government and opposition also stalled after the arrest of prominent opposition leader Gigi Ugulava, and disagreement over the interim model of elections.

While both the ruling Georgian Dream Party and the opposition argued that their own initiatives were publicly popular, a recent CRRC Georgia survey shows that the public is more ambivalent than might be expected and sometimes inchoate in their views.

While the majority of those aware that Georgian Dream buried the constitutional amendments assess this negatively, Georgians are split when it comes to potential models for the electoral system.
CRRC Georgia’s omnibus survey, which was fielded in mid-January, showed that over three-quarters of Georgians (76%) were well aware that the ruling party did not pass constitutional amendments.
Most (60%) who had heard of the failure to pass the amendments disapproved of the decision. About a fifth (23%) of Georgians approved of parliament’s decision not to vote in favour of the amendments, while others did not know what to say.

Attitudes vary by partisanship. Almost half of the Georgian Dream supporters (44%) that were aware of the failure to pass the legislation view the failure negatively.

In contrast, those who support opposition parties overwhelmingly disapprove of Georgian Dream’s failure to pass the amendment.

Note: Party identification was coded as follows: supporters of the UNM, European Georgia, Lelo, Civic Movement, Girchi, and For New Georgia were categorised as ‘Liberals’. Supporters of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, the Democratic Movement, and Labour Party were grouped in ‘other’.

While it is now clear what electoral system the 2020 parliamentary elections will be conducted under, what did the public want? Suggested proposals for electing MPs to parliament were confusing and potentially hard to grasp for the general public.

The initial proposal suggested and then ditched by Georgian Dream was to have a fully proportional system without any electoral threshold.

Later, the governing party proposed retaining the current mixed electoral system while the opposition supported a ‘German model’, which leaves the mixed model of representation but allocates additional seats to reflect the popular vote.

To avoid such confusion, respondents were separately asked whether they supported specific components of these systems. First, respondents choose between whether they preferred voting for only majoritarian candidates, only for parties, or for both.

Next, those who supported either voting for parties alone or a mixed system were asked whether they approved of having a threshold. Finally, respondents who preferred a mixed electoral system were asked whether they preferred allocation of seats proportional to the popular vote.

Overall, the survey suggests that a plurality (47%) of Georgians support a mixed model of elections to parliament where citizens vote for both parties and individual candidates.

Only 14% support party-list voting only, and 15% think that Georgians should only vote for specific candidates.

About a quarter of Georgians have ambivalent feelings: 14% say that it does not matter to which model Georgia sticks to, while 11% say that they don’t know.

Attitudes are similar across party lines with the exception of liberal opposition parties. Among their supporters, 38% think that Georgians should vote for candidates only, while 29% prefer to vote for parties.

In the initial draft of amendments, Georgian Dream proposed getting rid of the electoral threshold in order to ensure representation of relatively minor political groups. According to the survey, those who prefer a proportional (14%) or mixed model (47%) of electing MPs, overwhelmingly (85%) support retaining one.

Supporters of a mixed model of electing MPs tend to support a proportional distribution of seats. Around half of the supporters of a mixed model (51%) support a party-list vote or a mixed system where seats are assigned proportionally to the popular vote.

Around 27% support either a majoritarian system or the current, mixed system.

Thirty-six per cent of Georgians are ambivalent — they either do not have a preferred way of electing MPs, do not know, or refuse to answer on these questions.

Note: Support for different models of allocating mandates is the combination of two different questions. Respondents who support fully proportional representation and those who are for a mixed system and proportional allocation of mandates within mixed representation are grouped into the proportional allocation group. Those supporting full majoritarian representation fall into a separate category. Respondents who prefer a mixed system and do not favour distribution of mandates per the vote share are grouped together. Those who do not have any preference in terms of seat allocation (‘Don’t know’, ‘Refuse to answer’, and ‘Does not matter’) are put into the ambivalent category.

Importantly, much of the public is inchoate in their attitudes towards the electoral systems. Overall, those who found it unacceptable to ditch the amendments are more likely to support a system which ensures proportional allocation of seats than those who were fine with the failure to pass the electoral reform (46% versus 37%).

Yet, 27% of the public who thought that it was unacceptable to ditch the constitutional amendments also report that they do not support the proportional allocation of seats.

The key challenge for Georgia’s electoral system is whether it can represent political parties proportional to their popular support. Neither the current mixed system nor a majoritarian system necessarily yields proportional allocation of seats.

Indeed, in the past, proportional representation has almost never happened, with the exception of the highly contested and polarised 2012 parliamentary elections.

Importantly, there is a relative consensus among Georgians that have partisan sympathies. A plurality of Georgian Dream supporters (42%), and the majority of those sympathising with both the liberal (53%) and conservative (56%) opposition parties prefer models ensuring proportional representation.
Those who are not affiliated with any political party, declined to disclose their preferences, or do not know are more likely to be ambivalent.

In short, the preference for a mixed model of parliamentary elections prevails among Georgians. This suggests that voters in Georgia may want to see at least some politicians with connections to their communities in parliament.

Still, a plurality of partisan voters prefer an electoral system yielding proportional representation, both in the governmental and opposition camps.

The findings of CRRC Georgia’s omnibus survey substantiates the argument that there is a considerable consensus across party lines for having a variant of a mixed system where the final tally of seats is assigned relative to the popular vote.

Electoral rules often reflect compromises made by political groups. The current opinion of Georgians also hints that Georgians would prefer a balance be struck between more radical proposals.
The dataset, the questionnaire, and the replication code used in the above article can be found here.

To find out more about CRRC Georgia’s omnibus surveys, click here.

Monday, March 02, 2020

How widespread is homophobia in Georgia?

[Note: This piece was co-published with OC Media. This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of UN Women, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.]

Homophobia is widespread in Georgia. The homophobic riots that occurred on the International Day against Homophobia in 2013 and the bedlam that took place surrounding the planning of the 2019 Pride Parade exemplify this.

The 2019 Caucasus Barometer survey asked two questions proxying homophobia. The first asked whether or not people would approve of someone like them doing business with a homosexual. The second asked people to name the group that they would least like to have as neighbours from a list of different groups, including homosexuals, criminals, people following a different religion, people with different political views, Europeans or Asians who come to live in Georgia and want to stay, and drug addicts.

Nearly nine in ten people (87%) would disapprove of a person like them doing business with a homosexual. By comparison 24% of the public reports they would least like a homosexual as a neighbour among the groups asked about.

Aside from asking about doing business with homosexuals, the survey asked the same question about 18 ethnic and religious groups. More people approved of doing business with every other group asked about on the survey. Indeed, the only other group that people are remotely as negative about are Jehovah’s Witnesses who 81% of people disapprove of people like them doing business with.

A majority of the public approves of people of their ethnicity doing business with all the other groups asked about on the survey.  The average share of people that approve of groups aside from homosexuals is 65%.

The above data lead to the question of who is more or less likely to be tolerant towards homosexuals? The data suggest that people in Tbilisi, ethnic Georgians, those with more education, women, people in wealthier households, and younger people are all more likely to approve of someone like them doing business with a homosexual.

There is not a significant difference between people who are employed or not or use the internet more or less often. The charts below show the differences controlling for these factors.

The question about neighbours shows a slightly different picture. On this question, there are significant differences between ethnic minorities and ethnic Georgians, men and women, and between settlement types.

People outside Tbilisi are seven percentage points more likely to name homosexuals as the group they would least like to have as neighbours. Ethnic minorities are 12 percentage points less likely to name homosexuals than ethnic Georgians. Women are 11 percentage points less likely to name homosexuals than men. The remaining variables tested showed no significant differences.

The above shows that homophobia is relatively widespread in Georgia. Men are more likely to be homophobic than women. So are ethnic minorities more than ethnic Georgians. Younger people, those with more education, and wealthier people express homophobic attitudes less often though still frequently.

The data used for the analysis presented in the article is available here. Replication code for the data analysis is available here.

The data analysis presented in this article made use of a logistic regression. The outcome variables were whether or not an individual approved of someone like them doing business with a homosexual and whether or not they named homosexuals as their least desired neighbour. The independent variables included sex (male or female), age, settlement type (capital, other urban, and rural), employment status (working or not), years in formal education, ethnicity (minority or not), internet usage (daily user or not), and wealth proxied by the number of assets a family-owned from a list of 10 possible assets.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Who’s thinking about temporary and permanent migration?

The population of Georgia has declined after the dissolution of Soviet Union from 5.4 million to 3.7 million according to the latest estimates provided by the Georgian National Statistical Office. The mass emigration of the Georgian population in the 1990s has been attributed to the decline of the economy and military conflicts in the country. Even though the economic situation stabilized starting in the 2000s, the migration flow has not stopped and interest in emigration is quite widespread in Georgia. This blog shows that interest in both temporary and permanent migration is associated with age. In contrast, settlement type, ethnicity and wealth of the household is associated with interest in permanent migration but not temporary and sex, internet usage, and having a relative living abroad with temporary but not permanent migration.

The Caucasus Barometer 2019 survey shows that around 10% of the Georgian population is interested in permanent emigration, while 50% would temporarily leave Georgian to live somewhere else. These figures have been relatively stable over time, and there was no significant change between the 2017 and 2019 Caucasus Barometer surveys.

This leads to the question who is more or less likely to be interested in temporary and permanent migration? A logistic regression suggests that those living in the capital, younger people, and ethnic minorities have higher chances of considering permanent emigration, controlling for other factors. There are no statistically significant differences for other demographic factors.

Household wealth is also associated with intention to migrate. Those with less wealth are more likely to be interested in emigrating from Georgia on a permanent basis.

When it comes to the temporary migration, the same analysis suggests a number of findings. Younger people are more interested in temporary migration than older people. In addition, males are more likely to say they want to leave the country temporarily. Internet use is also associated with thinking about leaving the country temporarily. Having a close relative abroad is associated with a nine percentage point higher likelihood of being interested in temporary migration. There are no statistically significant differences for other demographic factors.

Overall, Georgians are less enthusiastic about leaving the country permanently than temporarily. Being interested in emigration is associated with several factors. When it comes to the permanent emigration settlement type, ethnicity, and economic well-being matter. While for temporary migration internet use and having relatives abroad matter. In both cases age is a significant factor for emigration. In this regard, permanent migration might have more to do with poverty and temporary migration an interest in seeing the world and being in good enough health to do so.

To explore more the Caucasus Barometer 2019 survey findings for Georgia, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal. Replication code for the data analysis is available at CRRC’s GitHub repository here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Grit in Georgia

Grit, the idea that passion and perseverance are important determinants of success aside from intelligence, has gained widespread attention in recent years. This stems from the fact that grit is a strong predictor of a number of outcomes like employment and income in life. Previous analysis on this blog suggests that the grit scale is also a strong predictor of employment in Georgia among young people in a select number of rural areas. Whether this works on a nationally representative sample is however an open question. So too is the question what predicts grit in Georgia. This blog uses data from CRRC Georgia’s January 2020 omnibus survey to address these questions.

CRRC Georgia’s omnibus survey contained the full 12 question grit scale. Respondents were asked how much a set of statements described them including things such as “I always finish what I start” and “Failure does not frustrate me.” Items that indicate low grit are reverse coded. In Georgia, the data suggests that the average score is 3.59 out of 5. People score highest on the statement “I am a hardworking person” and lowest on the statement “My interests change from year to year.”

Who reports being grittier in Georgia? A regression that included age, settlement type, sex, and whether or not a person had been internally displaced suggests that people in Tbilisi and IDPs have slightly higher levels of grit, controlling for other factors. In contrast, women and men and people of different ages do not have significantly different levels of grit. Although the analysis showed statistically significant differences between settlement types and IDPs and non-IDPs, the differences are substantively small as depicted on the chart below.

The data also suggest that higher grit scores are associated with a number of achievement related outcomes. When someone’s grit score increases from two to four, their chances of being employed triple, going from 10% to 33%, controlling for other factors. Similarly, the chances that someone has completed higher education increases from 15% to 43% when a person’s grit score increases from two to four. Higher levels of income are also associated with grit.

The above analysis suggests that grit is a good predictor of success in Georgia as it has been shown to be in other locations. However, caution is warranted in suggesting there is a causal relationship at play in the above data. For instance, higher education may help develop grit rather than gritty people being more capable of completing higher education. A similar pattern could be at play when it comes to employment.

Replication code for the data analysis is available here. To find out more about CRRC Georgia’s Omnibus survey, and opportunities to include questions on the survey, click here.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Despite large drop in son preference, a third of Georgians still prefer having a boy to a girl

[Note: This article was co-published with OC Media, here.]

Preferences for the gender of children has a long history around the world and Georgia is no exception. CRRC-Georgia examines how attitudes have changed over the last decade.

In Georgia, having a boy has traditionally been desirable as sons are often considered the main successors in the family line, and they stay at home to take care of their parents as they age in contrast to women who traditionally move in with their husband’s family.

Preferences for sons are manifested in sex-selective abortion. Sex at birth ratios have declined in recent years in Georgia, suggesting lower sex-selective abortion rates. This is also reflected in new data from the 2019 Caucasus Barometer survey that shows that there has been a large decline in son preference in Georgia.

Still, a third of the public prefers having a boy to a girl.

In the 2010 Caucasus Barometer survey, a plurality of families in Georgia said they preferred having a son to a daughter.  The 2019 Caucasus Barometer shows that the preference for boys has dropped by 15 percentage points.

The percentage of those who say that the gender of their child does not matter has increased from 44% to 58%. Even though there is a change in preferences, almost a third of the population (31%) still report they would prefer a boy if a family has only one child.

Note: Answer options Don’t know and Refuse to answer are not presented on the chart above as they made up less than 3% of responses.

To understand people’s preferences for the gender of a child, further analysis of CB 2019 was conducted. The analysis shows that sex, age, and settlement type are associated with attitudes. Women are more likely to prefer having a daughter if there is only one child in a family than men. They are also more likely to report that gender does not matter than men. Correspondingly, women are less likely to report a son preference. People older than 55 are more likely to report preferring a daughter and less likely to name does not matter than people of 18-35 age group. People in urban areas are more likely to report daughter and less likely son than people in rural settlements. People in urban areas aside from Tbilisi are more likely say it does not matter compared with rural people.

Note: On the above chart, base variables for each category are as follows: male, 18-34 age group, Rural, Georgian ethnicity, and higher than secondary education. The wealth index is calculated regarding the items household owns.

Since 2010 the preference for having a son has dropped by 15 percentage points, and the share of those for whom the gender does not matter has also increased considerably. However, twice as many people prefer boys to girls and a third of the population prefers a boy. Son preferences are weaker among women, urban residents, and older people.

Note: The above analysis is based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the preferred gender of a child if a family has one child. The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, education, and wealth. The data used in the blog is available here. Replication code of the above data analysis is available here.

This article was written by Anano Kipiani and Kristina Vacharadze. Anano is a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia. Kristina is the Programs Director. The survey question used in this blog around gender preferences was funded by the United National Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). The views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, UNFPA, or any related entity.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Caucasus Barometer 2019 Georgia Now Available

On January 30th, 2020, CRRC Georgia released the 2019 wave of Caucasus Barometer (CB) data for Georgia. CB is the longest running, publicly available household survey which enables longitudinal and comparative analysis of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia between 2008 and 2013, and for Armenia and Georgia for 2008-2019.

CB 2019 is the 9th wave of publicly available survey data in Georgia. The survey included 2,317 respondents and has a maximum margin of error of 4.1%. The results are representative of Georgia as a whole as well as of Tbilisi, other urban areas, and rural areas independently.

Both data and documentation for the survey are available from CRRC Georgia’s online data analysis tool: The data has also been uploaded into the tool to enable analysis of the new wave of survey data as well as explore changes in attitudes over time.

In addition to most of the questions on past waves of the survey, this year, the study brought back questions from past waves focused on conflict resolution, attitudes towards gender related issues, and tobacco consumption among other issues.

A public presentation of the results at the Courtyard Marriot accompanied the release of the data. CRRC Georgia’s Research Director presented a number of findings of the survey, with a focus on changes in attitudes over the last ten years. Presentation slides are available in English and Georgian.

Further analysis of Caucasus Barometer 2019 will be forthcoming on CRRC’s Social Science in the Caucasus blog, including analysis of whether attitudes towards conflict resolution has changed, attitudes towards gender, and how people perceive the political environment. To keep up with new blogs, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, January 27, 2020

In a sea of pessimism, who is optimistic about Georgia?

The CRRC and NDI survey released two weeks ago showed a pessimistic picture – half the public thinks Georgia is going in the wrong direction, 24% that nothing is changing, and only 19% think it is going in the right direction. A majority (59%) think the country is not a democracy for the first time since the question was asked on the survey in 2010. Moreover, performance assessments of government, parliament, the courts, and most ministries declined.

These perceptions appear to be intertwined with each other. For instance, 46% of those that think that Georgia is a democracy also think the country is going in the right direction. In contrast, only 6% of those that think Georgia is not a democracy also report that the country is headed in the right direction.

In an environment of wide-spread pessimism about the state of affairs of the country, who is optimistic about the country’s direction and the state of Georgia’s democracy? An analysis testing for differences between people of different ages, sexes, settlement types, education levels, and levels of household wealth suggests that people with higher levels of education and those living in rural areas are more optimistic about the direction of the country. People with higher education are eight percentage points more likely to think the country is headed in the right direction, all else equal. People in rural settlements are eight percentage points more likely to think the country is headed in the right direction, controlling for other factors.

When it comes to the state of Georgian democracy, a similar analysis was conducted. The results suggest that younger people and those outside Tbilisi are more likely to think that the country is a democracy. The difference between people from Tbilisi and rural areas is quite large at 14 percentage points. With age, the differences were relatively smaller: a 20 year old had a 39% chance of reporting that Georgia is a democracy compared with a 32% chance of a 60 year old reporting the same, controlling for other factors.

Aside from demographics, it is reasonable to expect that outlooks on the above would be associated with political preferences. To explore this issue, party preference was added to the analyses above. The results suggest that Georgian Dream supporters are much more optimistic in terms of both the direction of the country as well as whether Georgia is a democracy. In contrast, supporters of every other preference – including those who support no party in particular – are much less likely to believe that the country is headed in the right direction or a democracy. These findings coincide with previous analyses showing that partisanship is associated with institutional trust and performance.

Only one in five Georgians think the country is headed in the right direction. Those who are optimistic in terms of the countries direction tend to be more educated and live in rural areas. With thinking the country is a democracy, people in rural areas and younger people are more positive. Above all else, supporters of the Georgian Dream party are most positive about the state of affairs in the country.

The data used for this blog post is available here. Replication code for the analysis is available here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The economic and educational consequences of child marriage in Georgia

[Note: This article was published in partnership with OC-Media, here. The article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of UN Women, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.]

Widely condemned as a violation of human rights, child marriage is associated with negative health outcomes — both physical and psychological. Aside from these clear issues, a growing body of research suggests child marriage also has economic consequences for both the women who marry under the age of 18 and society at large.

A policy brief released by CRRC Georgia today shows that child marriage remains a persistent problem in Georgia for both ethnic Georgians and ethnic minorities and that it comes with significant economic consequences. Yet, the brief also suggests that interventions in the education system have the potential to alleviate the economic harm of child marriage.

The child marriage rate in Georgia has remained static over the years. Data from a UN Women study on women’s economic inactivity suggests that the share of women who have ever married in the country who did so when they were under the age of 18 has not changed beyond the margin of error over the decades.

In the 2010s, the survey suggests 14% of women who ever married did so before turning 18, the same share as in the 1950s and earlier. This finding falls in line with UNICEF’s most recent estimate of the early marriage rate in Georgia.

Still, it likely underestimates the extent of the issue to a certain extent, since people under the age of 18 at the time of the survey were not interviewed.

The data suggest that child marriage is a particularly acute problem in rural areas, with 21% of rural women who have ever married having done so under the age of 18. This is a rate twice as high as in Tbilisi (9%) and other urban areas (10%).

The study is, however, inconclusive when it comes to child marriage rates among ethnic minorities (10%) compared with ethnic Georgians (9%). This likely stems from the relatively small number of ethnic minorities within the survey; other studies have found much higher rates among Georgia’s ethnic minorities, particularly the country’s ethnic Azerbaijani population.

This finding does, however, underline the point that child marriage is not just a problem among ethnic minorities in Georgia — but also among ethnic Georgians.

The costs of child marriage

Using data from CRRC Georgia, Swiss Development Cooperation, and UN Women, I statistically matched the group of women who had married early to a group who had not but came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Using this matched sample, it was possible to estimate the effects of child marriage on women’s economic and educational outcomes.

The results showed that women who married under the age of 18 earned 35% less than those from similar backgrounds who did not marry as children. Moreover, they were significantly less likely to participate in the labour force.

This is in a context where women already make significantly less and participate in the labour force at significantly lower rates than men.

Educational attainment was also significantly lower among the women who married before turning 18. The women in the matched sample who married underage were 2.3 times less likely to attain a higher education than those who married later in life.

Similarly, women who married as adults were six percentage points more likely to obtain a vocational education than those who married as children.

Two-thirds of women who married under the age of 18 (64%) obtained only secondary or lower levels of education, compared with 36% of women from similar socioeconomic backgrounds who married as adults.

However, the study suggests that when women who marry under 18 attain similar levels of education as those who marry as adults, the differences in outcomes largely disappear.

The women who married as children and those who married above the age of 18 in the matched sample who had the same levels of education earned statistically indistinguishable amounts. They also participated in the labour force at similar rates.

This finding suggests clear paths to alleviating the economic harm that child marriage causes in Georgia. By supporting girls who marry under 18 to stay in and complete school, encouraging those who have left to return, and creating an enabling environment for both groups, the economic harm of child marriage could be reduced.

Child marriage has clear social, psychological, and health consequences. These matter more than, and likely contribute to, the economic consequences described above.

While the ultimate goal of policy on child marriage in Georgia should be ending it, until that time, reducing the economic harm it causes should also be a goal. The data suggest that educational interventions are potentially a beneficial place to start.

The data and replication code of its analysis are available here.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Georgia’s Foreign Policy Trilemma: Balance, Bandwagon, or Hedge? Part 2

The first part of this blog post discussed evidence of an association between perceiving Russia as the main threat to Georgia and a preference for a foreign policy that balances against that threat through alliances with the West. The relationship between threat perception and hedging, defined as attempting to maintain good relations with both Russia and the West, is less clear.

A large number of Georgians prefer some form of hedging foreign policy – either a pro-Western policy that maintains good relations with Russia, or a pro-Russian policy that maintains good relations with the West. In absolute terms, the pro-Western hedge group is much larger than the pro-Russian hedge group, and the former is fairly evenly split – 54% to 46% – between those who perceive Russia as the main threat and those who do not. In the pro-Russian hedge group, only 16% identify Russia as the main threat. If we combine all those who expressed a preference for either of the two hedging options – about three quarters of respondents who expressed a foreign policy preference – slightly less than half (44%) identify Russia as the main threat to Georgia (which is about the same as the population as a whole).

Hedging, by design, incorporates the logic of both balancing and bandwagoning. On the one hand, support for the two hedging options mirrors the more uncompromising positions of straight pro-Western or pro-Russian preferences. Identifying Russia as the main threat is positively associated with both a purely pro-Western and pro-Western hedge position as well as negatively associated with both a purely pro-Russian and pro-Russian hedge position.

On the other hand, a hedging strategy seems to be more important for those who do not see Russia as the main threat: this group is more likely to support a pro-Russian policy that also maintains good relations with the West (bottom left quadrant). But those who do see Russia as the main threat seem to prioritise balancing over bandwagoning. At the same time, they are less likely to opt for a policy that maintains good relations with Russia (top right quadrant) than a strictly pro-Western orientation.

Commenting on Serbia’s foreign policy and Belgrade’s attempt to navigate between the West and Russia, a US diplomat once said "You cannot sit on two chairs at the same time, especially if they are that far away." This precarious position for small states is well-known to Georgia and Armenia, and comparing the two cases can be instructive. Georgia and Armenia face similar conditions for reasons of geography and history, and the trilemma of balancing, bandwagoning, and hedging shapes foreign policy choices. Each country risks incurring costs if they lean too far towards the West or towards Russia, and as a matter of self-preservation they have to successfully manage relations with both sides, which also comes with risks. That said, threat perception among their respective publics is very different – Armenians do not see Russia as a threat to the same extent as Georgians – and support for Euro-Atlantic integration is far higher in Georgia.

The intuitive logic of hedging is clearly appealing and it resonates with many Georgians. There is a large domestic constituency in favour of a foreign policy that seeks good relations with both the West and with Russia, especially among the more than 50% who do not identify Russia as the main threat to the country.

The danger, however, of pursuing the best of both worlds is that you end up with the worst of both. Nor should it be forgotten that foreign policy preferences may be explained better by shared identity and values than by threat perception, and that it is a primarily pro-Western policy that also maintains good relations with Russia, and not vice versa, that commands the greatest support among Georgians.

Confronted with multiple competing demands and challenges – from strong public and elite support for greater Euro-Atlantic integration to the persistent tensions between the West and Russia and, not least, the ongoing presence of the Russian military on Georgian territory – Georgia’s politicians and diplomats have their work cut out as they navigate a tough geopolitical neighbourhood.

Note: The analysis uses a multinomial logistic regression. The dependent variable is the foreign policy preference. The base category is ‘Pro-Western’. The table shows the predicted probabilities for the following independent variables (with base category in parentheses): threat perception (all responses other than Russia as main threat), education (higher than secondary level), party support (Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia), and country direction (Georgia is not changing at all). The other independent variables are sex, age group, settlement type, and ethnic minority domain. Party support was recoded into four categories: GD-DG, United National Movement, No party/Don’t know, and Other. Country direction was recoded as wrong direction, right direction, or no change.

Replication code of the full analysis is available here, including alternative model specifications. The data used are available here.  

Monday, January 06, 2020

Georgia’s Foreign Policy Trilemma: Balance, Bandwagon, or Hedge? Part 1

Georgia is a small, partly free democracy in a tough neighbourhood, and NATO membership remains an unfulfilled promise. While Russia is widely perceived as the main threat to Georgia’s security, the appropriate strategic or political response to the threat is not obvious. What options does Georgia have when faced with a powerful rival on its border, and what public support is there for these options?

Research on the foreign policy options of small states have generally focused on elite attitudes and structural determinants, butwith some exceptions – less so on the relationship between public opinion and foreign policy. This gap matters as public preferences for a country’s foreign policy (should) be important to decision-makers in a democracy. While foreign policy generally ranks lower than domestic concerns in the publics’ priorities, high stake questions of national security do cut through, and a foreign policy that lacks public support will be harder to sustain. This leads to the question, do threat perceptions predict foreign policy preferences?

Foreign policy analysts often talk about geopolitical choices in terms of balancing and bandwagoning: a state can either form alliances with other countries to balance against the threat of a stronger state, or bandwagon with the country that threatens them in the hope that the threat is mitigated by aligning themselves with the more powerful country.

Georgia’s options can seem like a stark choice between Russia and the West: should Georgia balance against Russia and deter the threat by developing closer alliances with Europe and the US, or bandwagon with Russia and forge closer relations with their northern neighbour? Each option has its advocates and detractors. Balancing can be seen as either a rational response to guarantee survival or as unnecessarily antagonistic. Bandwagoning can be seen as either the pragmatic management of geopolitical realities or appeasement and capitulation.

A third option is for Georgia to hedge its bets and strike a path between balancing and bandwagoning between Russia and the West. This risk management strategy may be well-suited for small states caught between Great Powers, including Russia’s neighbours who want to escape the influence of the region’s dominant power and protect themselves from East-West tensions, while working within the constraints of geography. Armenia’s attempts at a ‘multi-vectored’ foreign policy reflect this logic as well as the difficulties of implementation.

In the March 2016 CRRC-Georgia/NDI survey, respondents were asked to choose between four exclusive options: “In your opinion, Georgia's foreign policy should be Pro-Western; Pro-Western, however we should maintain good relations with Russia; Pro-Russian, however we should maintain good relations with the EU and NATO; or Pro-Russian?”. Georgians clearly favour a pro-Western foreign policy but there is a large constituency that does not want to accept a binary choice between the West and Russia. More than two thirds want what amounts to a hedging option, that is, a foreign policy that leans towards one side but without sacrificing good relations with the other side.

In theory, perceived threats to security should be an important determinant of foreign policy preferences in general, and of preferences over balancing, bandwagoning and hedging in particular. As the chart below suggests, Russia is by far the single most commonly identified threat to Georgia.

To test whether threat perceptions are related to these foreign policy preferences, a multinomial regression analysis is used with the above question about foreign preference as the dependent variable, and the threat perception question, in addition to demographic characteristics and domestic political preferences, as the independent variables.

If Georgians have a preference for balancing, there should be an association between identifying Russia as the main threat and a preference for a pro-Western foreign policy orientation that deters that threat, i.e., aligning with the European Union and NATO. The results provide evidence in support of this. As the table shows, those who identify Russia as the main threat are far more likely to support a pro-Western foreign policy (top left quadrant).

If, conversely, Georgians had a preference for bandwagoning, we would see an association between identifying Russia as the main threat and a preference for closer relations with Russia, i.e. a pro-Russian orientation – this is not the case. Contrary to the bandwagoning logic, we do not see support for a pro-Russian foreign policy amongst those who see Russia as the main threat. Rather, it is those who do not identify Russia as the main threat who are more likely to support a pro-Russian foreign policy. Notably, running the model without the threat perception variable made very little difference to the effect of the other variables on foreign policy preference.

However, as noted above, most respondents, when given the option, expressed a preference for a foreign policy that hedged between a purely pro-Western or pro-Russian orientation. The second part of this blog post, which will be published next Monday discusses this in greater depth.

Note: The analysis uses a multinomial logistic regression. The dependent variable is the foreign policy preference. The base category is ‘Pro-Western’. The table shows the predicted probabilities for the following independent variables (with base category in parentheses): threat perception (all responses other than Russia as main threat), education (higher than secondary level), party support (Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia), and country direction (Georgia is not changing at all). The other independent variables are sex, age group, settlement type, and ethnic minority domain. Party support was recoded into four categories: GD-DG, United National Movement, No party/Don’t know, and Other. Country direction was recoded as wrong direction, right direction, or no change.

Replication code of the full analysis is available here, including alternative model specifications. The data used are available here.