Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Half of Georgians believe COVID-19 is man-made

[This article was co-published by CRRC Georgia and OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. It was written by Dr. Tsisana Khundadze. Tsisana is a senior researcher at CRRC Georgia.]

As COVID-19 spread across the world, it was followed by a hurricane of (mis)information about the origins and nature of the virus. The novelty and scope of the virus gave birth to many conspiracy theories, but which of those took root in Georgia? 

An NDI and CRRC survey conducted in June 2020 asked questions about people’s beliefs about the origins and spread of coronavirus. The data suggest that while a majority of the population does not believe in common disinformation messages such as a relation between 5G technology and the spread of the coronavirus, only a small portion thinks that coronavirus came about naturally. 

Most people see some kind of human footprint in the creation and spread of coronavirus. 

According to the survey, around half of the population thinks that coronavirus was developed in a lab. Specifically, 30% thinks that it was developed in a lab and was spread intentionally and 22% believes it was made in a lab and spread accidentally. 

Only 13% of Georgians say coronavirus came about naturally, and around a third (32%) of the population is uncertain about the origins of this virus. 

A small portion (3%) even think that coronavirus does not really exist.

Besides this question, respondents were asked their opinion on the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, one of the most widespread pieces of misinformation that spread around the world

While only 10% said they think that 5G internet infrastructure is linked to the spread of coronavirus, almost half said they disagreed with this notion, and around a third of Georgians don’t know whether 5G and coronavirus are related. 

This shows that even though only a small portion of people believe in a link between 5G and COVID-19, almost half are uncertain, or at least not clear, whether this is misinformation.

To better understand beliefs about the origins of coronavirus, a regression model was constructed. According to the model, men are 1.3 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, while women are 1.4 times more likely to think that it was developed in a lab but spread accidentally. 

Moreover, the more household items a person owns (a proxy for wealth), the more likely that person is to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread accidentally and less likely to say it was spread intentionally. 

Those in the worst economic situation are 1.6 times more likely to say that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally than people who score highest on the ownership index. The latter are almost 3 (2.8) times more likely to think it was spread accidentally than the former. 

However, no differences were observed between people in different age groups, settlement types, with different levels of education, those using social networks more or less often, with different employment statuses, or attending religious services at different rates.




Note: This and the following chart was generated from a regression model. The model includes sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, tertiary), frequency of using social media (everyday, once a week or month, less often or never), employment status (employed, not employed), frequency of attending religious services (at least once a month, less often or never), and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth. Besides demographic characteristics, social media usage was added into the regression model, because social media was named as the main source of information by 41% of the population. Religious attendance was included in the model, because, around Easter, it became clear that people who are more religious perceived the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus in a different way in Georgia.

As for the relation between the spread of coronavirus and 5G internet infrastructure, people living in rural areas are around 1.5 times more likely to think that 5G is related to the spread of coronavirus compared to people who live in Tbilisi or other urban areas. 

Similarly, people with higher than secondary education are 1.9 times less likely to think that 5G is related to spread of coronavirus, compared to people with lower levels of education. Yet, people of different genders, ages, employment statuses, and economic situations and those attending religious services and using social media more or less often hold similar views on the relation between 5G technology and coronavirus. 

Only a small portion of Georgia’s population actually believes that 5G infrastructure is related to the spread of coronavirus, though people living in rural areas and those with lower levels of education agree with this notion more. 

A solid half of the population thinks that coronavirus did not occur naturally and was developed in a lab. This part of the population is further split roughly in half in their opinion on the nature of spread. Men and people with worse economic situations are slightly more likely to think that coronavirus was developed in a lab and spread intentionally, compared to women and people with better economic situations, who in turn are more likely to think it was developed in a lab and spread accidentally.

For more data on people’s opinion and attitudes on issues around coronavirus see the dataset on CRRC’s online analysis tool.

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Rapid Gender Assessment of the Covid-19 Situation in Georgia

Last month, UN Women released the results of a Rapid Gender Assessment of Covid-19. CRRC Georgia conducted the research, which was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Joint SDG Fund. The project was part of a broader UN Women impact assessment initiative. The study that was conducted in mid to late May, looks at how the Covid-19 outbreak affected livelihoods, domestic and care work, and the mental and physical health of women and men in Georgia. The study also provides a glimpse of how women and girls with disabilities reflected on changes the Covid-19 pandemic instigated.

The study led to a number of findings, which are summarized below. The survey showed that:

  • While women were less likely to lose income, a plurality still reported receiving less money;
  • Ethnic minorities were hit harder by the pandemic, being more likely to report losing jobs than ethnic Georgians;
  • Women disproportionally suffered from increased unpaid domestic work. They reported spending more time on cleaning and cooking. Fewer women than men said that their partner was helping with domestic work;
  • Almost half of the respondents reported difficulties in accessing medical supplies for personal protection, with more women reporting difficulties.
  • The pandemic had a significant toll on mental health. Almost half of Georgians reported a decline in their mental health as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, women being disproportionally affected;

In-depth interviews with women with disabilities, female caregivers, and experts showed that:

  • Many women and girls with disabilities had to postpone routine tests and checkups, due to limited availability of services and travel restrictions;
  • While many service providers switched to telemedicine and online therapy, this was detrimental for children with disabilities in particular. This stems from the lack of basic infrastructure (internet access, computers, smartphones), and perceived inadequacy of services provided online compared to in-person care.
  • Women and girls with disabilities are worried about the high costs of medical treatment and transport, rising costs of medicine, and basic hygiene products;
  • As women and girls with disabilities are less likely to have their disability status registered, they have been deprived of state aid and services. This mainly stems from the stigmatization of disability in Georgia, especially when it comes to women and girls;
  • Measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as curfews and lockdowns, seem to have affected the psychological and emotional well-being of women and girls with disabilities;

The full report is available in English and Georgian. Questionnaires, data tables, and complete anonymized microdata can be accessed via CRRC Georgia’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Is Georgia really polarised?

[Note: This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath and Koba Turmanidze. It was originally published in partnership with OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]

Talk about political polarisation in Georgia is easy to find. Some have suggested that the recent United National Movement (UNM) announcement that Saakashvili will be their prime ministerial candidate will only make matters worse. 

A new data analysis CRRC Georgia released on Tuesday suggests that this may in fact be the case. Data from several years of CRRC Georgia and NDI polling indicates that there are few ideological or policy issues that the supporters of Georgian Dream (GD) and the United National Movement (UNM) disagree about. Rather, attitudes towards politicians and political events are what divides, a fact the public intuitively recognises.

What is polarisation?

One of the more prominent definitions of polarisation in the academic literature suggests two defining characteristics: issue partisanship and issue alignment. 

Issue alignment means that views on different sets of issues are correlated with each other. For example, people who think that deficit spending is bad also think that raising taxes is, this would constitute an example of issue alignment. 

Issue partisanship means that attitudes towards a specific issue are correlated with the party an individual identifies with. For instance, if support for one party is correlated with support for marijuana legalisation, this would reflect issue partisanship.

When issue partisanship and issue alignment grow, polarisation results.

A third factor and pre-condition for polarisation is that partisanship, support for political parties, exists.

The pre-conditions for polarisation are not present in Georgia

To have polarisation, there needs to be two poles. Georgia’s political system has two main political parties that are supported in public opinion polls – GD and UNM. But the public is hardly divided between them. Indeed, only a minority supports either party, and the most common response to what party has almost always been no party in recent years.

Georgians are largely united on policy and ideology

The study looked at approximately 20 different policy issues varying from cannabis legalisation to banking regulations. In the majority of cases, there were no statistically significant differences in the data between supporters of the main parties in the country, the United National Movement and Georgian Dream.

Supporters of each party tend towards thinking the main issue facing the country is the economy. They also have largely similar foreign policy outlooks — pro-Western ones. There are no significant differences in terms of opinions on how the country’s economy should develop either.

On social issues and values, supporters of the main two parties also have similar outlooks for the most part — they oppose selling land to foreigners and cannabis legalisation. 

The data does indicate that supporters of the UNM are slightly more likely to support the protection of queer rights and be accepting of a son wearing an earring. Taken together, these suggest UNM supporters are slightly less conservative than GD supporters. Despite the slight difference, large majorities of both parties tend towards conservative views on both questions.

The explicitly political is divisive

While there are few policy or ideological differences between supporters of the UNM and GD, people do have different attitudes towards the explicitly political. 

UNM supporters are more positive about the Rose Revolution than GD supporters. GD supporters are more likely to think the electoral handover of power in 2012 was a good thing. Politicians from each party are more liked by the supporters of their party. 

Interestingly, the public largely recognises that it is politicians and the otherwise explicitly political which divides the country. From a list of 11 items on a 2019 survey, which included Russia, more people named politicians as dividing the public than any other institution or group asked about.

Taken together, there is an absence of evidence of polarisation in the data. Rather, it suggests personalisation is what’s at play in Georgian politics.

Replication code for the analysis presented in this article is available here.