Friday, November 16, 2018

Georgia’s imagined tolerance

[Note: This article was originally published in collaboration with OC-Media.]

Hate crime regularly makes the news in Georgia. The recent murder of Vitali Safarov, the harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has put the country in the European Court of Human Rights, and the 2013 riots on the International Day Against Homophobia all come to mind.

Yet, Georgians also pride themselves on examples of tolerance in the country’s history. This contradiction — pride in tolerance despite an apparent lack of it in many cases — is reflected in data CRRC-Georgia recently collected for the Council of Europe.

To understand attitudes towards different minority groups, the survey asked respondents whether they would approve of someone like them doing business with 24 different minority groups. Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people of ethnicities not traditionally associated with Europe or the Caucasus were generally less approved of than peoples from Europe and the Caucasus.

People with disabilities were the most approved of minority group.

The groups people approve of least were also the groups the public thinks are most likely to be the victims of hate crime and the targets of hate speech.

When asked how often specific groups are the victims of hate crime and the target of hate speech, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses topped the list.  When asked, who do you think is the target of hate speech most often in Georgia, LGBT people were named more often than any other group. The same is true of hate crime.

While these perceptions likely reflect the situation surrounding hate crime and hate speech to a reasonable degree, they are also likely mistaken to a certain extent.

For example, the vast majority of the public (91%) reports positive attitudes towards people with disabilities. In line with this pattern, only 2% of the public reported that people with disabilities are often the targets of hate speech and 2% the victims of hate crime.

Yet, as a person with a disability interviewed within the study stated, ‘Hate speech is part of our everyday life. Ingrained. Firmly established.’

It is not possible to generalise from a single interview, yet a gap between minority and majority perspectives on the challenges minorities face are not present only when it comes to people with disabilities.

The survey asked what the most significant issues a variety of groups faced were. While 41% of men reported that women faced no issues 28% of women did.  29% of ethnic Georgians reported that ethnic minorities faced no issues compared with 10% of ethnic Armenians and 12% of ethnic Azeris. 44% of Orthodox Christians reported that religious minorities faced no issues compared with 17% of Muslims and 20% of non-Orthodox Christians.

How the question was asked is important here. Respondents were provided with a list of potential responses and allowed to name other issues. However, that they face no issues was not part of that list, meaning that people actively reported the above groups face no significant issues rather than selecting one of the options from the list. If they face no issues was part of the list, a larger share of the public likely would have selected the option.

There are many plausible causes of the gap between minority and majority perceptions. A lack of contact between groups is one potential source. While this survey did not ask about contact with different minority groups, previous surveys show that those who are in touch with minorities often have more positive attitudes towards them (e.g. with LGBT people and with migrants).

A second potential cause is the portrayal of minorities in the media, which frequently contains hate speech.

No matter the precise reasons for intolerance in Georgia, these potential causes also suggest potential solutions.

First, increasing contact between minority and majority groups has the potential to decrease the animus people express towards minorities. Second, the media could remove hate speech from its discourse. Further, they could take the positive step of providing more detailed coverage of the problems minorities face in Georgia, thus directly informing the public.

Finally, highlighting the contradiction between Georgians’ pride in tolerance and the hate crime which takes place in Georgia all too often has the potential to encourage the public to question their own views.

Dustin Gilbreath is the Deputy Research Director of CRRC-Georgia. 

The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the Council of Europe or any related entity.

The data used in this article are available here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Which questions do people tend to respond “Don’t know” to?

On surveys, sometimes the questions asked are hard for some people to answer. As a result, the answer option “Don’t know” is a regular part of any survey dataset. But are some questions particularly likely to elicit these responses? This blog post uses un-weighted 2017 CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey data for Georgia to look at this question.

The ten CB 2017 questions with the highest share of “Don’t know” answers are provided on the chart below.

Two patterns are present in the CB 2017 questions that people responded “Don’t know” to most often. First, unsurprisingly, the shares of “Don’t know” answers are higher to questions that it is reasonable to think a person would be uncertain about. Second, while only about one in five questions on the CB questionnaire aimed to measure political or economic attitudes, most of the questions in the top ten are such questions.

To have a closer look at the data used in this blog post, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Pension reform is underway in Georgia, but only about half of the population is aware of it

On July 21, 2018 Georgian legislators approved an accumulative pension scheme, after years of discussion. As one of the requirements of the new law, employees with contracts who are under the age of 40 have to contribute 2% of their remuneration to the state-run pension fund, on a monthly basis. Although other employees are not legally required to do so, they may participate in the scheme voluntarily. This law is a first step in a larger reform of Georgia’s pension system. Opposition politicians have criticized the new law citing that it counters the country’s constitution as it introduces a new tax without a referendum. Several civil society groups also expressed criticism of the reform, questioning its legitimacy.

According to June 2018 CRRC/NDI survey that was conducted before the law was passed, only 46% of people in Georgia were aware of the proposed reform of the country’s pension system. People with tertiary education reported being more informed (57%) compared to the rest of the population. Although the new pension scheme primarily targets younger employees, young people were significantly less likely to have heard of the proposed changes (36%) compared to those who were older than 40 (53%). Ethnic minorities were also far less likely to know about the reform than ethnic Georgians (22% and 48%, respectively).

A majority were against the idea of mandatory contributions to the pension fund. If they had a choice of mandatory or voluntary contributions, only 17% would prefer the mandatory option, while the majority (61%) would choose the voluntarily option. Even people whose political sympathies are close to the ruling Georgian Dream party are significantly more likely to favor voluntary contributions compared to the mandatory ones.

Note: The full wording of the first question was: “There are several proposals regarding the pension reform. Which of these two proposals is acceptable for you? According to one of the proposals, employees under the age of 40 mandatorily contribute 2% of their salary to the pension fund every month. According to another proposal, employees under the age of 40 voluntarily contribute 2% of their salary to the pension fund every month.” For the question, “Which party is closest to you?” only first choice has been considered for the chart above. 

People in Georgia need to be informed better about the new pension scheme that was recently adopted. Importantly, it lacks public support even among those who feel close to the ruling party.

The data used in this blog post is available here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Which groups in Georgia tend to support marijuana legalization more?

On July 30, 2018 the Constitutional Court of Georgia legalized the consumption of marijuana. But what was public opinion on marijuana legalization before the decision? In June 2018, CRRC-Georgia carried out a survey for NDI Georgia that asked: “In your opinion, should marijuana be legalized in Georgia or not?”

While 18% answered marijuana should be legalized, according to 74% it should not. Support for legalization was slightly higher among men, younger people (18-35), and Tbilisi residents. Attitudes did not vary by level of education.

While it is now legal to consume marijuana in Georgia, a large majority of the public was against legalization the month before it was legalized. Whether people’s attitudes have changed since or whether they will change as time goes on is, of course, the subject of future research.

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Views on marital (in)fidelity in Georgia

According to 86% of adults in Georgia, cheating on one’s spouse can never be justified, according to CRRC’s 2017 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey findings. Another 12% also reported disapproving of cheating, but refrained from a radical “never” answer and choose relatively softer options. Only about 2% openly agreed, albeit with different strength of agreement, with the position that cheating on one’s spouse can be justified. While these answers are expected to be influenced by social desirability bias, they are still interesting indicators of views on marital (in)fidelity in Georgia. Importantly, the distribution of answers has been quite stable since 2011.

Based on the 10-point scale used in CB2017 to record answers to the question, “To what extent, in your opinion, can cheating on one’s spouse be justified or not?” a new binary variable was created for the analysis presented in this blog post, where those answering “Never” (code 1) are considered separately, and their answers are compared to the answers of those who chose all other codes from the show card, i.e. who consider cheating potentially justifiable although do this to varying degrees. Thus, the new variable compares those who report they would not justify cheating under any circumstances, and those who can either think of certain justification(s) for cheating or directly justify it. Answers “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% of the total) were excluded from the analysis.

Age, gender, marital status and settlement type would be expected to be crucial in exploring divisions of public opinion on this issue. Counterintuitively, though, the small differences in answers by age, gender, and marital status are all within the margin of error. On the other hand, people living in the capital, other urban settlements and rural settlements do answer this question differently. The population of Tbilisi stands out in its tolerance for cheating, with 22% reporting varying degrees of readiness to justify it.

Thus, it is not the basic demographic variables per sè that more or less divide public opinion in respect to (un)acceptance of cheating in Georgia. Living in the capital versus the rest of the country makes more of a difference. Although the majority of the population of Tbilisi reports that cheating on one’s spouse can never be justified, compared to the rest of the population of Georgia, twice as large a share of Tbilisi dwellers report at least some tolerance to marital infidelity.

To have a look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Is Georgia’s Orthodox Christian population losing (trust in) their religion?

Surveys conducted in Georgia have repeatedly shown that the Georgian Orthodox Church’s leader Patriarch Ilia II is the most trusted public figure in the country. Yet, CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey data from 2008 to 2017 suggests that both the share of Orthodox Christians in Georgia that trust the Church and the degree to which they trust the Church is on the decline. Although the survey does not provide direct evidence, the scandals surrounding the church in recent years could have contributed to this. For instance, in 2017, a priest was convicted of attempting to poison the Secretary of Ilia II. The government has sold land to the Church at symbolic prices on numerous occasions, often leading to negative media coverage. In 2013, priests were involved in an anti-LGBT rights riot.

CB data on Georgia’s Orthodox Christians’ trust towards the Church shows that 75% reported fully trusting it in 2008. Only 33% did in 2017. During the same period, the share of those who reported trusting the Church more moderately (‘rather trust’ responses) increased from 15% to 38%. Combining the options ‘rather trust’ and ‘fully trust’ is also telling. In 2015, a total of 82% of Orthodox Christians reported trusting the Church; 71% did in 2017, an 11 percentage point decline.

Note: Only answers of those who identified themselves as Orthodox Christians are presented in the charts in this blog post. Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer,” which made up less than 5% of responses in any given wave of the survey, are not shown in the charts throughout this blog post.

The decline in trust in the Church between 2015 and 2017 was starkest in Tbilisi, where reported trust declined by 18 percentage points. In Tbilisi, the share of people reporting distrust increased, while outside Tbilisi it did not change beyond the margin of error.

The decline in reported trust in the Orthodox Church is not reflected in changes in some forms of religious practice. Orthodox Christians have reported fasting at similar levels since 2008. There are small fluctuations in reported attendance of religious services, but no clear trend.

Note: The original answer options “Always fast” and “Often fast” were combined into the category “Often or always fast” on the chart above. The answer options “Rarely fast” and “Never fast” were combined into the category “Never or rarely fast”. 

Note: The original answer options “Everyday”, “More than once a week”, “Once a week”, and “At least once a month” were combined into the category “At least once a month”. Answer options “Less often” and “Never” were combined into the category “Less often or never”. 

While Orthodox Christians in Georgia may not be losing their religion, fewer trust in its key institution - the Church.

The data used in this blog post is available here.

Monday, August 06, 2018

People’s views about who should pay for health insurance in Georgia

A previous CRRC blog post explored attitudes in Georgia towards the role of the government, and specifically, whether people think the government should act as a parent or as an employee with regards to its citizens. One very specific aspect of this issue is reflected in opinions about how much the government should be involved in coverage of health insurance expenses.

According to the findings of a survey that CRRC-Georgia carried out for Transparency International - Georgia in March, 2016, only 3% of the population reports that people should cover their and their family members’ health insurance expenses themselves, while an absolute majority (96%) says these expenses should be covered at least partly by the government. A slightly larger share of people in this group (52%) would expect the government to fully cover the population’s health insurance expenses, while according to 44%, these expenses should be covered partially by people themselves and partially by the government.

Although the two questions were asked in two different surveys, thus, direct comparison of the findings is not possible, there are demographic similarities between those who view the government as a parent and those who expect the government to fully cover the population’s health insurance expenses, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, between those who view the government as an employee and those who say that health insurance expenses should be covered partially by people themselves and partially by the government. The previous blog post highlighted that people with higher than secondary education and those residing in the capital were more likely to view the government as an employee than as a parent. Similarly, people with higher than secondary education and those living in the capital report health insurance expenses should be covered partially by people themselves and partially by the government.

Note: The answer options for the question, “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?” were grouped as follows: options “No primary education”, “Primary education (either complete or incomplete)”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were grouped into the category “Secondary or lower”. Options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were grouped into the category “Higher than secondary”.

Interestingly though, whereas the previous blog post reported that women were more likely to believe the government should act like a parent, there is virtually no difference between men’s and women’s opinions on how health insurance expenses should be covered.

To explore the data used in this blog post further, visit our Online Data Analysis platform.