Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Almost everyone in Georgia believes in the supernatural

[Note: This article was co-published by CRRC Georgia and OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. It was written by Anano Kipiani, a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia, and Kristina Vacharadze, the Programs Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgian folklore is filled with stories of demons and devils; yet, everyone knows children’s stories are just that. However, new opinion polling from the ISSP Survey on Religion suggests that the vast majority of Georgians believe in the supernatural.

The study, which was conducted in 2019 by CRRC Georgia, asked about whether people think the following statements are true or false:

  • Good luck charms sometimes do bring good luck;
  • Some fortunetellers really can foresee the future;
  • Some faith healers do have God-given healing powers;
  • A person’s star sign at birth or horoscope can affect the course of the future.

Overall, 91% of the public reported that at least one of the above statements was true. Belief in faith healers was most common, with 57% reporting this was true. Belief in horoscopes (37%), good luck charms (30%), and fortune-tellers (20%) were less common.

Almost half (48%) the public also said they believed that ancestors had supernatural powers. A third (35%) said they did not believe this, and the remainder (16%) were uncertain. 

Further analyses of the data shows few differences in the number of superstitious beliefs people hold in different social and demographic groups. 

People with and without a higher education reported belief in a similar number of the above superstitions. Similarly, there was no difference between people in rural and urban areas. Older and younger people also held similar views. 

The only statistically significant difference present in the data was with regard to people who are more religious, who believed in more superstitions on average while controlling for other factors. 

Even though almost everyone in Georgia believes in at least some superstition, most people also think people should put more faith in science. The study asked whether people agreed with the statement: ‘We trust too much in science and not enough in religious faith’. Only a quarter of the public (25%) agreed, 29% neither agreed nor disagreed, and almost half the population (46%) disagreed. 

That is, while most people in Georgia believe in the supernatural, a plurality also put some faith in science.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordinary least squares regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the number of supernatural beliefs a person reported believing. The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, religious affiliation, settlement type, level of education, and a religiosity index. The data used in the blog is available here

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Political campaigning in Georgia: informing or mobilising?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, NDI, or any related entity.

Political campaigning takes a wide range of forms, from digital advertising to door knocking. Generally, campaigning is believed to both mobilise voters to actually go out to vote as well as win over voters, but which is most relevant in Georgia? 

Data from the August CRRC Georgia and NDI public opinion poll indicate that people who wanted to be contacted by campaigners also appeared more partisan than others. This may suggest that campaigning in Georgia will be more effective at turning out partisans than persuading the undecided. 

The data also indicates that despite the pandemic, most of the voters that wanted to be contacted wanted that contact to be in person.

Respondents on the August 2020 survey were asked what the best way would be for parties to get in touch with them. The most common responses were contact through small scale public meetings close to home and large scale meetings. Approximately a third of the public (31%) did not want to be contacted.

Who wants contact?

If voters want to be contacted, they may reasonably want more information about their different choices at the ballot box. Alternatively, they may want the parties to excite them (and others) to go to the polls. The data indicates that turning out supporters is likely easier in Georgian elections than winning over undecided voters, because the less partisan voters were, the less likely they were to want contact.

On the survey, 62% of respondents said they would like to be contacted in at least one form, and 31% reported they did not want to be contacted. The remaining respondents were unsure or refused to answer the question (7%).

A regression model suggests people in urban areas outside Tbilisi were eight percentage points more likely to be interested in being contacted. Men and women, people in wealthier and poorer households, those in different age groups, and those working and not did not report significantly different rates at which they would like to be contacted.

Regressions using political preferences suggest that partisans and those actively engaged in politics wanted to be contacted at greater rates than less engaged individuals. 

With regard to party, the data indicate that UNM and Georgian Dream supporters were more likely to want to be contacted than supporters of other parties and those that support no party in particular. 

Decided voters were more likely to want to be contacted than undecided voters. 

Likely voters were substantially (31 percentage points) more likely to want to be contacted than those who did not intend to vote. 


What type of contact?

In August, the COVID-19 case count was rising, though extensive restrictions on activity were not in place. Despite the rising case count, among those that wanted to be contacted, most wanted some form of in-person contact.

Overall, 76% of those that wanted to be contacted named only in-person forms of contact, 16% only distance-based forms of contact, and 8% a mix of the two. In sum, 84% of the public that wanted politicians to reach out to them, wanted it to at least be partially in person.

A regression model suggests that people in rural areas were 18 percentage points more likely to want an in-person contact than those in urban areas including the capital. Younger people (aged 18–35) were 11 percentage points more likely to report wanting in-person contact than others, all else equal.

Demographics aside, people who supported an opposition party aside from the UNM were less likely to report they wanted to be contacted in person. Likely and unlikely voters did not vary significantly on whether they wanted in-person contact or not. Similarly undecided and decided voters had similar views, controlling for other factors.

The above data suggests that during political campaigns in Georgia, people prefer in-person contact, even in the face of the pandemic. 

The people who wanted to be contacted during political campaigns were more likely to be political partisans and engaged in politics. In turn, this suggests that campaigns likely have an easier time turning out supporters than creating them.

The data used in this article is available here.

The results of models looking at how people want to be contacted are multinomial regression models. The first contains demographic variables only. The remaining models included one of the following variables: party support, decided voter or not, and likely voter or not.

The results of models looking at who wants to be contacted are logistic regressions. The first contains demographic variables only. The remaining models included one of the following variables: party support, decided voter or not, and likely voter or not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Georgian TV and the political framing of foreign actors

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Mariam Kobaladze, Communications Manager at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the European Union, the United Nations Development Program, or CRRC Georgia. 

No matter their political stripes, TV channels in Georgia frame association with Russia as politically condemnatory and association with Western countries as praiseworthy. 

The preliminary statement of the OSCE/ODIHR international election observation mission, published on 31 October, assessed the Georgian media environment as ‘highly polarised’. The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics came to a similar conclusion, highlighting that polarization in television news increased as the election campaign wore on.  

CRRC Georgia’s media monitoring during the pre-electoral period shows that polarization carried through to the use and portrayal of foreign actors in Georgian media. While any affiliation with Russia was intended as damaging to the reputation of a political actor, the EU and the United States were mostly portrayed as respectful actors, whose support added credit and whose criticism cast doubt on politicians.

‘Russia’ as a dirty word

Politicians who commented on ongoing events in news stories would call their opponents ‘pro-Russian’ or acting in line with Russian interests, with the clear goal of diminishing their credibility. 

Both the opposition and the ruling party used this tactic. For example, in a news story on Rustavi 2, a pro-government leaning news outlet, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream Party said that after the Bolsheviks and Communists, the opposition United National Movement ranked next in fulfilling Russia’s tasks.

Meanwhile, TV Pirvelli, an outlet critical of the Georgian Dream government, informed their audience that Bidzina Ivanishvili’s cousin visited Moscow 177 times, while pro-UNM news channel Mtavari Arkhi aired a story on how Russia funds the ultra conservative Georgian March group and the conservative Patriots’ Alliance party, arguing that the lack of reaction from the Georgian government to these organisations demonstrates their sympathies with russia. 

An interesting example of using Russia to discredit a political actor was the coverage of the Davit Gareji cartographers’ court case. Opposition media covered it as a ‘Russian project’, suggesting the scandal was Russian commissioned in the wake of the tensions prior to the outburst of active conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In contrast, pro-government channels used the story to discredit the previous authorities, claiming they had pursued Russian interests. 

The West is best

Unlike Russia, EU and US-affiliated actors were presented as having authority and respect. Yet, while covering the same statements, comments, and issues issued from Western actors, different television channels underlined western support or criticism of the government based on their editorial stance, instead of both support and criticism. 

While government-leaning TV Channel Imedi covered stories on US and EU representatives calling on Georgia to hold free, fair, and transparent elections and presented OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, they did so in a way that highlighted western support for Georgia, its government, and positive assessments from international observation missions (e.g. of Election Code reform). In another similar instance, Pos TV covered the EU parliament’s resolution on Georgia’s fulfillment of the Association Agreement as the EU’s unprecedented support for Georgia and a success to be ascribed to the ruling party. 

Channels with critical views of the ruling party and the government also covered the statements and recommendations of western actors. However, the emphasis was on criticism of the ruling authorities. TV Pirveli for example aired a story about an EU Parliament report on Georgia which they presented as a tough pre-election warning for Georgia. ‘Five-hundred and fifty-two EU parliamentarians write that there is a politicized court in Georgia, court cases against opposition leaders were political, and the country under Ivanishvili’s rule has political prisoners’, a TV Pirveli journalist stated on air. ‘All this was written in the annual report of the EU parliament.’

CRRC Georgia’s monitoring of television news suggests that when covering foreign actors, television channels tend to express their political sympathies. Russia is used to cast doubt on parties and politicians while Western actors are presented as figures of authority whose support is advantageous and criticism disadvantageous. The meanings ascribed to Russia and the West hold whether or not the channel is for or against the government. But, the coverage of Western statements does change, either focusing on praise or criticism of the government and little of the coverage is balanced.


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Georgian voters: personalities, policies, or a bit of both?

Note: This article was co-published by OC Media and CRRC Georgia on the Caucasus Data Blog. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.

While personality in politics matters greatly for the Georgian public, data from this year shows that for Georgian Dream and United National Movement voters, policy is still important. 

A recent CRRC Georgia policy brief argued that what was really dividing Georgians politically was personalities rather than policies. Data from the August 2020 CRRC and NDI survey provides further evidence for this idea. 

However, the data also shows a difference between Georgian Dream (GD) and United National Movement (UNM) voters in terms of policy preferences and that economic policy is the most important issue for a plurality of voters. 

UNM supporters were slightly more likely to report that economic policy was most important compared to Georgian Dream supporters. Still, for a plurality of supporters of both parties, the data indicate that economic policy is the most important issue.

Note: Party preference was only asked to individuals that reported they may vote in the October 2020 elections. Therefore, overall, refers to all individuals which said they might vote in the October 2020 elections.

When it comes to professional training versus formal education, 26% of the public prefers a party prioritizing formal education, and 50% a party prioritizing professional training. A regression analysis shows no significant differences between supporters of the UNM and GD. 

Differences are present between those with different levels of education, however. People with vocational education are 10 percentage points more likely, and those with higher education eight percentage points more likely, to support investing in professional education than people with secondary education or a lower level of education. Women are six percentage points less likely than men to support vocational education as opposed to formal education.

The survey asked whether people would prefer a party that proposed lower taxes or higher pensions, with 27% preferring higher pensions and 56% preferring lower taxes. With regard to preferences for a party that would support higher pensions or lower taxes, UNM supporters are 23 percentage points more likely to prefer a candidate that supports higher pensions rather than lower taxes. The reverse is true of GD supporters. 

Aside from party support, a number of other characteristics are associated with support for higher pensions as opposed to lower taxes. People who are currently employed are nine percentage points more likely to support lower taxes than those who are not.  People over the age of 56 are 26 percentage points more likely to support higher pensions than people between the ages of 18-35. People with higher education are 11 percentage points more likely than people with secondary education alone to support lower taxes. People in rural areas are seven percentage points more likely to support higher pensions.

While the data does show a difference with attitudes on higher pensions versus lower taxes, personalities remain primary for supporters of both major parties. A slight majority of the public (55%) report that personalities matter to them more than policies. In contrast, 20% say that election promises and  political platform matter more. A further 15% agree with neither idea and the remainder have indicated that they do not know which of the two they find more important.

There are no significant differences between supporters of the UNM and GD on this question. The only difference identified in a regression analysis on the issue is that employed people are six percentage points less likely to view personalities as more important compared with those that are not presently employed.

The above data re-affirms past analyses that have shown that personality dominates policy in Georgian politics. Yet, the data does show at least one meaningful difference on economic policy between supporters of the two main parties when they are considering who to vote for.

Note: The data analysis presented in this article are based on regression models controlling for respondent age group (18-35, 36-55, 56+), employment situation (working or not), party support (Georgian Dream, United National Movement, Other party, no party/don’t know/refuse to answer), education level (secondary or less, vocational education, or tertiary education), sex (female or male), and settlement type (capital, other urban, or rural). The data used in this article are available here.


Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Gaps remain in mobile phone ownership in Georgia

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, the Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity. 

While mobile phone ownership is widespread in Georgia, gaps still remain among rural, elderly, and ethnic minority populations.

Owning a mobile (cell phone) is considered so important that more widespread ownership is considered a sustainable development goal (SDG 5.b) by the United Nations. 

Mobile phone ownership among households has increased significantly over the last decade. Caucasus Barometer data indicates that in 2008, two thirds of households owned a mobile phone. This has steadily increased, reaching 96% of households in 2019, the last year for which Caucasus Barometer data is available.

While the vast majority of households have a mobile phone in Georgia, not everyone is equally likely to personally own one. Caucasus Barometer in 2019 specifically asked whether the respondent owned a mobile phone, and only 86% of individuals reported that they did.

A regression analysis looking at respondents’ social, demographic, and economic characteristics suggests that ownership varies between settlement types, age groups, ethnicities, employment status, household wealth, and education level. Though, it does not vary based on sex, after taking into account other factors. 

Controlling for other factors, people in rural areas are nine percentage points less likely than people in Tbilisi to own a mobile phone. Armenians are ten percentage points and Azerbaijanis eight percentage points less likely to own a mobile phone. People aged 56 and older are ten percentage points less likely to own a mobile phone. People with jobs are ten percentage points more likely to own a mobile phone. 

The level of education also has an impact with an individual who only has secondary education being 13 percentage points less likely to own a mobile phone compared with someone with tertiary education. Individuals in households that are relatively wealthy are five percentage points more likely to own a mobile phone, compared with households that own none of the assets asked about (aside from mobile phones).

While the vast majority of households have at least one member which owns a mobile phone, individual ownership is less common. To work towards improvement on this sustainable development goal, mobile phone ownership needs to increase among ethnic minorities, people in rural areas, older people, the less educated, and those not working. 

Notably, while the indicator is listed as part of the gender sustainable development goals, after controlling for other factors, there is no significant difference between women and men in terms of mobile phone ownership.

The data presented in this article is available here


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

How Georgians perceive environmental problems

Note: This article was co-published on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article represent the views of the author alone and do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, NDI, or any other entity.

While air pollution is dominant as the most important environmental issue for Georgians, a stark rural-urban divide exists with rural Georgians being one-third more likely to believe that there are no environmental problems in their communities.  

Georgia faces a number of environmental challenges, including air pollution, issues with invasive species such as the brown marmorated stink bug, and natural disasters

Data from the World Health Organization suggests that Georgia has a moderate problem with air pollution, ranking 70th in the world and, according to CRRC and NDI data from 2020, a little under half of Georgians perceive it as the biggest environmental issue in their community.  

At the same time, a quarter of the public does not think there are any environmental issues in their community, with people in rural areas particularly unlikely to think that their community faces environmental problems.

Both littering and food safety were named as the most problematic local environmental issue by 11% of respondents, while all remaining issues were named by less than 10% of the population. 

Respondents were allowed to name up to three different issues as ‘the most problematic’ in their community. Overall, 15% named three issues, 21% two issues, 31% one issue, and 32% reported that there was no issue or did not know which issues were most problematic. 

A regression analysis suggests that people with higher than secondary education named more issues than those with only a high school education. Similarly, respondents living in wealthier households named more issues than those in poorer households, controlling for other factors.  Older people named fewer issues than younger people generally. The largest difference between groups though was between settlement types. People in rural areas named half as many issues as people in Tbilisi. 

In rural areas, people were also significantly more likely to report there were no problematic environmental issues in their settlements. People in rural areas were 33 percentage points more likely, controlling for other factors, to think there are no environmental issues in their community compared to people in Tbilisi. Similarly, rural people are 17 percentage points more likely to report no environmental issue in their community than those in urban areas aside from Tbilisi.  

Not naming any environmental issue was also associated with education. People with tertiary education are seven percentage points less likely than those who completed only secondary school to say there are no issues. Similarly, people with a vocational education are five percentage points less likely to report there are no environmental issues compared with those with only secondary education, controlling for other factors. 

There were no significant differences between women and men, those in wealthier and poorer households, the employed and those not working, and people in different age groups in terms of naming at least one issue or reporting there are no issues.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

How coronavirus messaging could provide a moral license to misbehave

[Note: This article was published on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.

Communications have been critical to attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 globally, and it is unclear what the best strategy for doing so might be. In Georgia, it would appear that informing people that others are acting responsibly in the pandemic could in fact lead to the opposite behaviour.

A common tool to change behaviour through communications is the use of social norming. 

Social norming informs people of what other people are actually doing, and in turn, more people often start doing the same. This tool has been successfully used to encourage numerous forms of pro-social behaviour from paying taxes to lowering drinking among university students.  But sometimes, it does not work and can even backfire. 

The results of a survey experiment CRRC Georgia conducted in June 2020 suggest that had social norming been used towards the end of the COVID-19 lockdown to encourage people to stay at home, it might have backfired.

During the lockdown, stay at home was the motto of the day. Yet, over the course of the lockdown, the public increasingly began to go out to socialise.  Men in particular became more likely to socialise as time went on.

To test whether social norming could potentially change behaviour, CRRC Georgia ran a survey experiment. In the survey, one group of people were told that the majority of the public had stayed home the week prior. A second group was told that the majority of the people of their sex had stayed home the week prior. A third group was not told anything. Next, respondents were asked whether or not they planned on going out the following week. 

The experiment found statistically and substantially large effects on the provision of information. People who found out that most people stayed at home were 18 percentage points more likely to report they intended on going out to socialise the following week.  

The sex-specific information led to a 12 percentage point increase in people’s intention to go out and socialise.


The effects were uniform across different social and demographic groups. Women and men, old and young, people with and without a higher education, and those who did and did not leave the house the week prior to the survey were not affected in a significantly different manner by the treatments. The effect was similar across settlement types as well.

So what happened? One plausible hypothesis is that instead of the treatment inducing social norming, it enabled moral licensing. When people do something good, they often then feel like it is fine to do something not so good afterwards. This process is known as moral licensing.

The above experiment could have potentially led people to believe that, collectively, Georgia has done well. As a contributor to that success, they may have felt that next week, they should reward themself by going out to socialise. 

While plausible, further experimentation is needed to untangle exactly what happened.

What is clear is that, at least in some contexts, attempts at social norming can have adverse impacts. This underlines the point that communications campaigns need to test before they talk.