Monday, July 16, 2018

Murder on Khorava Street: The public’s knowledge and attitudes towards the Court decision

In early December 2017, two schoolchildren were killed on Khorava Street in Tbilisi. On May 31st, 2018, Tbilisi City Court announced the decision on the Khorava Street murder case. The announcement caused mass demonstrations led by Zaza Saralidze, a father of one of the murdered children.

On June 19-26, 2018, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey on people’s knowledge about the Court decision and their evaluation. The survey resulted in 1005 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The average margin of error of the survey is 2.8%.

The vast majority of people in Georgia (96%) have heard about the Khorava street murder. However, only 17% of those who have heard about the case know what the Court decision was: the sentencing of one defendant for murder and the other for attempted murder. The majority of people in Georgia (61%) did not know what the Court decided. Others had inaccurate or partial information. Nine percent thought the Court found one defendant not guilty and sentenced the other for murder. Five percent thought the Court found both defendants not guilty, and two percent thought the Court found both defendants guilty of murder. Tbilisians were slightly more aware of the decision than people outside Tbilisi (a 7-10% difference).

Those who had heard about the Court decision on the Khorava Street case were asked to evaluate its fairness. Only eight per cent evaluated the decision as fair. The majority (77%) said the decision was not fair. People who thought the case was unfair were asked why they thought it was unfair. The three most frequent answers included 1) The Prosecutor’s Office was covering for influential people’s relatives (28%); 2) The low quality of the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office (8%); and 3) Influential people were covering for people close to them (7%). 

General injustice in the country was named by 3% of the population. In Tbilisi, the Court decision was evaluated as fair more than in other locales (a 5-7% difference).

When asked, “Which of the following is the responsibility of the Courts, prosecutor’s office, Ministry of Interior or other actors/bodies?”, 7% said the Courts were responsible for collecting evidence to prove the defendant is guilty and 12% said the Court was responsible for collecting evidence to prove the defendant is innocent. Large shares of the population responded ‘Don’t know’ to these general knowledge questions about collecting evidence (33% and 38%).

Following the mass street protests led by Zaza Saralidze, the government took two major steps in their political response: the Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze resigned and a temporary investigative commission was established in the Parliament of Georgia to study the process of investigation of the case. Half the population (50%) support Shotadze’s resignation, about one fifth (19%) do not support the decision, and about one third (30%) don’t know what to think. People who have heard about the murder case were divided over the parliamentary commission: 28% said the Commission would manage to establish the truth and 32% said it would not manage to do so. One third (33%) did not know whether the temporary investigative commission would establish the truth about the case and seven percent knew nothing about the commission at all.

In Georgia, the vast majority of people have heard about the Khorava Street murders. Yet, they lack knowledge about the Court decision. Nevertheless, they evaluated it as unfair and blamed the Prosecutor’s Office for the most part. The political responses to the murder – the resignation of the Prosecutor General and the establishment of a parliamentary investigative commission – were generally supported by those who were aware of them. However, many were uncertain about these responses.

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.

Monday, July 09, 2018

What predicts foreign policy preferences?

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media on July 9. It was written by Koba Turmanidze. Koba Turmanidze is the President of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgia’s population has consistently expressed strong support for European Union and NATO membership while approval of membership in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has been quite low. A recent RAND Corporation publication challenges these observations, suggesting that the population of several post-Soviet states — including Georgia — fear Russia and therefore, prefer equally good relations with Russia and the West.

Whether this is a viable option for Georgia is beyond the scope of this writing. Instead, it focuses on a key claim within the RAND report: that a rational calculus about potential punishment from Georgia’s northern neighbour undergirds a preference for neutrality. Further inspection of CRRC’s 2017 Caucasus Barometer survey, which was used by RAND, suggests the data do not support this argument. Rather, the data suggest that the key difference between people who support Western-oriented, Russia-oriented or neutral foreign policies in Georgia is values.

The RAND report discusses balance of power during and after the Cold War, arguing that the most significant disagreement between Russia and the West stems from their contest to exercise influence over the ‘in-between states’, i.e. states which Russia has geopolitical interests in and which have not been accepted into the EU or NATO. These countries include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. According to the report, in these states people fear that tensions between Russia and the West are detrimental to their national interests, and therefore, they prefer neutrality over alignment with any political or economic bloc.

Fear of Russia does not influence people’s preferences
Do perceptions of tensions between Russia and the West have implications for popular support for Western or Russia-led alliances? Examination of the same data RAND used shows no statistically significant relation between fear of tensions between Russia and the West and support for Georgia’s membership in either Western or Russia-led alliances. Moreover, fear of those tensions does not influence people’s preferences for either of the neutral options they could have named on the survey (having equally good relations with both alliances or joining neither).

Note: Predicted probabilities are based on a multinomial logistic regression model. 

Rather than fear of Russia, people’s foreign policy preferences reflect a deep value-based division in Georgia, which the RAND report fails to acknowledge. To demonstrate this, consider the impact of a question on whether people endorse democracy as ‘the only game in town’.

The 2017 Caucasus Barometer asked respondents to select one of three different statements about democracy. Approximately half (52%) agreed with the statement that ‘Democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’. These supporters of democracy are significantly more likely to support Georgia’s membership in Western organisations compared with those who do not think that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. Importantly, support for democracy has no significant impact on other answer options: it neither changes the level of support for membership in Russia-led organisations nor influences neutral options such as ‘both’ or ‘none’.

Note: Predicted probabilities are based on multinomial logistic regression models as above.

A similar analysis on attitudes towards the role of the government (i.e. whether the government is expected to be like a parent or like an employee) re-affirms that values rather than a fear of punishment by Russia are at the heart of foreign policy preferences in Georgia. Those who believe the government should be work for the people are more likely to support the country’s membership in Western organisations compared to those who think the government should be like a parent. At the same time, attitudes towards the government have no significant impact on popular support to Russia-led alliances or to neutral choices.

Supporters of a pro-Western orientation in Georgia are a coherent group: they have clear values such as believing that the government should work for the people rather than act as a parent, and they support democracy over other forms of governance. Such coherence is less pronounced among supporters of neutrality and totally absent among supporters of Russia-led alliances.
Public opinion in Georgia follows the logic of ‘where you stand depends on where you sit’: people’s foreign policy preferences are not merely driven by fear of Russia’s potentially violent reactions to the geopolitical manoeuvres of a neighbouring country. Instead, a pro-Western orientation is deeply rooted in people’s values.

The replication code for this blog post is available here. The data used in this article is available from CRRC’s online data analysis portal.

Note: Predicted probabilities in the above charts are based on multinomial logistic regression models where the dependent variables have five options: join EU/NATO, join EAEU/CSTO, have equally good relations with both, join none, or don’t know. Key independent variables are (1) support to democracy, (2) support to neutrality vs alignment with a bloc, and (3) (dis)agreement with the statement whether the tensions between Russia and the West are detrimental for Georgia. Control variables include basic demographic characteristics such as age, gender, settlement type, perceived economic rung, employment status, and household’s economic conditions measured as monthly spending and borrowing of money for food or utilities.

Monday, July 02, 2018

The population of Tbilisi on street dogs

Street dogs are a common sight on the streets of Tbilisi. How do people’s attitudes towards them vary by age, gender, and whether or not someone lives in the center or outskirts of the city? Results of a November 2017 phone survey CRRC-Georgia carried out for a British charity Mayhew provide some answers to these questions.

Forty per cent of Tbilisi’s population reported positive attitudes towards street dogs, 39% neutral, and 20% negative. Women and men and people in central and non-central neighborhoods of Tbilisi report positive and negative attitudes at similar rates. People over the age of 56 report negative attitudes slightly more often than people under this age.

Why do the 20% of the population who report negative attitudes not like street dogs? Their majority (67%, although margins of error are higher for this relatively smaller subgroup) report a “general fear of dogs” as the main reason. The data suggests that women fear dogs more than men, which is not a finding unique to Tbilisi. Research from other contexts (e.g. see here and here) also indicates that women in general are more likely to report fearing dogs than men.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Do people in Georgia see the government as a parent or as an employee?

Based on CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey data, this blog post describes how people in Georgia see the government, as a “parent” or as an “employee”, and how this differs by settlement type, gender, and education level.

The Caucasus Barometer survey regularly asks people, “Which of the following statements do you agree with: “‘People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent’ or ‘Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.’” Approximately half of the population of Georgia (52%) agreed in 2017 with the former statement and 40% with the latter. Responses to this question have fluctuated to some extent over time, but overall, attitudes are nearly equally split.

 Note: For the charts in this blog post, answer options “Agree very strongly” and “Agree” were combined for both statements. Answer options “Agree with neither [statement]”, “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were also combined.

Opinions about the role of government differ by gender and settlement type. More women tend to agree with the paternalistic opinion about a government, while men’s opinions are equally split. As for people living in different settlement types, the population of Tbilisi answer more often that government should be like an employee.

People with higher than secondary education agree more often that people should control the government. A majority of those with secondary or lower education report that government should take care of people like a parent.

Note: Answer options “No primary education”, “Primary education”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were combined into the category “Secondary [education] or lower”. Answer options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or Specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were combined into the category “Higher than secondary [education]”. 

In Georgia, opinions about the role of government are divided. Women, people living outside the capital, and people with lower levels of education agree more often that a government should be like a parent.

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

The EU, USA or Russia: Who is believed to be able to support Georgia best?

In recent years, Georgia has benefited from EU and US assistance, with around €400 million indicatively allocated for the EU’s projects in Georgia in 2017-2020, and the US government increasing assistance to Georgia in the 2018 Spending Bill. In contrast, Georgia’s relationships with Russia are tense, with diplomatic relations terminated in 2008.

In the 2017 wave of Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia survey (EU survey), a question was asked: “Who can currently best support Georgia – the EU, USA or Russia?” A third of the population (35%) answered the EU, while equal shares named the US and Russia (23% and 24%, respectively). According to 8%, none of these three actors can support Georgia, and 9% either responded “Don’t know” or refused to answer the question. Importantly, the distribution of answers did not change compared to earlier waves of the EU survey in 2013 and 2015.

Ethnic Georgians were more likely to report the EU can best support Georgia. Education and age also matter. People with tertiary education and people under the age of 56 said more often that the EU can best support Georgia. Ethnic minorities, on the other hand, named Russia much more often.

Note: For the question, “Which ethnic group do you consider yourself a part of?” original answer options were recoded. Options “Armenian”, “Azerbaijani”, “Abkhaz”, “Ossetian”, “Russian”, and “Other ethnicity” were all combined into the category “Ethnic minorities”. For the question, “Who can currently best support Georgia – the EU, USA or Russia?” original answer option “Other” (1%) was excluded from the analysis. 

Almost half (47%) of those who reported trusting the EU also reported that the EU can best support Georgia, while 49% of those who reported distrusting the European Union also said that Russia can best support Georgia.

Note: For the question, “How much do you trust or distrust the EU?” original answer options “Fully trust” and “Trust” were combined into the category “Trust” on the chart above. The original answer options “Fully distrust” and “Distrust” were combined into the category “Distrust”.

Many in Georgia trust the European Union and believe that the EU can best support Georgia. People with tertiary education, ethnic Georgians and those who are younger than 56 years old are more likely to say that the EU can best support Georgia.

To learn more about the population’s attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, read the following blog posts: Awareness of EU aid and support for EU membership in Georgia and One in six in Georgia think the country is a member of the EU. To explore the data in this blog post further, visit our Online Data Analysis platform.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Air pollution in Georgia: Available data and the population’s perceptions

Lung cancer, strokes, and heart attacks can all be caused by air pollution, a problem that affects millions of people daily. How aware is the population of Georgia about this problem, and how important do people find the issue?

In the December 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, pollution was the second most commonly named “infrastructural” issue, with 23% of the population choosing it in the respective show card. Only roads were named more often, by 33%. Approximately equal shares of men and women named pollution: 25% of women and 20% of men; similarly, there was no difference in the frequency of naming this issue by age.

Settlement type does make a difference, though. While 42% of people living in the capital reported in 2017 that pollution was the most important infrastructural issue, 26% of people living in other urban settlements did. This option was chosen much less often by the rural population (11%) and by people living in predominantly ethnic minority settlements (5%).  Perceptions of the importance of this issue have been consistent  both nationally and in different settlement types since CRRC and NDI have started asking the question.

The public’s concern with pollution makes sense. Levels of air pollution in Georgia are higher than what is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). PM2.5 is particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 µm. By comparison, the average diameter of a human hair is 50 to 70 µm. PM2.5 is considered the deadliest type of pollution as it is smaller than other types and can do much more harm to the human body. According to the latest available information, PM2.5 was recorded at 25 in Tbilisi in 2015. The level that the WHO recommends is 10. Anywhere from 12.1 to 35.4 is considered to be in the moderate range.

The government of Georgia has not ignored the problem. The Law of Georgia on Ambient Air Protection was adopted in 1999 to deal with air pollution, and was amended a number of times since. Recently larger, more environmentally friendly buses have been integrated into Tbilisi’s public transport system, a step toward a greener city. In addition, the excise tax on older cars, which cause a greater amount of pollution than newer ones in general, have increased, thus encouraging the import of greener vehicles. Moreover, vehicle inspections for large vehicles started again this year after a 10 year hiatus, and it is planned that these will become mandatory for all vehicles from 2019.

More can be done, and there are some potential improvements that can lead to a decrease in the number of cars on the roads, and therefore improve air quality. Public transport should be more efficient, which can be, in part, accomplished through optimizing routes and timetables. Making cities more pedestrian and bike-friendly, and increasing awareness of the benefits of walking and car sharing could also ameliorate the situation. Clearly, the government would have to back many of these changes.

While the government has taken some steps to reduce air pollution, quite radical steps are still needed in Georgia before it reaches a healthy level by WHO standards. The issue is important to the Georgian public, and particularly to the population of Tbilisi.

To learn more about CRRC surveys, visit our Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Willingness to temporarily emigrate from Armenia and Georgia: Does education matter?

A previous CRRC blog post showed how people’s willingness to temporarily emigrate from Armenia and Georgia varied according to their belief in whether everything in life is determined by fate or people shape their fate themselves. The blog post concluded that compared to people who are not interested in temporary emigration from these countries, those who are tended to believe slightly more often that people shape their fate themselves.

There are a number of factors that contribute to an individual’s willingness to emigrate including political, economic, and social circumstances. Using data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, this blog post looks at whether or not people who express a willingness to temporarily emigrate from Armenia and Georgia differ from others in terms of their educational attainment. Importantly, though, this question does not measure actual emigration, but rather reported intentions that may or may not result in action.

In both countries, the share of people willing to temporarily emigrate is the highest among those who have tertiary education. Importantly, this finding is consistent over time.

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 “Tertiary”.

People with either a close friend or a close relative living abroad at the time of survey fieldwork also report more often that they would leave Georgia for a certain period of time to live somewhere else. The findings are similar in Armenia. Importantly, when looking at this indicator of migration networks, there are, again, differences by level of education. As the chart below shows, in 2017, people with higher levels of education reported having close friends abroad more often than those with lower levels of education. This finding is also consistent for CB waves through the last decade.

As the findings presented in this blog post show, in both Armenia and Georgia, people having tertiary education report an interest in temporary emigration more often than those with lower levels of education. Importantly, a larger share of people with tertiary education also have relatives and/or friends living abroad. Thus they can rely both on relatively advanced knowledge, including knowledge of foreign language(s), and on the opportunities provided by migration networks.

To learn more about CRRC surveys, visit our Online Data Analysis portal.