Monday, August 14, 2017

Who makes political decisions in Georgia: What people think

[Note: This post was written by Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The post was originally published here in partnership with On.ge. The views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]

Bidzina Ivanishvili resigned from the post of prime minister of Georgia on November 20th 2013, and in his own words, “left politics“. Speculation about his continued informal participation in the political decision-making process began even before he resigned and still continues. Some politicians think that Ivanishvili gives orders to the Georgian Dream party from behind-the-scenes, while others believe that he actually distanced himself from politics. Politicians, journalists and experts continue to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, a majority of Georgia’s population thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still involved in the governing process and that his informal participation is unacceptable.

The results of CRRC-Georgia and NDI-Georgia surveys carried out during the last two years indicate that the majority of the population of Georgia thinks that former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili continues to be a decision-maker in the actions of the government. Notably, this is people’s perceptions and may not coincide with reality. In none of the main demographic groups (in terms of sex, age, level of education and settlement type) does the majority indicate otherwise. In total, 56% of the population would prefer that the former prime minister not be involved in the decision-making process at all. About one fourth of the population, on the other hand, thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili should hold an official position and make political decisions. Only 7% would prefer Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal involvement in Georgia’s governance.

People who say that the United National Movement is the party closest to them more frequently indicate that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still a decision-maker in politics, compared to Georgian Dream supporters. A majority (86%) of United National Movement supporters say that it is preferable if Bidzina Ivanishvili is not involved in decision making processes, while 43% of Georgian Dream supporters think that the former prime minister should be involved in these processes in an official capacity. It is noteworthy that the share of Georgian Dream supporters who prefer that Bidzina Ivanishvili participate in the political decision-making process in an official capacity decreased during the last two years.



Note: The question about party support was asked as follows: “Which party is closest to you?” People were grouped as supporters of the Georgian Dream or United National Movement based on their answers to this question.

These differences are not entirely unexpected considering the polarized political environment. Though, as we see, even among Georgian Dream supporters, only a small share prefers Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal participation in political decision-making processes.

The data show that informal governance is unacceptable for the majority of the population of Georgia. No matter an individual’s sex, age, education, place of residence or political orientation, the majority of the population thinks that if a person resigns from politics, s/he should no longer influence the government’s decisions. These results indicate that basic principles of democratic governance, namely transparency of decision-making processes and accountability, are important for people. Politicians should take this into consideration.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Rare evidence: Judges on challenges in the court system of Georgia

Georgia has long faced problems with its court system. On CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey, only about one in four people in Georgia reported trusting the country’s court system. Since 2012, there have been three sets of judicial reforms, yet according to a number of NGOs, there are still important issues to be solved.
We often hear what NGO representatives think about the challenges facing the judiciary system in Georgia. It is, however, rare to have the chance to learn what judges think about the system. In partnership with the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, CRRC-Georgia interviewed 12 current and former judges in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Zugdidi in October-December, 2016. Although 28 judges were sampled originally, others could not be contacted or refused to be interviewed. Importantly, the findings of these interviews cannot be generalized. Still, they provide rather unique insights into what judges think about the problems in the judicial system in Georgia. 
Respondents named several important issues that have a negative impact on the court system. First, judges have large caseloads that might affect the quality of decisions. Thus, more judges are needed to handle cases. Second, judges note a lack of courtrooms. Both problems result in trials being delayed. As one judge noted:
We have a shortage of staff, we need more judges. There are too many cases. We fail to handle them all. We lack judges, <…> so, this may affect the quality of [court] decisions. Trials take too long, because we simply don’t have [enough] courtrooms. (Current judge; male; Tbilisi City Court).
Importantly, both these issues have already been addressed in the draft version of the 2017-2021 Court System Strategy, which calls for an increase in the number of judges as well as courtrooms.
The interviewed judges also noted the lack of trust in the court system as another important issue. The respondents believe that it may be the judges themselves who are sometimes responsible for the lack of trust in the court system. In their opinion, if judges in Georgia consistently issued well-elaborated verdicts, the system would earn more trust, since such verdicts would help avoid any suspicion about the quality of the verdict, particularly from representatives of the party that has lost.  
Respondents also think that the media influences public opinion about the courts. Some of the respondents believe that the media prefers to cover problematic cases, especially when the court competence is to be questioned, rather than the cases when the court came up with a well-reasoned and convincing verdict. Generally, the interviewed judges are not against media coverage of the court proceedings and believe that such coverage increases the transparency of courts. However, some of them believe that journalists should be trained on how to use legal terminology properly.
In spite of the challenges associated with such interviews, it would be valuable to continue to collect these first-hand accounts of the court system from judges. The full report of this study is available here

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rugby: The sport Georgians report the country is most successful at

The Georgian National Rugby Team’s achievements have been many in recent years. From gaining automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in 2015 for the first time to ranking 12th in the world rugby rankings, the team has obtained widespread national support and established a presence on the international rugby scene.

The results of a telephone survey CRRC-Georgia conducted in May 29-30, 2017 suggest that the public recognizes these achievements. According to the survey, a majority (62%) of the Georgian public think that rugby is Georgia’s most successful sport. This attitude is more common in Tbilisi (72%) than in other urban (67%) and rural areas (51%). Notably, more women (67%) than men (57%) consider rugby to be the most successful sport. The public also backs financial support for rugby: after football (38%), Georgians report second most often (27%) that rugby should be supported.

In 2015, Georgia won the right to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship for the first time, one of the highest level juniors’ tournaments in the rugby world. The tournament kicked off on May 31 in Kutaisi and came to an end on June 18, in Tbilisi at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium. Tournament awareness was high. According to the CRRC-Georgia survey results, more than half of the population (55%) was aware that Georgia was about to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship.

In spite of strong support for rugby, many Georgians don’t know much about the game. The survey shows that only 18% of the population knows what the amount of points for a try without conversion kick is (five points), and only 6% of Georgians know how many players are in the scrum (eight players) for each team. While 21% gave the incorrect answer on this question, 73% responded don’t know. Notably, men (28%) gave the right answer more often than women (10%) to the question on tries.


CRRC-Georgia’s survey results show that Georgians recognize the country’s rugby achievements and support allocating financial resources to it. However, many aren’t so knowledgeable of the game’s rules.

The above results are based on a panel telephone survey carried out between May 29-30, 2017 with 726 completed interviews. The panel was created using random digit dialing. The results are representative of Georgia and have an average margin of error of 2.9%. Want to know what Georgians think about another issue or track attitudes over time? Get in touch with us at crrc-geo@crrccenters.org if your organization has questions about Georgian public opinion.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nudging Marshrutka Safety

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. ]

Auto safety is a perennial issue across Eurasia, as the generally poor condition of highways and byways, the proliferation of haphazardly maintained vehicles and a proclivity for reckless driving mean that death is a constant part of life on the road.

Among the most hazardous forms of public transportation are the ubiquitous communal minibuses known as marshrutkas, which ferry passengers around and between cities and towns. Marshrutkas are a mixture of taxi and public bus, and, for passengers, make up in convenience what they lack in comfort. But there is also a significant risk involved in using marshrutkas because many are old and in need of repair, and they are operated by overworked, stressed-out and distracted drivers.

But there is good news for marshrutka users: an experimental project conducted in Georgia suggests that a cost-efficient monitoring program could significantly increase rider safety.

The monitoring format, developed by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers-Georgia, underwent a month-long test, starting last September 20. CRRC recruited paid observers to ride on marshrutkas and monitor the driving behavior of operators. Monitors tracked marshrutka trips in three phases. In the first, they recorded whether a group of drivers engaged in dangerous driving behaviors, including passing in places where it was illegal, and distracted driving behaviors like smoking and talking on a cell phone. This contingent formed the trial’s control group.

For the second phase, monitors followed a different group of drivers, who were told in advance that they were being observed and that if they were judged the safest driver in the survey, they would receive a fuel voucher. The drivers in the second group were also told that an anonymous monitor would at some point in the near future come back to observe their road behaviors.

The last step involved monitors returning to both the control and treatment groups unannounced to observe driving.

By comparing the results of the first phase to the second, it was possible to determine the effect of overt observation on driving patterns. Evaluating participants in the second phase to the same minibuses in the third provided insight into whether those who knew they were monitored, and were told they would be monitored again, maintained safer driving practices. Lastly, by comparing the first-phase drivers to their third-phase performances, it was possible to test for the consistency of driving behaviors by the control group.

The results of the trial indicated that a small, anonymous monitoring program could be effective in improving driver practices. While in the first round of observation, 96 percent of drivers engaged in some form of dangerous driving, among those in the second group, who were told in advance that they were being monitored, the number was 70 percent. And while 79 percent of drivers made illegal passes in first phase, 43 percent from the second group engaged in such behavior.

In the third phase, carried out several weeks after the first two phases, drivers from the second group still engaged in 14 percent fewer dangerous driving behaviors than those from the first group who had not been told in advance that they were being observed.

CRRC-Georgia’s project involved the monitoring of 360 inter-city minibus trips in a randomized control trial (RCT). RCTs are considered the gold standard in social science because they provide firm evidence of cause and effect through randomly giving a treatment to some individuals, and not others and then comparing outcomes.

While the marshrutka safety experiment raises hopes that a monitoring program could encourage changed behaviors, the evidence is not definitive. The experiment did not take weather into account, a factor that can potentially alter driving patterns. It also could not measure precisely for the possibility of contamination of the source pool, i.e. drivers who had been observed later talking about the project with colleagues, and encouraging other drivers to be more careful behind the wheel.

While the experiment was carried out in Georgia, there is no particular reason to suspect that such a policy would not work in other areas and contexts.

Monitoring projects could be conducted either by non-governmental organizations or by municipal government agencies. A government-run project would likely stand a better chance of improving safety, as drivers could be fined for hazardous driving, as well as rewarded for safe driving. This policy would likely have a greater impact since social scientists have repeatedly shown that individuals strive to avoid losses much more intensively than they seek out gains. 

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. The full report this article is based on is available here: http://bit.ly/2txNQRR. The data and replication code for the analysis in this article is available here: http://bit.ly/2us0tCr. The research presented in this article was funded through the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this article is the sole responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflects the views of USAID, the United States Government, or EWMI.]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some in Georgia fear visa liberalization will lead to more refugees

Visa liberalization with the EU Schengen zone countries has been a much celebrated milestone for Georgia. But with new opportunities for Georgia to move closer to Europe come new opportunities for anti-European sentiment. CRRC data show that some people in Georgia fear that visa liberalization could increase the number of refugees coming to Georgia. To complicate the issues further, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz made a comment suggesting that there was a need to build refugee camps outside the EU, in countries like Georgia. Such statements could play on fears of an increase in refugees and foreigners more generally in Georgia.

In looking at data from the most recent CRRC/NDI survey, conducted in April 2017, approximately half of the population of Georgia believe that as a result of visa liberalization more refugees will come to Georgia, with a sizable share of the population (20%) responding they don’t know whether this will or will not be the case. While it is true that the visa liberalization process required the Government of Georgia to harmonize their laws in accordance with EU legislation, including making laws on the process of accepting refugees and asylum seekers clearer, the truth is that these laws will not necessarily increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Georgia. CRRC/NDI data, however, suggest that at least part of the population is misinformed about the issue.

 

In contrast, when asked about potential threats of visa liberalization more broadly in an earlier, CRRC/CIPDD survey conducted in January/February 2017, far fewer people mentioned refugees, or foreigners more generally, entering Georgia. According to the findings of CRRC/CIPDD survey, 27% said visa liberalization would have no negative consequences and 15% said they didn’t know. Slightly over half (58%) named some negative consequences of the visa liberalization. Rather small shares, though, named the threat of more foreigners (5%), refugees (4%) and terrorists (9%) coming to Georgia.


Note: This was an open-ended question for which each respondent could provide up to two answers.

While the answers to these two survey questions cannot be compared, they give us some understanding of the fears of the population of Georgia about visa liberalization regarding the possible influx of refugees. Although a small share of the population was worried about refugees entering the country even before visa liberalization came into force and saw that possibility as a potential threat, a much bigger threat was associated with Georgian citizens leaving the country.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, visit our online data analysis tool. Keep an eye out for the CIPDD dataset in the near future as well.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Visa liberalization: Expectations in Georgia

In March, 2017, after nearly five years of negotiations, a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen zone countries came into force for Georgian citizens. Even though political elites generally perceive this achievement as a step forward for Georgia, the public’s attitudes and expectations about visa liberalization are not solely positive. Using CRRC/NDI April 2017 survey data, this blog post presents some assessments of the EU-Georgia visa liberalization.

Nine in ten people in Georgia report having heard about visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries for Georgian citizens, however, not everyone feels they have enough information about the rules of visa free travel. Importantly, roughly 4 in 10 people disagree with the view that visa free travel will benefit them or people like them.


 


Note: For these two questions, the sample was split equally: half of the respondents were asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit people like you?”, while the other half was asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit you?” 

A number of specific statements about visa liberalization were also assessed during the survey. Overall, attitudes are rather mixed. There is a widespread belief that visa liberalization will not have any negative consequences for the Georgian economy. Approximately 2/3 of the population think it will increase emigration from Georgia. Probably most importantly, 78% think that ordinary people will not be able to afford traveling in the EU, even though visas are not required.


 

To conclude, expectations of the visa liberalization are not uniformly positive in Georgia. To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Municipal Transparency Ratings

In 2014, CRRC-Georgia requested information from Georgian municipalities through the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI). Only 37 of 63 municipalities responded to our request. 31 of these provided some information. Only 17 provided complete information in response to our request. Based on this experience, CRRC-Georgia decided to rate the municipalities’ responses. While a score of 0 means that the municipality didn't respond at all, municipalities received 1 point for at least responding to the letter. Municipalities which received a score of 2 provided us with some of the information requested, while municipalities that scored 3 provided all requested information.
 

Months later, we repeated our endeavor. However, this time, freedom of information requests were submitted directly to the municipalities. This time around, we asked for data in an Excel file. Almost all the municipalities responded, however, the quality of responses varied. 44 municipalities sent Excel files and 39 contained the requested information. An analogous rating system was used to rate the responses to this round of freedom of information requests.
 

Based on these two rounds of our unintentional rating of municipal transparency, we created an index of municipal FOI transparency, summing up the two scores. Zero corresponds to no response for both rounds of requests while six reflects response with full data provided.