Tuesday, March 21, 2023

People in Georgia are highly uncertain about their economic future

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Nino Zubashvili, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

Across various demographic groups, Georgians are uncertain about what their economic futures might hold, with those from lower-income backgrounds more uncertain than those with a higher income.

Georgia today faces numerous structural challenges that hinder social and economic development, such as low productivity and low-quality jobs, poor quality of education, poor links between education and employment, high unemployment, and poverty. 

On top of this, high use of the dollar alongside the country’s own currency, and reliance on income from tourism make the country vulnerable to external shocks. 

Despite some positive developments, including becoming an upper middle income country in 2016, a ‘very high’ rating on the Human Development Index, and a low average multidimensional poverty score (37%), public opinion polling has found that the public is highly uncertain about their economic prospects. 

CRRC Georgia’s Caucasus Barometer 2021 data shows that while a plurality of the population feel they are part of the middle class, almost half are uncertain about their households’ future economic well-being. 

Half (50%) of Georgia’s population perceive their current economic status as in the middle, 34% as poor, and only 13% as high. 

When asked what they expect their economic status to be five years in the future,  8% of the population see themselves on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, with 18% seeing themselves in the middle class. Notably, 28% believe they will be relatively well off, twice as many as currently see themselves in that category.

But uncertainty about the future is substantial. Almost half of the public (46%) answered that they didn’t know what their household’s economic status would be in five years. 

Numerous factors are associated with how people in Georgia perceive their future economic rung. 

More than half of those who perceive themselves to be on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder are uncertain about the future. A fifth on the lower rungs expect to stay there, and around a fifth expect to move to the middle of the ladder. Few on the lowest rungs today expect to move to a relatively well-off rung. 

In contrast, wealthier people, as measured along a wide range of variables, tend to expect a better future for themselves. People who perceive themselves to be relatively well-off have less uncertainty about their economic futures, and expect to continue to be relatively well-off. 

Similar patterns are present for people and households with higher measured incomes, and who do not struggle to buy food.

In terms of age, younger Georgians (aged 18-34) have higher expectations for a better economic future and less uncertainty compared to other age groups. With age, expectations for a better economic future decrease, and uncertainty increases. 

Economic expectations are also notably higher and uncertainty notably lower among those with a higher education, compared to those with a lower level of education.

Personal beliefs and perceptions of the country’s future are also associated with a household’s perceived future economic rung. Those who believe that ‘the situation in Georgia will never improve’ are slightly less likely to expect improvements in the economic situation compared to those who believe that everything will be fine in Georgia. 

Finally, it is perhaps unsurprising that people who are currently more satisfied with life are also more likely to have positive expectations for their economic futures. 

Gender, ethnicity, settlement type, employment, religious denomination, frequency of attendance at religious services, whether or not someone has enough money to buy durable goods or not, ownership of durable goods, party affiliation, whether people think everything in life is determined by fate or not, and generalised trust were not associated with what people think their household’s economic future holds.

The largest share of people in almost every socio-demographic group in Georgia are uncertain about their economic futures, regardless of their level of education, perceptions of fate, or perspective on Georgia’s politics. 

Note: The data used in the article can be found on CRRC’s online data analysis tool.

The analysis was carried out using logistic regression. The regression included the following social and demographic variables in all cases: sex (male or female), age group (18–35, 35–55, 55+), ethnic group (ethnic Georgian or other ethnicity), settlement type (capital, other urban, rural), educational attainment (secondary or lower education, or higher education), employment situation (working or not), party support (GD, opposition, no party, DK/RA), current perceived economic rung (low, medium, high), religious denomination (Orthodox Christian, other, none), frequency of attendance to religious services (frequently, sometimes, rarely, never). Household’s economic well-being measurements included household’s income, household’s purchasing power (Money not enough for durables, money enough for durables and more), sufficiency of household’s income (Not enough money to buy food every month or more often, not enough money to buy food less often or never), ownership of durable goods. Attitudinal variables tested as part of the analysis included, whether or not one believes in fate, generalized trust, satisfaction with life, whether politics in Georgia is going in the right or wrong direction, whether the situation in Georgia will improve. Both attitudinal variables and measures of households’ economic well-being were tested independently in separate regression analyses that controlled for the previously mentioned social and demographic variables.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Is the Georgian government doing enough to secure EU membership?

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, a non-resident Senior Fellow at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, NDI, or any related entity.

CRRC Georgia data suggests that while the majority of Georgians want to join the EU, they are largely split along partisan lines on whether their government is doing enough to secure the country’s candidate status.

Georgia has long stated that it aims to join both the European Union and NATO. However, the government’s recent actions, including campaigning for the foreign agent draft law, increasingly critical rhetoric on Ukraine, and the propagation of conspiracy theories suggesting that the West was attempting to draw Georgia into the war in Ukraine have called its dedication to Euro-Atlantic integration into question.

Georgia was denied EU candidacy last year, and obligated to fulfil 12 criteria laid out by the EU for its bid to be re-examined by Brussels.

Data from CRRC Georgia and the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) December 2022 poll suggests that the public’s support for membership remains as strong as ever. However, a majority think the government is not doing enough to support the country’s bid, and the public is split over how the country’s foreign policy has developed over the last five years.

The CRRC and NDI survey has consistently shown that a large majority of the Georgian public supports the country’s membership in the European Union. Since April 2014, between 61% and 83% of the public has reported support for the government’s stated goal of joining the European Union, with all bar one survey finding that over 70% of the public is in favour of the goal. In the most recent wave of the survey, 81% reported approving Georgia’s membership bid, slightly up from 75% in July–August of 2022. 

Despite widespread support for Georgia’s EU bid, a slight majority of the public (56%) reported that the government is not doing enough (38%) or doing nothing at all in support of EU membership (18%).

In contrast, only 30% reported that the government was doing everything it could to ensure Georgia’s membership. A further 13% were uncertain and 1% refused to answer the question.

In the July and August edition of the CRRC–NDI survey a similar question was asked, with 27% of the public reporting that the government did everything it could to gain candidate status, 49% reporting it did not do enough, and the remaining share of the public either reporting they did not agree with either sentiment (8%) or that they were uncertain or unwilling to answer the question (16%).

The public was also asked whether Georgia had grown closer to the EU, distanced itself from it, or if the relationship has remained the same as it was over the last five years.

The public was split on this, with roughly equal shares reporting that Georgia had grown closer to the EU (30%) and that Georgia’s relationship with the EU remained the same as it was five years ago (29%). A quarter of the public (24%) reported that Georgia had distanced itself from the EU. One in six (15%) report they are uncertain, while 1% refused to answer the question.

While the data show no partisan divide in terms of support for Georgia’s membership in the European Union, the other two questions show clear divisions between partisans over both how Georgia’s relationship has developed with the European Union and the government’s efforts at gaining candidate status.

While 59% of Georgian Dream supporters felt that the government was doing everything it could for Georgia’s bid, only 7% of the United National Movement’s (UNM) supporters and 19% of those who support no party felt the same. Similarly, 51% of Georgian Dream supporters believed that Georgia has got closer to the EU over the last five years, while only 14% of the UNM’s supporters and a quarter (24%) who reported they support no party felt the same.

While the public remains supportive of Georgia’s membership bid in the European Union, they were split over both the government’s efforts at moving Georgia closer to the EU and how they perceived the relationship’s dynamics over the past half-decade, prior to attempts to adopt the foreign agents law. 

As with many perceptions of the affairs of the day, views on these issues are split along partisan lines. However, it is clear that Georgia’s bid for membership in the European Union is increasingly on the rocks.

The data used in this article is available here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Is People’s Power designed to make Georgian Dream look good?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Koba Turmanidze, President of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.

A CRRC Georgia study found that positioning Georgian Dream as more moderate than its spin-off group, People’s Power, increased support for the ruling party. 

A popular study suggests that when a person goes for a date, they will be more liked if they take a similar, but slightly less attractive companion with them. Likewise, political parties often look better for their voters when they position themselves against a similar, but less appealing opponent. 

This blog shows how the same principle works in Georgia, and how the ruling Georgian Dream party appears to be boosting its support by arguing with its ‘friendly rival’, the People’s Power movement.  

In summer 2022, three Georgian Dream MPs announced that they were leaving the ruling party to ‘speak more freely’; in practice, this meant criticising the West, including ‘personal attacks’ on the US ambassador, and suggesting that the West wanted to drag Georgia into war. 

More politicians later joined the three MPs, and established the Peoples’ Power movement. Its members remained in the parliamentary majority together with Georgian Dream, which raised questions as to whether People’s Power was a true opponent to Georgian Dream or just a satellite party, intended to advance the ruling party’s more radical policies and boost support amongst anti-Western groups within Georgia’s electorate. 

The latter suspicions have been further strengthened by the ambiguous reaction of Georgian Dream’s leadership to the radical anti-Western statements from their new, ostensible opponents. While Irakli Kobakhidze, the ruling party chair, largely endorsed what People’s Power were saying, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili spoke out against the statements, warning against potential damage to relations with the US. 

Even more tellingly, when the foreign agent law was tabled by People’s Power, Georgian dream’s leading figures were quick to express their support for the bill, despite its ostensibly separate roots. 

To investigate whether Georgian Dream could expect any benefit from its radical knock off party, CRRC-Georgia designed and carried out a survey experiment in November 2022. We randomly split a sample of 1,219 respondents into four groups.

The first, a control group of respondents, were told that politicians from People’s Power had criticised the US ambassador and suggested that the US wanted to drag Georgia into the war in Ukraine.

The second group were told both the above and that Irakli Kobakhidze had issued a note not denying the statement. 

The third group was told about People’s Power’s allegations, but added Irakli Gharibashvili’s comment that such statements would weaken Georgia’s relations with the US. 

The fourth group was informed about all three statements: the original anti-Western statement from People’s Power, Irakli Kobakhidze’s note which did not contradict the statement, and the opposing comment by Irakli Gharibashvili. 

Finally, all respondents were asked about whom they would vote for if elections were held tomorrow.

The data show that the comment that differentiated Georgian Dream from its supposed opponent was most beneficial to the ruling party. 

The Prime Minister’s disagreement with the statement increased Georgian Dream’s expected support by eight percentage points: 19% of respondents voted for Georgian Dream on hearing only the anti-Western statement, but on exposure to Gharibashvili’s counter-statement, support for the party reached 27%. 

Importantly, this share of the vote is in the population overall, rather than amongst those who would actually vote in an election, suggesting that the actual effect in an election could be much larger. 

It is noteworthy that only the counterstatement on its own had a statistically significant effect: neither agreeing with the statement nor hearing both agreement and disagreement changed support for the ruling party in a statistically significant manner. 

These findings are in line with similar studies from democracies and less democratic locales: radical spin-off parties tend to benefit the ruling party more than the party that splits off. 

In this study, on average only 3% said they would support People’s Power across all scenarios. However, the impact of the statement was significant for the ruling party when they decided to appear less radical in comparison. 

Notably, the experiment was conducted with a focus on the country’s Western orientation, which is a matter of national agreement: large majorities support Georgia joining the EU and NATO. It is not clear if the ruling party would still gain support from appearing to be the more attractive option in discussions of issues around which there is less consensus. 

While this could have been tested out with the foreign agent law, ostensibly attributable to People’s Power, the ruling party has resolutely put its weight behind the law since its introduction. Whether Georgian Dream returns to positioning itself as more moderate than its spin-off group remains to be seen.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Democratic hypocrisy in Tbilisi

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Non-resident Senior Fellow at CRRC-Georgia and Givi Siligadze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the authors’ alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Endowment of Democracy, or any related entity.

A CRRC Georgia survey found that people living in Tbilisi were more willing to accept democracy-eroding policies if they believed that their preferred party was in power. 

New data released in a CRRC-Georgia policy brief today suggests that a substantial portion of voters in Georgia’s capital tend to be hypocritical in their attitudes towards democracy-eroding policies, being more likely to support them if the party they prefer controls government. However, most do not support anti-democratic policies at all.

Following the first round of municipal elections in October 2021, CRRC-Georgia conducted a representative survey of Tbilisi, in which 1254 randomly sampled individuals took part. Half of the respondents were asked to imagine that their preferred party had won the next parliamentary elections while the other half were asked to imagine their preferred party had lost. 

Afterwards, respondents were asked whether they would support ten different policies, as shown in the chart below. 

Support for each policy varied from 30% (investigation of NGO funding) to 4% (removing supporters of the losing party from government jobs). Support for most policies was low overall, with investigation of NGO funding (30%), initiating investigations of opposition media (25%), investigating the financial backing of the losing party (20%), and restricting the use of election polls (17%) the most supported. 

Other policies such as putting restrictions on protesting election results, giving all leadership positions in parliament to the winning party, initiating constitutional changes without consulting the losing party, initiating electoral reforms without consulting the new opposition, and expanding surveillance operations against political opponents were supported by less than 10% of the Tbilisi public.

However, views on the above propositions varied significantly based on whether or not respondents imagined that their preferred party had won the election. 

The share supporting initiating investigations of the financing of opposition media increased by 12 percentage points if they imagined that their preferred party had won compared to when their preferred party had lost the election.

Support for excluding opposition supporters from leadership positions in parliament and initiating electoral reform without consulting the opposition both increased by 10 points in response to imagining one’s preferred party had won.

The share supporting initiating constitutional changes without consulting the opposition increased by nine points, and the share supporting investigations of the sources of the losing party’s financial backing increased by eight points in response to imagining that a preferred party had won.

Support for restricting protests of election results doubled in response to imagining a preferred party had won, as did support for expanding surveillance of political opponents.

Overall, the data showed that knowing that their preferred political party had won elections increased a person’s tolerance for democracy-eroding policies for one question on average, meaning that the support of voters living in Georgia’s capital for democracy-eroding policies is heavily conditional on the party in power. 

The above pattern is not unique to Georgia, and has been similarly documented in established democracies. However, it does call for reflection among partisans in Georgia. 

Indeed, an alternative framing of the analysis is that imagining your party has lost elections gives one greater support for democracy. Whether partisans in Georgia are willing to pursue that perspective is, however, another matter.

Read in Russian on Jnews.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Are Georgian people afraid of crime?

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, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDI, CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

A recent survey has found that a slight majority of Georgians are afraid of being victims of crimes, with women, those living in the capital, and supporters of the country’s main opposition party particularly likely to feel concerned. 

In recent years, a number of high-profile crimes have captured the public imagination in Georgia. Whether the Khorava street murders in 2017, the murder of Giorgi Shakarashvili in 2021, or a series of femicides at the end of last year, crime has been a regular part of public discourse. 

But how concerned are people about becoming a victim of crime in Georgia? 

To understand this issue, CRRC Georgia and NDI asked about people’s fears of becoming a victim of seven different crimes in a December 2022 survey. 

The data show that while a slight majority (52%) of people are afraid of falling victim to at least one form of crime asked about on the survey, there is no crime which a majority of people are concerned will affect them.

Among crimes relevant to all respondents, being burgled, mugged, or physically assaulted topped the list of crimes people were worried about, with roughly a third of the public at least sometimes concerned with becoming the victim of one of these crimes. This was followed by concerns about having personal information stolen and being sexually assaulted.

The survey also asked about two crimes which were only relevant to specific groups in the population — car owners and parents. Among relevant respondents, concerns about these crimes were more common than concerns about the other crimes asked about.

Among the 29% of respondents who had children, 37% reported worrying about their child being physically harmed at school at least some of the time. The same share of car owners, 55% of respondents, reported being worried at least sometimes about someone breaking into or stealing their car.

Overall, 12% of the public is concerned with becoming victim to one of the crimes discussed in the survey, while only 2% are concerned with becoming a victim to all seven crimes mentioned.

For reference, survey responses of don’t know, refuse to answer, and never worry were classed as not being concerned about a crime. Respondents who reported that they worried sometimes or frequently about becoming the victim of a crime were classed as being concerned. 

Concern over becoming the victim of crime varies significantly among different groups in society.

Women are 14 percentage points more likely than men to be concerned they will become the victims of crime, after controlling for other factors. 

People aged 55+ are 12 points less likely to be concerned about becoming the victims of one of the crimes than people aged 35-54, and 8 points less likely than people aged 18-34, all else being equal. 

Those in Tbilisi are 15 points more likely to be concerned about becoming the victim of a crime than people in other urban areas, and 24 points more likely than people in rural areas, controlling for other factors.

While roughly a third of people (35%) living in the poorest households in the country are concerned about becoming a victim of one of the above crimes, 59% of those in relatively well-off households are.

Notably, supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party are least concerned about becoming the victims of crime, while supporters of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement, are most concerned about becoming the victims of crime. There is a 23 point gap between supporters of the parties, controlling for other factors. 

Supporters of other parties and those who have no apparent political preference fall in between these extremes.

The data show no significant differences between employed people and those not working, ethnic minorities and ethnic Georgians, and people with different levels of education, after accounting for the above noted variables.

Given the number of high-profile incidents of crime in Georgia in recent years, it is perhaps unsurprising that roughly half the public is concerned about becoming the victim of at least one of the crimes asked about in the survey.

The data used in this article is available here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Are individual Georgians politically polarised?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Silagadze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Endowment for Democracy, or any related entity.

CRRC Georgia data found that individual political polarisation — how committedly partisan a person is — is relatively low in Georgia, despite concerns about the country’s polarisation as a whole. 

Political polarisation is seen as a critical issue in Georgia, so much so that overcoming it is a condition for Georgia’s bid to secure candidate status in the European Union. Indeed, many argue that political polarisation is one of the main causes of Georgia’s democratic backsliding. 

Past research has shown that political polarisation has not led to diverging views on policy or ideology in society. Rather, views seemingly only diverge on individual politicians and explicitly partisan events, like the Rose Revolution and major elections. . 

Newly released research from CRRC Georgia suggests that at most three in ten Georgians can be categorised as affectively polarised, meaning that they distrust an opposing party regardless of their views on policy.

In the newly released study, respondents were asked how often they thought the ruling party and opposition did what the country needed. 

Half of the electorate (52%) thought that the ruling Georgian Dream party rarely or never did what the country needed, while 35% reported that the ruling party often or always does what the country needs. As for the opposition, 71% of the public thinks that the opposition rarely or never does what the country needs, and only 9% of Georgians believe the opposition often or always does what the country needs.

To measure polarisation, the two questions were combined to construct a variable that measures whether an individual is politically polarised.

The logic behind the approach is that people who respond similarly to the two questions can be considered less polarised — they believe that both parties either work for the country or do not. In contrast, people who assess one of the two positively and the other negatively can be considered polarised. 

This produces a scale ranging from zero to four, with zero meaning that the respondent was not polarised at all, reporting identical responses to the two questions, and four meaning that the respondent was very polarised, reporting a very positive attitude towards one party and a very negative attitude towards the other.

On this scale, almost half of the electorate (45%) was not polarised at all, while 4% was highly polarised. A further 15% was quite polarised, scoring 3 out of 4 on the scale. 

A regression analysis suggests that someone’s polarisation is not associated with their sex, education, settlement type, employment status, or frequency of praying (a measure of religiosity). 

On the other hand, respondent polarisation was related to age, ethnicity, frequency of religious attendance, and party preference. Older people, ethnic Georgians, people who attend religious services once a week, and partisans all tend to be more polarised than other individuals.  

It is worth noting that the analysis used two different measures of religiosity because they behave differently with respect to polarisation. 

People who attend religious services often tend to be more polarised than people who attend less frequently or do not attend religious services at all. However, when it comes to frequency of praying, people who pray often are not different from people who pray less often or never when it comes to polarisation. 

Measuring social distance among people with a party allegiance suggested that partisanship only has a moderate impact on friendships. 

Georgian Dream supporters were more likely to say that they would feel uncomfortable with an opposition-leaning friend than voters who did not support any particular party. Similarly, opposition supporters were more likely to report that they would feel uncomfortable with a Georgian Dream-supporting friend than those with no party preference. 

Regardless of these statistically significant differences, a very large majority of the public said that they would feel quite or completely comfortable with a friend with either political leaning.

While Georgian political discourse is often dominated by discussion of polarisation, the data suggests that a majority of Georgians are not polarised.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

How do Georgians feel about the influx of Russians?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Silagadze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia, The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDI, CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

Recent CRRC data shows that a large majority of the Georgian public is concerned about the migration of Russians to Georgia.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at least 1.2 million Russian citizens have entered Georgia, equivalent to roughly 30% of Georgia’s population. While the number of Russian citizens who have decided to stay in Georgia remains unclear, the impact of this mass migration is strongly felt in rising rents and concerns over the country’s security.

[Read more on OC Media: Suitcases and shattered dreams: fleeing Russians bring crisis to the Caucasus]

This has manifested in political conflict, with the opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream party arguing over the introduction of entry restrictions for Russian citizens.

A recent NDI and CRRC survey from December 2022 shows that this elite-level partisan difference mirrors a policy divide between everyday voters.

According to the findings, Georgians appear to be concerned about Russians entering their country: two-thirds (69%) think that the large number of Russian citizens entering Georgia since the war will likely have a negative impact on Georgia. 

On the other hand, every sixth Georgian (17%) thinks it will have a positive impact, while 8% say that they do not know, and 6% think the recent influx of Russian citizens will have no impact on the country.

After controlling for other socio-demographic variables, Georgian Dream supporters were slightly more optimistic about Russians coming to Georgia than supporters of the largest opposition group, the United National Movement. However, supporters of the ruling party were not different from supporters of other opposition parties or voters who do not support any party in particular on this issue.

Approximately a third of the public (29%) approve of how the government handled the influx of Russian emigrés, while a majority of the public (57%) disapprove — the remaining 13% do not know what to think about the government’s handling of the emigration.

Regression analysis suggests there is a sharp partisan divide between those who support and do not support the authorities’ approach, with Georgian Dream supporters being much more likely to approve of the government’s Russian migration policy, as shown in the graph below.

Slightly more than two-thirds of the public (69%) were also in favour of introducing a visa regime for Russian citizens — including the majority of Georgian Dream’s supporters.

The above data shows two things clearly: a large majority of the public is concerned about the migration of Russian citizens to Georgia, but supporters of the ruling party are more likely to be satisfied with the government’s approach to the Russian influx. 

Beyond partisan lines, however, the data also shows that the majority of Georgians are concerned and want the government to do something about Russian migration.