Tuesday, January 18, 2022

As Georgia’s government argues with the West, the public want ever closer relations

Note: This article was first published in the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint publication of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, the Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Europe Foundation, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Over the past year, Georgia’s government has engaged in a series of spats with the Western governments and institutions, despite data suggesting people want the opposite.

Last year saw more damage to Georgia’s relationship with the West than in any other time in recent memory. 

In July, the US Embassy said it was ‘deeply disturbed and exasperated’ after the ruling Georgian Dream party withdrew from the Charles Michel Agreement, a deal which the President of the European Union spent multiple days in Georgia negotiating. ‘Refusing’ financial aid that one Member of the European Parliament said would not have been available anyway due to failures to reform the judiciary, was another notable strike in Georgia’s declining Western relations. 

The head of the Georgian Dream Party’s increasingly regular spats with the US Ambassador can only be further damaging relations. Concomitantly, the tone of US statements has gone from one of concern to talk of ‘risk[ing] tyranny’. 

All the while, data from the Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, funded by the Europe Foundation and implemented by CRRC Georgia, shows that the public wanted closer relations with the West in the period leading up to the scandals noted above.

The share of people thinking Georgia should focus its political and economic efforts on Russia has declined since 2013. Two-thirds of people named Russia as one of the countries Georgia should have closer political relations with than others in 2013, compared with only a third in 2021. The data is quite similar when it comes to economic cooperation.

Note: Respondents were asked, ‘Which of the following countries and unions should Georgia have the closest [economic/political] cooperation with?’ They were allowed to provide up to three responses. As a result, the sum of responses does not equal 100%.

While Russia’s importance to Georgians has been on the decline, people’s views of the West have been on the rise. 

In 2015, 49% of people said Georgia’s closest political relations should be with the EU, less than the share naming Russia. Since then, there has been a 13 percentage point rise, bringing the share of the public thinking that relations should be closest with the EU 30 points above those reporting the same of Russia. 

The data on economic relations paints a similar picture, with a 17 percentage point rise in the share of the public thinking that Georgia’s closest economic relations should be with the European Union between 2019 and 2021.


The data paints a similar picture of attitudes towards the US. There was a rise from 46% of the public thinking Georgia should have the US among its closest political partners in 2015 to 61% in 2021. Between 2019 and 2021, the data shows a six percentage point increase in this view. 

The change is even larger with regards to attitudes towards economic relations with the US, with a 19 percentage point rise between 2015 and 2021, including a nine percentage point rise between 2019 and 2021.

The Georgian public increasingly thinks that Georgia should have closer political and economic relations with the West, while fewer and fewer people think Georgia should focus its political and economic relations to the North. Despite the public’s views, the Georgian Western relation remains on the rocks. 

The data used in this article are available here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Gakharia Effect

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Siligadze, a researcher at CRRC Georgia, and Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the authors’ alone and do not represent the views of NDI, CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

In February, then Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned in response to a disagreement within the ruling party regarding the detention of Nika Melia, the leader of the United National Movement. But how did his resignation affect people’s political views?

Gakharia was among the most popular leaders from the ruling party and led Georgian Dream during the 2020 Parliamentary elections.  

Analysis of a February 2021 NDI survey, which was ongoing at the time of Gakharia’s resignation, suggests the immediate effect of Gakharia’s resignation was a nine percentage point decline in support for Georgian Dream.

The CRRC and NDI telephone survey was conducted between 17–24 February 2021. On 17 February, a day before Gakharia’s resignation, every third (32%) Georgian considered Georgian Dream as the political party closest to them, 12% named an opposition party, and more than half (56%) did not specify any party (responding no party, don’t know, or refuse to answer). 

After Gakharia resigned on 18 February, Georgian Dream numbers dropped to around every fifth person (22%) naming it as the party closest to them. One in seven Georgians (15%) named an opposition party, and almost two thirds (63%) did not name a party. 

A regression analysis, controlling for a wide range of factors, suggests that after taking into account differences between people interviewed before and after Gakharia’s resignation, there was a nine percentage point drop in support for Georgian Dream as a result of the resignation.  

Further analysis showed that Gakharia’s resignation did not affect support for opposition parties. Rather, support shifted to other response options generally.  Thus, the PM leaving the party contributed to Georgian Dream supporters becoming disillusioned, though the opposition did not gain much from the resignation either. 


Different groups of the public were affected differently. 

People living in Tbilisi, people with higher education levels, and employed people were significantly less likely to name the ruling Georgian Dream party as being closest to them after Gakharia’s resignation. 

In contrast, the resignation did not affect party identification for people who were not working, people with secondary or a lower levels of education, or people living outside the capital. 


While the changes in party support are logical, the circumstances of the resignation could also reasonably be expected to change people’s views of the government. This is particularly true given Gakharia’s popularity and contribution to the perception that the government was effectively handling the pandemic. 

Yet, regression analyses suggest no changes in terms of people’s attitudes towards the direction the country was headed, the performance of parliament, assessments of the government’s economic COVID mitigation measures, or vaccination intention. 


The above analysis shows that while Gakharia was critical to Georgian Dream support, his departure did not significantly affect how people thought about other issues in the country.

Note: The above data analysis is based on logistic regression models which included the following variables: age group (18–34, 35–54, 55+), gender (male or female), education (completed secondary/lower, secondary technical, or incomplete higher education/higher), employment situation (working or not), ethnicity (ethnic Georgian or ethnic minority), party identification (Georgia Dream, opposition, no party/DK/RA), settlement type (Tbilisi, other urban areas, or rural areas) and interview date (before Gakharia's resignation or after Gakharia's resignation).


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Do Georgians differentiate between the Russian people and Russian state?

Note: This article originally appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint publication of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dr. Tamuna Khostaria, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia, and Nino Mzavanadze, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not neccesarily reflect the views of GFSIS, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Given the hostile relations between Russia and Georgia over the last 30 years, Georgian public opinion towards their northern neighbour could be expected to be less than positive. But do Georgians differentiate between the Russian state and the Russian people?

A study CRRC-Georgia conducted for the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) South Caucasus Office in 2021 shows that people have conflicting attitudes towards Russia and Russians. 

The data suggest that the Georgian public’s attitudes towards Russian people and the Russian state differ significantly. Half of people living in Georgia (52%) report having a positive attitude towards Russian people, with only 7% reporting negative attitudes. 

At the same time, half of the population (54%) reported having a negative attitude towards the Russian Federation, while only 18% held positive views. 

A quote from one 29-year-old ethnic Georgian woman from Tbilisi who holds a higher education and who participated in a focus group reflects these sentiments:

‘For me, Russia is an occupier, but my [negative] attitude is not towards ordinary Russian people, because if my government did horrible things that would not mean that I am like that too. I adore Russian literature, but I dislike Russia with its ruler. But again, that does not mean that I despise the people’.

Overall, 17% of people reported having a positive attitude towards Russia and Russian people, 21% a positive attitude towards Russian people and a negative attitude towards the state, 7% a negative attitude towards both, 22% neutral attitudes towards both, and 33% a mixture of attitudes. Less than 1% had a positive attitude towards Russia and a negative attitude towards Russians; as a result, this category is not included in subsequent analysis.

Which set of attitudes people position themselves in was associated with a number of factors, according to a set of regression analyses. 

Men were significantly more likely to have positive attitudes towards Russian people but not the state than women. Women were significantly more likely to report neutral or uncertain attitudes towards both. 

Attitudes also vary by education level.  People with secondary education or lower were significantly more likely to report positive attitudes towards Russia and Russians. In contrast, people with tertiary education reported more positive views towards Russians but not Russia.

People in Tbilisi were more likely to hold positive attitudes towards Russians but not Russia than in other settlement types, while people in rural areas were less likely to fall into this grouping and more likely to hold neutral views. 

Older people were more likely to have positive views of Russians but not Russia.  This finding might be explained by the closer relations which older people had with Russians during the Soviet Union. 

Indeed, this view was often expressed in focus groups, with participants noting that friendships are less common among young people. One 50-year-old ethnic Georgian woman with a higher education from Samagrelo stated:

‘Considering we are neighbours, we should deepen relationships and make them better. People can make anything happen. Politics is one thing, but people’s power is boundless. My generation feels that way, but the younger generation feels differently. They don’t speak Russian either, and can’t imagine any kind of relationship with Russians. We, the older generation, have more nostalgic sentiments [and can] set politics aside.’

Attitudes also vary with foreign policy preferences. People with negative attitudes towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration also tended to be more likely to have positive views of both Russia and Russians. In contrast, those who were positive about Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration held a broader mix of views. 

People who had a negative attitude towards Georgia joining NATO were roughly 2.5 times more likely (32%) to have a positive attitude towards Russian people and the state compared with people who held a positive attitude towards Georgia’s integration into NATO (13%). 

The data showed a similar pattern with attitudes towards Georgia’s integration with the European Union.

The findings suggest that attitudes towards the Russian people and the Russian state differ in Georgia. 

Men, those living in the capital, people with tertiary education, and older people held a more positive attitude towards the people, but not the state.  

As younger people have relatively weak links with Russians, it is reasonable to assume that what goodwill exists towards Russians is likely to wane in the future. How dynamics play out given these findings though, remains an open question. What is clear though is that people with negative attitudes towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration also have more positive attitudes towards both Russia and Russians.

Note: The above quantitative analysis is based on two multinomial logistic regression models, where the dependent variable is attitudes towards the Russian state and Russian people with the following categories: Positive attitudes towards Russian people and state, positive attitudes towards Russian people but not state, negative attitude towards Russian people and state, Neutral attitude towards Russian people and state, any other attitude towards Russian people and/or state, excluding people who had positive attitudes towards the Russian state but negative attitudes towards Russians. This variable was generated using two survey questions, with one question about people's attitudes towards the state and the other about attitudes towards Russian people. The independent variables include (a) demographic variables (gender, age, settlement type, and education) and attitudes towards joining the EU; and (b) demographic variables and attitudes towards joining the NATO.   

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Georgians are still conservative, but attitudes are slowly changing

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Kristina Vacharadze, Programs Director at CRRC Georgia, and Anano Kipiani, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the Europe Foundation, or any related entity.

Newly released data from the Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia survey, which CRRC Georgia carried out for the Europe Foundation, suggests that the public’s attitudes are changing about women having pre-marital sex and children out of wedlock. 

While in 2015, 69% of Georgians thought that it was never justified for a woman to have pre-marital sex, 55% did in 2021, a 14 percentage point decline. During this same period, there was a 10 percentage point increase in the share of people reporting that it is sometimes or always justified. A large amount of these changes took place between 2019 and 2021, with an 11 percentage point decline in thinking pre-marital sex was never justified for women, while there was a six percentage point increase in thinking it is justified at least some of the time.

Similarly, attitudes towards women having children out of wedlock have changed. In 2015, 57% said it was never justified. In 2021, 42% did. The share reporting that it is sometimes or always justified increased from 37% to 47% in the same period. 

Young people aged 18-34 are generally more liberal than older people regarding women having sexual relationships before marriage and having children without being married.  Comparing the most recent wave to the 2019 data suggests that people under the age of 55 are becoming more liberal about women having children outside wedlock, while older people’s attitudes did not shift significantly. With regard to having pre-marital sex, the data suggest that younger people (18-34) and older people (55+) became more liberal, while the age group in between did not change their views. 



Generally speaking, people living in Tbilisi are less conservative than people living in other areas. While this remains true in the 2021 data, the changes described above stem from people in rural areas becoming more liberal on pre-marital sex and women having children outside of marriage.  In contrast, views in urban areas did not change significantly between 2019 and 2021.


The data shows that people with higher than secondary education are more tolerant about both issues than people with a lower level of education. The change in views observed between 2019 and 2021 primarily stems from changing views among those with tertiary education. 

Generally, ethnic Georgians are more tolerant towards women having sexual relations before marriage and having children outside of it. The gap between ethnic Georgians and ethnic minorities expanded in 2021, as compared with 2019. Ethnic minorities’ views have shifted little in recent years on either issue. 

Analyses by gender did not show any difference with regard to women having pre-marital sex. Although gender plays a role in attitudes towards women having a child without being married, women more often say that it is acceptable than men. Attitudes among men and women moved in a similar manner between 2019 and 2021.

People became less conservative towards pre-marital sex and women having children outside of wedlock in 2021. The data tends to suggest that rural people, young people, and those with higher education became more liberal during this period. 

The data presented in the above article is available here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Is it ok to cancel debts ahead of elections?

This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Makhare Atchaidze, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Endowment for Democracy, or any related entity.

In the run up to several recent elections, the government, or those close to it, have announced amnesties on people’s debts or fines. But what do people think of the practice?

In the lead up to the second round of the 2018 presidential elections, a charitable foundation set up by the founder of Georgian Dream announced a debt amnesty for people with loans of ₾2,000 or less. Around one-sixth of the population benefited from the programme. Similarly, in 2021, the government announced they would annul COVID-19 fines in the lead up to municipal elections. 

Election monitors have criticised this pattern of annulling fines and loans in the lead-up to elections. 

In September 2021, CRRC Georgia conducted a survey for ISFED on attitudes towards elections. The data indicates that a majority think this behaviour influences voters and is unacceptable during the pre-electoral period.

Overall, 59% of the public reported that debt and fine cancellation was unacceptable during the pre-electoral period, while 34% considered this acceptable. A small share did not know or refused to answer (7%).  

People’s attitudes vary according to several factors. Modelling suggests that wealthier people, people who do not support Georgian Dream, and ethnic Georgians are less likely to accept loan cancellation in the pre-electoral period than less wealthy people, Georgian Dream supporters, and ethnic minorities. 

Compared to other regions, people in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli are more likely to accept such activities. 

The data shows that 69% of the people think that cancelling bank loans or fines during the pre-electoral period influences who people vote for. Only 19% of people did not think so, and 12% were uncertain. 

When broken down by social and demographic characteristics, the data shows that ethnic minorities, Georgian Dream supporters, and people living in Adjara and Guria are less likely to say that such initiatives influence who people vote for. 

Opposition supporters, ethnic Georgians, and people from Kakheti are more likely to believe it influences voters.


Overall, most people do not think that annulling fines or loans before elections is acceptable, and they do believe that it influences voters. 

Those who support the governing party and ethnic minority are less likely to think loan cancellation influences voters, and they are more likely to accept the practice.

Note: The above analysis is based on a logistic regression model. The model includes gender (male, female), age groups (18-34, 35-54, 55+), region (Tbilisi, Adjara-Guria, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Imereti-Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti, Shida Kartli- Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Samtskhe-Javakheti-Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti), employment status (employed or not), education (secondary or lower, technical, tertiary), ethnicity (Georgian, ethnic minority), wealth (ownership of 10 different items, a proxy variable), and closest party to the respondent’s views (Georgian Dream, opposition, Don’t know/Refuse to answer/No party).

The data used in this article is available here

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Georgians increasingly optimistic about joining the EU

This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Lucas Fagliano, an International Fellow at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the views of the Europe Foundation, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Despite worsening relations between the EU and Georgia, newly released survey data from the spring of 2021 suggests Georgians are increasingly optimistic about the country’s prospects of joining the bloc within the next five years.

According to data from the newly published Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia 2021 survey CRRC Georgia conducted for the Europe Foundation, there was a steep rise between 2019 and 2021 in the share of people thinking that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years.  This is of course an unrealistic expectation, as the EU accession process itself would likely take more than five years if Georgia already had candidate status.

Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 12-percentage point jump in people believing that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years. This growth marks a recovery in optimism towards Georgia's EU accession chances. 

In 2015, people were 16 percentage points less likely to think Georgia would join the EU in the following five years compared with 2013. In 2019, it was at 13%, and today, 25% believed Georgia would join in the next five years.  


In its 2020 parliamentary election platform, later transformed into the ‘Building a European state’ parliamentary project, Georgian Dream declared the country would apply for EU membership candidacy in 2024. 

As a result, one might expect that the unrealistic expectations stem primarily from Georgian Dream supporters. 

The data does suggest that Georgian Dream supporters are significantly more likely to think Georgia will join the EU in the next five years than people who support no party, though by only eight percentage points. However, there is no significant difference between opposition and Georgian Dream supporters. 

Ethnicity also matters. Ethnic minorities were 17 percentage points less likely than ethnic Georgians to believe Georgia will join the EU in five years or less. 

Looking closer at ethnicity, the data indicates that language also matters. Ethnic minorities had a 20% chance of thinking Georgia will join the EU in the next five years or less if they speak Georgian, while ethnic minorities that did not speak Georgian had a seven percentage point chance of believing Georgia would join the EU in the next five years. 


The growth in the belief that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years highlights a rising optimism in the EU, but also a rising incoherence with past experiences of EU enlargement. 

Accession procedures have lasted on average between eight and nine years after the country applies for candidate status. Georgia's current foreign policy strategy states that by 2024 Georgia will apply for candidate status, expecting to be accepted as a candidate by 2030

If accepted and if negotiations start right away (instead of in 2030), Georgia will need to join in two years to comply with the five-year belief. That is six years below the average, one year ahead of the fastest accession, and eight years ahead of the post-2000 average. 

This could be possible, as there is no time requirement for EU negotiations, and every accession is dealt with individually. However, it is highly unlikely.

It seems particularly unlikely considering the increasingly tense relations between the EU and Georgia. An illustration of this was Georgia’s ‘rejection’ of the EU’s September 2021 financial assistance package under the auspices of healthy economic decision making. However, EU officials, both from the Commission and the Parliament, reiterated the fact that Georgia would not have been able to receive the aid given its failure to fulfil the rule of law and reform conditionalities. 


With Georgia’s relations with the EU in quite poor shape, Georgians are also increasingly optimistic about when the country will join the European Union. Whether Georgians’ optimism will eventually be translated into closer relations though, remains an open question.

The data used in this article is available here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Do people think voter secrecy is respected in Georgia

Note: This post first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dr. Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author's alone and do not reflect the views of ISFED, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

International and local election observers often note violations of the secrecy of the ballot in Georgia, and the 2021 local elections were no exception.  According to a recent study, a plurality of people think such violations could take place in Georgia, and some have heard of such cases in the past year.

On the survey on election-related attitudes carried out by CRRC Georgia for ISFED,  respondents were asked about a hypothetical country where a citizen’s vote was somehow revealed to a neighbour who was on the election commission. 

Respondents were asked if they thought that something like this could happen in Georgia. A plurality of respondents thought it was possible, while around a third deemed it impossible. The rest were unsure.



A regression analysis shows that people in the 18-34 age group were around 1.2 times more likely to think that someone else might find out who they voted for than older people. 

Even though election observers recorded more violations of the secrecy of the ballot in areas predominantly populated by ethnic minorities, ethnic Georgians were 2.4 times more likely to think this kind of violation was possible in Georgia compared to ethnic minorities. 

People with higher than secondary education were 1.2 times more likely to deem it possible than people with secondary or lower education. 

The more durable goods a household owned (a proxy for wealth), the more likely a person was to think the secrecy of the ballot could be compromised in Georgia.

Opposition party supporters were 2.1 times more likely than Georgian Dream supporters and 1.4 times more likely than people who did not name any party as close to their views to think this was possible in Georgia. 

There were no differences in terms of gender, settlement type, or employment type.

Note: This and the following chart were generated from a regression model. The model includes gender (male, female), age group (18–34, 35–54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), ethnicity (Georgian, ethnic minority), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, tertiary), employment status (public sector, private sector employee, self-employed, not employed), party respondent names as closest to his/her views (Georgian Dream, opposition party, did not name a party (Don’t know, Refuse to answer, No party)), and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth.

In focus groups and in-depth interviews, some participants felt that the secrecy of the ballot could only be violated when a voter chooses to show someone their ballot or tell them who they voted for. 

Some participants reported that party coordinators asked voters to send a picture of their ballot. Other participants indicated that voters might mark their ballot by drawing a line or putting a dot on it so that it is possible to tell who they voted for. 

However, participants underlined this would still mean that the voter revealed their preferences. 

One participant stated, ‘I have heard of many things, that they have told them to mark it in a specific way, put a cross on it or a dot. So I have heard of it, but not that they have forced someone. Such things happen. I don’t know. They talk about many things.’

The survey shows that, in the past year, 27% of the population had heard of a voter taking their ballot outside the election precinct. Most of the population (61%) had not heard about such an incident. 

A regression analysis shows that ethnic Georgians were 1.9 times more likely to report knowing of such cases than ethnic minorities. 

Similarly, opposition party supporters were 3.1 times more likely than Georgian Dream supporters and 1.6 times more likely than people who did not name a party to report that they had heard of a ballot being taken out of an election precinct. 

Wealthier people were also more likely to say they knew of such cases. There were no gender, age, settlement type, or employment related differences in the data.

Regardless of whether they had heard of someone taking their ballot outside the election precinct, a majority (88%) of the population thought that it was unacceptable or completely unacceptable when a political party coordinator asks a voter to take a picture of their ballot. There were no differences between different groups on this issue.

Thus, a plurality of Georgia’s population thinks it is possible for someone to know who you voted for. Qualitative data suggests that the public thinks this only occurs if a voter reveals their vote to someone else. 

For a majority, it is unacceptable to be asked to take a photo of one’s ballot. Young people, ethnic Georgians, people with higher than secondary education, opposition supporters and people with better economic situations were more likely to question whether the secrecy of the ballot is respected in Georgia.

The data used in this article are available here.