Friday, March 23, 2007

IRI Release New Georgian Poll | Questions and Highlights

IRI has released a new poll chock full of data (to see all their polls, click here). They interviewed 1500 Georgian voters over the age of 18 in February 2007. This yields an image of political developments, but also provides suggestions to political parties on what the electorate cares about.

We have some misgivings on this poll as a research tool (see below), but let me present some brief highlights.


  • Relations with the CIS remain cold. 60% think that Georgia should not remain a member of the organization.
  • Optimism about resolving armed conflict has significantly dropped. In the recent poll, 32% of respondents now don’t know if South Ossetia will return under Georgian control and 17% of respondents believe it will take more than 6 years. In presumably the same poll done in 2004, 21% thought that South Ossetia would be returned to Georgian control within a year. Now only 5 % believe this will occur.
  • Over 90% still oppose using force in resolving the separatist conflicts.


  • In data supported by CRRC’s Data Initiative, trust in the judicial system remains low, according to the poll. After unemployment, the judiciary is the field most in need of reform, according to respondents. Additionally, 78% of respondents are not satisfied with the Girgvliani court decision.
  • Other things being equal, 50% of voters would choose a male candidate over a female, whereas only 6% would prefer the female (42% claiming indifference). 8% believe that women have too much power in Georgia (we'd love to see what these 8% think about other issues; are they the male part of the 16% who would like to see a return of constitutional monarchy, for example?).
  • 42% of respondents believe abortion should be made illegal, while 38% believe it shouldn't. (Again, we'd like to see how that breaks down into male and female respondents.)
  • In an interesting statistic about participatory democracy, 59% of respondents did not know the name of the majoritarian MP of their rayon. Nevertheless, half thought that their MP was doing a bad job (whoever that person is). If IRI would make the data set publicly available, lots of interesting comparisons could be made here. What is the relationship between knowledge of the majoritarian MP and judgment of his job? This among other indicators, could judge how effectively politicians were making themselves stand out as individuals. Another reason to promote open data sources!
  • In a statistic that may break with impressions created by public discussion, 56% of respondents support the new statue of St. George on Freedom Square. Again, the breakdown of who these supporters would be interesting to know, as I have a feeling they correlate with other behaviors.
  • 37% believe that many people are afraid to openly express their views. This number has been climbing slowly, but steadily from a baseline of 22% in October 2004. Only 8% believe that the government fully respects citizen's human rights. At the same time, 48% believe the country is developing in the right direction, up from 39% in April 2006.
  • Unsurprisingly, unemployment and relations with Russian were the government's biggest failures, while electricity and paving roads the government’s biggest successes. The respondents also thought that unemployment is the largest problem that Georgia is facing.
  • Impressively, only 2% reported having to pay a bribe in the last 12 months to get a service or decision, and 78% believed that the criminal situation had improved (showing a consistent trend over the last few years).

Data, data, data!!!

For this survey to become a research tool, it would be desirable if IRI would

  • make the raw data set available, allowing researchers to look for correlations;
  • tell us about sampling, and non-response, to give a better understanding what type of data we are looking at;
  • release the Georgian questionnaire, so that one can find out exactly what was asked.
It would desirable if such basic transparency requirements became a standard for surveys financed by international donors.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Migration Resource Centers: Data on Those Seeking Advice About Leaving Georgia

IOM collects data on those people who use their Migration Resource Centers. While the sample is certainly not representative of the population, it provides insights into those seeking advice about leaving the country in the areas where IOM operates resource centers. IOM conducted 384 interviews in its centers in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Gurjaani.

Some features of IOM's statistics stand out. First, 58% of respondents are unemployed and looking for a job, while 26% are only employed part-time. Of those unemployed, 16% have been unemployed for more than 5 years and another 29% have been unemployed for over a year, showing a high degree of structural unemployment within the group of those looking to migrate. Interestingly, very few of the unemployed are officially registered.

What do potential migrants prefer to do abroad? The data shows a quite realistic understanding of opportunities for Georgian migrants. 30% would like to work as a caregiver, 8% in the restaurant/hotel industry, and 7% in the agrarian sector. 19% say they will take any job that they can find.

Migrants' preferred countries of destination are not surprising, particularly given the current tensions between Russia and Georgia. The United States, Greece, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada and Ukraine top the list of places Georgian potential migrants would like to go. IOM's data also supports network theories of migration. When asked why they want to go to their preferred country of destination, over half of respondents say it is because they have friends who can help them there.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Divorce Rates: the seven-year-itch?

According to popular lore, marriages often break up after around seven years. What does the Georgian data say? How long have those who are getting divorced typically been married?

Georgian data does not support the seven-year itch hypothesis. Divorces seem to be pretty equally distributed across the years, with some fluctuations, year-by-year.

In some ways, a fairly high number of divorces still takes place after 15 years (according to the data, the number of couples breaking up after more than 20 years is the single largest group of divorcees, but it consolidates all 20+ data).

As for the total divorce number, it has remained stable from 2001 to 2005, at around 1900 divorces per year. By comparison, around 13.000 people married annually, with an upward tendency more recently (2005 a bumper year, with 18.012 marriages).

According to one divorce league table (some inconsistency here), Georgia has about 12% divorces per marriage, Azerbaijan 15%, Armenia at 18%. Matrimonial harmony, or at least stubborn persistence, compared to Kyrgyzstan (25), Kazakhstan (39), United States (41), Russia (65) or Belarus (69). Take another league table in which divorces are listed by 1000 people, and the US comes first in divorces (4.95), Russia third (3.36), and Georgia would still come below Syria, with less than 0.5 divorces per 1000 people.

The Georgian data, and much more engaging information, is available on these pages of the Georgian Department of Statistics.

Friday, March 02, 2007

(Incomplete) BigMac Index for the Caucasus

When comparing iPod pricing across the South Caucasus, we promised more information on the Big Mac index. As described then, the Big Mac index has been suggested by the Economist as a measure of purchasing power parity. The argument is that Big Macs across countries bundle identical products and services, and therefore can serve as a comparable basket.

Unfortunately, the comparison is incomplete: no McDonald's yet in Yerevan (with various explanations offered, including that the region is served through Turkey). That may lend some credence to the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, which suggests that countries that have McDonald's are less likely to be in conflict with each other, because they are in the same globalized orbit. (But this theory happens to be dubious, so Ron MacDonald is not yet standing in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.)

How do Georgia and Azerbaijan compare? In Azerbaijan, a Big Mac goes for 2.5 New Azerbaijani Manat, which currently puts it at 2.73 US dollars. At 4.60 GEL, the Georgian Big Mac is at 2.60 USD, 13 Cents less.

Comparing this with the 2006 Big Mac Index (admittedly one that looks forward to an update), the Caucasus is between Hungary (2.90) and Mexico/South Korea (2.63). If you believe the theory behind the index, the Caucasus is sort of close to purchasing power parity, since the American Big Mac costs $3.10.

By comparison, the Euro-BigMac is at 3.86 USD, the Swiss at 5.10, but the Chinese Yen, radically undervalued, at 1.30. Strikingly, the Russian Big Mac is a lot cheaper and goes for 1.83 USD, and the Ukrainian is in the same league at 1.88 dollars.

As with the iPod, pricing may be driven by maximising the margins, not by the actual basket. MacDonald's in both countries is an upmarket product. In Russia and Ukraine it plays to the mass market and is priced accordingly.

Scale will also play a role: with few restaurants in the Caucasus, McDonald's does not enjoy the advantages of scale. On that level, the index underlines that the local cost of doing business still is higher than it will be in Poland, Ukraine, Russia or Hungary.

Comments welcome.