Monday, June 30, 2008

European Cup Craze : Who Supports Whom in the Caucasus?

Given the recent craze over UEFA football and the large number of diehard football fans across the Caucasus, I think the question about the politics of support is worth addressing. It can provide interesting insights into both cultural and political affinities -- much like Eurovision support -- except with a different demographic. We have limited information here, so the blog cries out for help!

Georgians, the titan of South Caucasus football, will only support teams with a tried and true record of success, according to one colleague who is a football maven. This means that Georgians generally support Germany. The historical connections and affinities also play an important role here.

But what about Russia facing off against Spain? Here the jury is more mixed. According to one Georgian television poll (which isn't the best source but it's all we have), 45% of Georgians supported Russian in the Russia-Spain game. If true, this like our Data Initiative data, shows that Georgians are still very open to Russians, though they may have strong feelings against the Russian Government.

As for Azerbaijan, the picture is clear. It's Turkey all the way (see picture above taken in Baku). But what happens when Turkey loses to Spain? I don't have the answer, but I encourage our Azerbaijani readers to chime in.

Armenians, well, I don't have any info here. Please comment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Religious practices across the South Caucasus | Take two

Last week we gave a snapshot of religious practices across the South Caucasus in general. The CRRC DI gives us an opportunity to explore this topic further and see whether religious practices are only country specific, or whether there are other factors influencing them. Let’s see if gender is a defining factor in religious practices in the South Caucasus.

The DI data shows that in all three countries women give more importance to religion than men. However, in Georgia the difference between genders is not as significant when it comes to religion as in Armenia and Azerbaijan. As an illustration, on the question “how important is religion in making decisions?” 53% of women and only 39% of men in Armenia attribute somewhat important or very important role to religion. In Georgia, 76% of all female respondents and 67% of male respondents give religion a central role in their life.

A similar pattern can be observed with praying. More female respondents say they pray more than once a week (some of which daily) than male: 44% female vs. 24.6% male in Armenia and 52% female vs. 25.6% male in Georgia. The situation is different in Azerbaijan, where slightly more male respondents report praying once a week (including those who pray daily): 16.4% male vs. 15.2% female. This, however, can probably be explained by the religious traditions embedded in Islam.

The World Values Survey (2000) also asked religion related questions to respondents in over 80 countries. Their data shows that women of Christian faith across the world are more religious than men. The picture is different in Muslim countries. Thus, similarly to Azerbaijan, in Turkey around 61% of male respondents attend religious services once or more than once a week in comparison to 7% of female.

Check out DI datasets if you are interested in exploring this issue further.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Religious practices across the South Caucasus | the Data Initiative

Data snapshot: how do religious practices compare across the Caucasus? In our Data Initiative, we included questions on religion, and we tried to unpack the concept further: rather than only asking about the importance of religion, we linked it to practice. Thus, we asked how often people attend religious services, how often they pray, and how often they fast -- since these are comparable components across Muslim and two separate orthodox religions.

Georgia has most people saying that religion plays a very important role in making decisions. 50% say it is very important, and another 26% say it is important. So, nearly three quarters of the respondents accord religion a central role in their life. In two other countries religion plays very important and important role in making decisions for around 50% of the respondents.

Georgia also has the highest number of respondents who attend religious services apart from special occasions. Thus, 6% of respondents attend religious services more than once a week and another 12% once a week. In contrast, only around 3% of the respondents in Armenia and Azerbaijan attend religious services more than once a week and another 7% and 3% once a week respectively. Praying apart from religious services is more popular among the respondents in Armenia and Georgia. Hence, 29% of the respondents in Armenia and 28% in Georgia say that they pray every day, in comparison to 14% of those in Azerbaijan. In addition, more respondents say that they pray less often (31%) and never (25%) in Azerbaijan.

Though fasting is a part of religious traditions in all the three countries, it seems to be less practiced across the South Caucasus. Among the three countries fasting is more followed in Azerbaijan, where 14% of the respondents always fast and 9% often fast. Overall, around 50% of the respondents in Azerbaijan either fast always, often or sometimes. As a comparison, only 2% of those in Armenia and 6% in Georgia always fast. The number of those who never fast is the highest in Armenia -79%. To explore this topic more check out CRRC Data Initiative.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Georgia post-Election Phone Survey | Quick Review

Yet another survey has been sent around as a PDF in Georgia. The survey attempted to measure the postelection mood in Tbilisi. According to the information provided in the PDF, 503 respondents have been selected randomly and interviewed by telephone. According to the results 46.92% of respondents say they "fully disagree with the announced results of the 2008 parliamentary elections". 25,65% say they totally agree with the announced results. We have been asked to comment, and some of the things we have to say will sound pretty obvious.

First, Tbilisi itself is a biased sample. All of the survey work so far has shown that Tbilisi residents are the more skeptical about the government than any other part of the country. While the views of Tbilisi residents may matter in terms of who will demonstrate on the streets, it is not an accurate assessment of the mood of the country. Moreover, and this is a standard objection even if it's not familiar to people that don't know much about surveys, telephone surveys have limited reliability. You will only reach people that have a telephone, are at home (or willing to pick up calls from random strangers on their mobile), and who are willing to trust the interviewer and take some time to talk. Now obviously each of these four qualifications serve as a filter, and the people that actually respond may well not be very representative.

As one saying goes, telephone surveys only get the views of those who are bored at home. Great for exploring some issues ("what television programming would you like to see?"), not for measuring attitudes towards complex political questions. Especially not in Georgia where there's little experience in weighting to counter the implicit bias.

Then again, you could say that surveys like this only attempt to take the general mood, and that in the absence of funding for face-to-face interviews across the country, such a survey still gives us a quick glimpse. There is some merit to this view, but the problem is that reporting the views of 46.92%, with the precision of 0.92% tacked on, suggests a level of representativeness that this survey simply does not have.

And there's another problem with the question: what exactly does "agreeing with the announced results of the 2008 parliamentary elections" mean? Did respondents like the results? Even if you voted for the winning party, you could fundamentally "disagree" with the results, since, knowing the final results, you would have preferred a lot more diversity in parliament. We ultimately just don't know what precisely "agreeing" means here.

Still, on one issue the telephone respondents seem to have been fairly prescient, at least as things have developed so far:

That's pretty much what happened in the meantime.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Study of Economic Relations Between Georgia and Armenia

At first glance it may seem that trade between the Georgian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti and the neighboring Armenian region of Shirak should provide a natural basis for development in both regions. However, the main border crossing point in Samtskhe Javakheti is under-utilized and trade is not creating stimulation for growth in either region.

The research, funded by UNDP and carried out by CRRC, focuses on the challenges of cross-border economic cooperation development between Samtskhe Javakheti and Shirak. It addresses the following questions: why is so little trade taking place over the main Ninotsminda checkpoint? What legislative and procedural changes could make this trade easier? Particularly, in light of the large changes in physical infrastructure, legislation and development, in what areas are opportunities likely to open up for cooperation in the future?

The report highlights some of the prospects for cross-border trade development which are embedded in the strong cultural connections between the two regions, seasonal differences and the quality of harvest. Thus, better customs procedures and transport infrastructure should create considerable opportunities for improvements in trade in the future. Recommendations concern both the physical condition of the checkpoints as well as the logistics.

One of the main limitations of the research is its focus only on the Georgian side of the border. In order to identify the areas for the development of cross-border trade, clear understanding of the differences in the two markets is necessary. Thus, a similar study of the market in Shirak could make the results far more powerful.

See the full report here!