Thursday, May 31, 2012

Counting Crowds & Crowds Counting | Jacobs' Method

During the last 25 years Georgian capital has experienced a diverse history of political meetings in its central areas including peaceful demonstrations, rallies with radical political demands, “tent towns” and so forth. The higher the attendance, the more legitimate the protests are often seen to be. As a result, the figures themselves usually are contested, sometimes in significant controversy.

This discussion has now been revived, after the new political coalition around Bidzina Ivanishvili started its full-scale entry into politics by gathering supporters on central Freedom Square of Tbilisi. Widely varying estimates of attendance numbers have been put forward. The Georgian police estimated the size of crowd as 30 000, supporters of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream claimed that about 300 thousand people gathered on Freedom square, however, independent observers suggested 80 thousand attendees had come to the rally.

So how does one approach crowd size systematically, short of counting every single head in the crowd? One robust method has been suggested in the 1960s by Berkeley journalism professor Herbert Jacobs who employed this approach to count the number of protesters against Vietnam War at his home university. According to this method, the area should be divided into smaller sections in order to assess how loosely people stand in the crowd. If people stand at an arm’s distance, one person will cover 0.93 square meters. In a second case, when people stand close enough but not pushing each other, the area taken by one person is estimated 0.42 square meters. And finally, in a tightly packed crowd 0.23 square meters are covered by one person, or, putting it differently an estimated four people are in one square meter.

In order to describe how Jacobs’ method is used for crowd estimation, we divided the entire space of Freedom square and neighboring streets into 29 parcels. Then we calculated the areas of the parcels using geographic information systems (GIS) and tried to analyze two photo images taken from Georgian Dream’s official Facebook page. The photos show 13 parcels in the central and southern part of the square and consequently, estimates are done only for these areas.

The analysis is based on visual assessment of density in the parcels, following Jacobs' method. Where people are

  • standing tightly we assigned the score 0.23, 
  • crowded but not pushing each other, we assigned the score 0.42 
  • standing in a distance of one person’s arm, we used the score of 0.93. 
Rough estimates show that in the moment of taking photos there were about 31.000 in 13 parcels alone, with many parcels uncounted. 

Now, several remarks on these numbers:

  1. Jacobs' approach only yields rough numbers, +/-20%. 
  2. numbers work both ways, as various people have pointed out; it may be worth coming to some sort of consensus in Georgia how many people Freedom Square holds when it's crowded, and then apply that consistently.
  3. ultimately, quantity is not legitimacy; a protest that is conducted civilly and that gets people to engage and discuss is plenty legitimate, so the entire numbers game is a bit problematic, and not only in Georgia.

That being said, we think the Jacobs method is as good as it gets, for quick assessments. Since we only counted 13 parcels, out of 29, and want to make this method more broadly available, we encourage our readers to be involved! Crowds can help count crowds.

Use our raw materials to assess the number of attendees. Download the spreadsheet, use the robust Jacobs method, and send it back to us when you are done. Also, feel free to send your comments and estimations, the topic is open for discussion!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Caucasus Barometer data in Slate | Kendzior & Pearce

Sarah Kendzior and Katy Pearce have summarized some of the points they made in their fascinating academic paper on Internet and dissent in Azerbaijan for an article in Slate.

(And we are glad to say they used some of our data.) Katy regularly examines the question on how the Internet impacts various parts of life, and has been great at mining the Caucasus Barometer for interesting insights. Find more of her work on her blog.

The Slate article is definitely worth a read, and right here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Women in Parliament: How Do Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan Compare to Other Countries?

Expanding on the topic of a previous blog, this post compares statistics on the number of women in national parliaments in the South Caucasus and other areas of the world. The countries of the South Caucasus rank low on women’s participation in parliament compared to many other countries. Introducing quota systems has shown some success in certain countries as it has led to an increase in the number of women in parliament. Yet, such quotas require careful consideration of local resources and cultural factors. According to a recent article in the Economist, women currently hold almost 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats—up from 17.2% in 2007. The Economist provides the following chart based on data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

As the chart shows, Rwanda, Sweden and South Africa are leaders in terms of the percentage of women in parliament (well above the world average of about 20%). Brazil, Panama and Egypt have the lowest percentages of women in parliament on the chart, with Egypt having less than 2% women in its parliament. A more comprehensive list of countries can be found here

How do Georgia, Armenia and Armenia rank? With 6% of women in its parliament Georgia stands between Egypt and Panama. Compared to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have a higher share of women in their parliaments – 9% and 16%, respectively. However, all the three countries of the South Caucasus are well below many European countries—especially the Nordic countries which have the highest percentages of women in parliament (the average is 42%). 

The article in the Economist suggests the effectiveness of a quota system. Last year 17 countries had quotas for women out of 59 countries that held elections. There was about a 10% increase in the number of women in parliament for those countries with quotas compared to those without quotas. However, the institution of a quota system is not without contention. Quotas are related to largely-debated moral or attitudinal issues such as affirmative action. For example, see a critical review of the quota system in Central Asia: “Do Central Asia’s Gender Quotas Help or Hurt Women?” 

Should the South Caucasus follow the example of several other countries and set a quota system? And to be more critical - Are women in the South Caucasus willing and ready to occupy 20% or more of parliamentary seats? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bela Tsipuria on the Post-Colonial Aspect of Georgian Literature

In a recent W-i-P seminar, Bela Tsipuria, now Professor at Ilia State University, and previously Deputy Minister of Education and Science, made a compelling case for understanding Georgian literature as a post-colonial phenomenon. Here is a summary of the talk to inspire readers to follow up, even if its brevity will not do full justice to the nuance of the talk.

Georgia is not always described as a classical colony, as it was closely intertwined with Russian and later Soviet elites. Yet, as Tsipuria argues, Georgia had many of the key features of a colony. It lacked sovereignty, had no borders, was administered by a significant non-Georgian elite, with politics and even culture dominated by an Imperial center.

Georgian culture and literature thus developed in response to this colonialism, that arrived at the same time as modernity. As the state could not develop Georgian identity, it was left to culture to define Georgia -- thus the central role of writers, as reflected in street names in cities throughout Georgia. According to Tsipuria, the debate to which extent the state can be trusted to take the lead in society, continues. Eventually Russia became a liminal space, on the side, as Georgians tried to define themselves toward a European vision of modernity, under the theme of "relocating Georgia".

Briefly modernists defined their own space in the First Georgian Republic, as a cultural oasis, bringing together Georgian, Russian, Armenian and even Polish avantgardists. This glimpse of free modernism was post-colonial in various ways, in its assertion of experimentation and freedom. Yet this moment was snuffed out quickly with the Soviet take-over. Seeking to assert its own artistic vision, the Soviet Empire centralized cultural production, suggesting and even enforcing its approach, duplicating via mimicry, and marginalizing alternatives.

The symbolists tried to fight back. Tsipuria highlights how some of the artists used the facade of Socialist Realism to introduce their own national and modernist symbols. While much of that spirit was purged in the 1930s, a double narrative came back after the Second World War, that was both Soviet and personal, characterized by ambivalence. The double narrative created a rich texture, and creative tension, but also, Tsipuria said, created a double discourse, some of which still creates challenges for current debates in the country, in "how to manage the reality that the new freedom grants".

Interested in attending or even presenting in these sessions? The easiest way is to join the Works-in-Progress group on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Public Opinion about Women in Parliament in Georgia

Since Georgia’s independence in 1991, the participation of women in Georgian politics has been very low. The number of women in government has diminished since 2004 and currently women comprise only 6% of the Georgian parliament. The reasons behind such statistics can vary from cultural to institutional factors. Cultural factors including gender stereotypes are more fundamental and difficult to change while institutional factors can be constructed through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., introducing quota systems, changing the electoral system, nomination methods within political parties, or increasing political funds for women). This blog looks at public opinion in Georgia on one aspect of women’s participation in Georgian politics--women in parliament. CRRC data from a 2011 survey on Voting and Political Attitudes in Georgia indicates that while just over half of the Georgian population would vote for a woman candidate (all things being equal) and think that men and women perform equally on elected positions, 31% of Georgians still find the number of women in parliament about right. 

The 2011 (September) survey conducted by CRRC on behalf of NDI asked Georgians whether or not women perform better than men. Just over half (56%) of Georgians answered that women and men perform equally and 21% said men perform better than women. Examining the data by gender does not change the general picture much, but it still provides some additional information regarding attitudes.

As the chart above shows, over half of both men and women think that men and women perform equally. However compared to men, women are slightly more likely do so. On the other hand, compared to women, men are more likely to think that men perform better than women. This data indicates that women in Georgia are more likely to think that women and men perform equally in politics while men remain more sceptical towards women in parliament. This trend is supported by answers to the next question.

The general picture is that 68% of Georgians say they would vote for a woman candidate in the next parliamentary elections all things being equal, 15% say no and 17% do not know. However, as the chart shows, women are again more likely to vote for a women candidate (all things being equal) than men.

Even though over half of Georgians (irrespective of their gender) are positive that men and women perform equally and would vote for a woman candidate in the next parliamentary elections, their attitude regarding the current number of women in parliament is confusing. Evidence from CRRC data indicates that 31% of Georgians find the current number of women members of parliament (9 out of 150) about right and 23% do not know whether this is too few, too many or about right. 

Examining the data by gender revealed only one difference in the “too few” category. Compared to men (34%), more women (43%) think that the number of women members of parliament is too few. This fits well into the general trend that compared to men, women are more likely to view men’s and women’s political performance as equal. 

This data shows Georgian attitudes towards women in parliament to be a bit ambiguous. Over half of Georgians think women and men perform equally and they would vote for a women candidate (all things being equal), yet only 31% think that 9 women out of 150 members of parliament are too few. Why do you think this is the case? Is the low level of women’s participation in Georgian politics a matter of institutions or is it culture that determines such numbers? We would like to hear your thoughts.

Interested in finding out more about gender attitudes in the South Caucasus? CRRC has got lots of data on gender related issues and it is available and free for you on our Online Data Analysis tool. Try it out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting information from the internet – how does it affect Georgians’ views?

Many characteristics of the Georgian population are changing, but perhaps none as drastically as internet usage. Looking at data from the Caucasus Barometer, in only three years the estimated proportion of the adult population using the internet at least once a week has grown from an estimated 23% to an estimated 41%: 

Since having access to the internet drastically increases the amount and varies the type of information available to people, the question of political implications naturally follows. As Georgians begin accessing information from online sources, how are their assessments of their governments and others changing?
In order to address this question, we can separate the population into two groups. One group is those people who access the internet at least once per week and report utilizing it for the purpose of searching for information, consuming news, writing or reading blogs, or engaging in forum discussions. The second group is those people who either don’t regularly access the internet, or who use it for purely recreational activities such as online gaming.
Let’s compare the two groups’ views on their government in the 2011 Caucasus Barometer. Here are five questions asked in the survey that measure respondents’ perception of the level of fairness and freedom of information in Georgia:
  • Under the present government in Georgia do you completely agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or completely disagree that people like yourself are treated fairly by the government?
  • To what degree does the court system in Georgia treat all citizens equally or to what degree does it favor some over others?
  • Would you say that the most recent election was conducted completely fairly, to some extent fairly, or not at all fairly?
  • In Georgia today, do you think or not that people like yourself have the right to openly say what they think?
  • How well do you think TV journalists in Georgia inform the population about what is actually going on in Georgia?
Interestingly, not a single one of these five questions were answered significantly differently by the two groups! This suggests that consuming information from online sources does not paint a substantially different picture of Georgia than that painted by sources available via TV and newspaper. One area where we do find significant differences between those who collect information online and those who don’t, is in their perceptions of Europe. Looking at the most extreme views on EU integration, those who either don’t support integration at all or fully support it, the proportion of the population that gets information online has significantly greater support for integration. 

The same pattern holds with support for NATO integration, but does this trend hold outside of politics? Interestingly, it does. On the subject of inter-ethnic marriages, CB respondents are asked whether or not they approve of women of their ethnic group marrying members of other specific groups. When asked about domestic ethnic minorities such as Azerbaijanis living in Georgia and Armenians living in Georgia, the opinions of those who get information from the internet are not significantly different from those who do not. However, when asked about inter-ethnic marriages with members of European nations, opinions differ significantly. 

 The fact that the approval of interethnic marriages by those who get information from the internet is significantly higher with respect to Europeans but not with respect to domestic ethnic minorities suggests that the issue is not simply one of internet users being less socially conservative. In fact, respondents who got information from the internet were actually slightly more likely to say that both abortion and homosexuality were never justifiable, although the differences were not statistically significant. So, rather than simply being more liberal, it seems that people who get information from the internet are more open specifically to Europeans. 

In summary, the data suggest that while people who get information from the internet do not perceive their own country differently, they do perceive Europe more positively. Why might this be? Could it simply be because they have access to more information about Europe and thus feel more comfortable with Europe as a partner? Or could it be that they are actually receiving more positive messages about Europe via the internet? Or, could it be due to another factor or combination of factors altogether?

One way to look into this question in more detail may be by examining the Media Survey, which CRRC conducted in 2009 and 2011. Both data sets are for download at, and for online data analysis at The survey includes many questions regarding the channels through which respondents receive information, and also includes questions assessing the accuracy of media sources and measuring levels of trust in various governmental and international bodies. 

Readers are invited to respond with their own theories and data analysis to support them, and we’ll publish a blog post on one of the responses. Please send your ideas and preliminary analyses to by Monday, May 21st, and feel free to contact me sooner if you have any questions.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Political Participation and Democracy in Azerbaijan

For a functioning democracy, democratic attitudes are important as well as basic political rights. Attitudes toward democracy and participation in political life show the extent of a population’s support to and the legitimacy of a democratic system. The 2011 Caucasus Barometer provides insight to what people think about democratic principles and the democratic process in Azerbaijan. The data shows that voting in elections and democracy (as a political regime) both receive approval by over half of the population. However, particular political actions such as participation in protests receive only little affirmation. Furthermore, the current political system in Azerbaijan is not perceived to be an effective democracy by most Azerbaijanis.

The survey shows that institutional forms of participation such as voting in elections are perceived to be important by 64% of Azerbaijanis. In addition to considering voting very important, 62% said they voted in the last national election and 74% said they certainly or most probably would participate if presidential elections were held that following Sunday.

However, less institutional forms of political participation such as protests receive little support. Only 7% of the adult Azerbaijani population strongly agrees and another 21% agree to the statement that, “People should participate in protest actions, as this shows the government that the people are in charge”. In contrast, 16% very strongly agree and another 32% agree that, “People should not participate in protest actions against the government, as it threatens stability in the country”. The data indicates that support for this type of political involvement is rather low in Azerbaijan.

Regarding general attitudes towards democracy, the data reveals that the majority of Azerbaijanis do not perceive their country to be a full democracy. As the chart shows, 14% do not consider Azerbaijan to be a democracy. 30% think that their country is a democracy but with major problems, and 31% believe the country is a democracy but with minor problems. Only 10% think the country is a full democracy.

Even though the general public opinion is that Azerbaijan is not a full democracy today, just over half of the population supports a democratic system. According to the data, 52% of the Azerbaijanis prefer democracy to any other kind of government. In contrast, 14% say there are some circumstances in which a non-democratic government can be preferable, and another 18% say it does not matter what kind of government they have.

Thus, the results indicate that institutional forms of political participation such as voting have more approval than less institutional forms such as attending protest actions. Furthermore, people in Azerbaijan seem to support the idea of democracy although the majority holds that their country is not a full democracy yet.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Ethnic versus European Identity: The Case of Georgia

As Georgia seeks a course of European integration and eventual membership in the European Union (EU), it is important to examine the Georgian population’s understanding of its own identity. CRRC data from a 2011 survey entitled Knowledge and Attitudes toward the EU in Georgia shows that a majority of Georgians (88%) think Georgia should be in the EU. But do Georgians share a European identity in addition to strongly supporting EU membership? The data shows that ethnic Georgian identity remains the prevalent sentiment in Georgia despite strong support for EU membership and the fact that just over half of the population agrees with former Georgian prime minister Zurab Zhvania’s famous phrase -“I am Georgian, and therefore I am European”. 

59% of Georgians in 2011 say they agree with Zhvania’s statement, but the picture changes dramatically when Georgians are asked about how they identify themselves more specifically. Only 16% of Georgians identify themselves as both Georgian and European, whereas over half (60%) identify as their own ethnicity only—a result more or less unchanged since 2009. Moreover, the number of people who identify as both Georgian and European comes quite close to the number of people who identify as their own ethnicity and as generally Caucasian. 

Even though identity is considered to be a relatively static variable, examining the data by age groups offers interesting insights about identity change in Georgia. The analysis shows that compared to older age groups, younger people in Georgia are more likely to both agree with Zhvania’s famous phrase and identify themselves as European. 

Moreover, the proportion of those who identify as both their own ethnicity and European is greater in the age group 18-35 than in older age groups. Even though just over half (58%) of Georgian people aged 18-35 identify only as Georgian, they are more likely to identify as both Georgian and European (25%) and are less likely to identify as both their own ethnicity and as Caucasian. These results indicate that the incidence of Caucasian identity decreases with age among Georgians, while the frequency of claiming European identity increases in younger generation. In other words, a general Caucasian identity is gradually changing along with European identity among Georgians, however ethnic identity still prevails. 

Note: “Don’t know” and “Other” answers have been excluded from the analysis.

CRRC data indicates that over half of the Georgian population identify as their own ethnicity only. Even though many Georgians agree with Zhvania’s phrase, few Georgians actually identify themselves as both their own ethnicity and European. This demonstrates that they may consider these identities to be compatible. Further analysis also indicates that young people in Georgia are the forerunners in adopting European identity. Perhaps the younger generation is more affected by strong socialization agents such as media, advertisements and consumption models that reinforce European identity. What do you think?

Interested in finding out more about Georgian attitudes towards the EU and related issues? You can access the survey’s associated report here. Both datasets are free and available online at the link above. You are also invited to explore the dataset on CRRC’s fun Online Data Analysis tool.