Monday, May 25, 2015

Perceived (in)equality in the courts in Georgia - the poor in trouble

The judiciary is essential to the functioning of a state. Hence, not only is its good performance important, but so are perceptions of the courts’ impartiality. In 2011 and 2014, CRRC-Georgia conducted two nationally representative public opinion polls funded by East-West Management Institute and the United States Agency for International Development. The surveys explored Georgians’ knowledge, trust and perceptions of the judiciary. Survey findings suggest that the situation has not changed much during this period, although there was a slight increase in the share of the population who reports completely agreeing that, in Georgia, everyone is equal before the law – from 34% in 2011 to 43% in 2014. Nevertheless, there are still representatives of certain social groups that people do not expect the courts will treat impartially.

During the survey interviews, a number of scenarios were offered to the respondents about representatives of various groups who were hypothetically charged with the same crime they did not commit. The respondents were asked who, in their opinion, would be more likely to be found guilty – rich or poor; Georgian or non-Georgian; Orthodox or non-Orthodox; heterosexual or a representative of a sexual minority.

While over 60% of the population claims in 2014 that Georgians and non-Georgians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, heterosexuals and a representative of a sexual minority have the same chance of being found guilty or innocent when charged with an identical crime they did not commit, the population thinks that being rich or poor does make a difference – 43% answer that a poor person is more likely to be found guilty. Importantly, though, the most frequent answer reported by 49% in 2014 is that both a rich person and a poor person have the same chance of being found guilty or not guilty. Interestingly, 52% of the residents of the capital report a poor person is more likely to be found guilty, while only 40% think a rich person and a poor person will have the same chance in court. This suggests that the population in Tbilisi is less likely to perceive courts as impartial compared with the population in the rest of the country.

Note:  Don’t know and refuse to answer responses are not displayed on the chart.

Thus, although from 2011 to 2014 there was a slight increase in the perception that in Georgia everyone is equal before the law, almost half of the population still does not expect the courts will treat the rich and the poor equally.

For more information about the surveys on the judiciary, please take a look at the data here. A report comparing the results of the two waves can be found here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Attitudes reported by Georgian parents and the qualities they find important for children to learn

The vast majority of Georgians (90%) agree with the statement that one of their main goals in life has been to make their parents proud, according to the 2008 World Values Survey (WVS). It would be hard to overestimate the importance of family for Georgians, and the same is true for the attention paid, on the one hand, to raising children and, on the other hand, caring for elderly family members. But to what extent do parents themselves share the values they claim are important for children to learn? WVS data provides us with the opportunity to find answers to this question by comparing the qualities that Georgian parents report as important for children to learn with their own attitudes and values that they report while answering a number of survey questions.

According to WVS data, 76% of adult Georgians had at least one child in 2008, and throughout this blog post, we focus on parents’ responses. The absolute majority – 90% – of parents report it is especially important for children to learn to work hard, be responsible (81%), be tolerant and respect other people (72%), have religious faith (67%), and be independent (52%).

Do the parents themselves possess these qualities? In order to answer this question, let’s take a closer look at parents’ attitudes towards hard work, tolerance, religiosity and independence.

Hardworking? According to WVS data, about 20% of parents who name hard work as an especially important quality for children to learn, ‘neither agree nor disagree’ or ‘disagree’/’strongly disagree’ with the statements that ‘people who don’t work become lazy’ and ‘work should always come first, even if it means less free time’ (22% and 21%, respectively). Furthermore, 29% of these parents ‘neither agree nor disagree’ or ‘disagree’/’strongly disagree’ with the statements that ‘work is a duty toward society.’ We can, therefore, claim that it appears that some parents want their children’s generation to be harder working than they are themselves.

Tolerant? 93% of those parents who said that ‘tolerance and respect for other people was an especially important quality for children to learn, named homosexuals among the groups they would not like to have as neighbors. Furthermore, 37% of them would not like to be neighbors with people of a different religion, and 23% report the same about people of a different race and immigrants/foreign workers, thus hardly passing a hypothetical test on tolerance.

Religious? 97% of parents who name this value as important for children to learn claim to be religious people themselves, and 90% say that God is very important in their lives. However, when it comes to religious practice, the share of parents who pray or attend religious services is relatively low – 28% say they do not take moments of prayer, meditation or contemplation, and 61% report attending religious services only on special holidays or less often.

Independent? The absolute majority (94%) of parents who name independence as an especially important quality for children to learn, ‘strongly agree’/‘agree’ with the statement that they decide their goals in life by themselves. However, 21% of these parents still live with their parents instead of leading an independent life, and 40% of these adults still living with their parents are between 36 and 45 years old, an age group at which one is not too young to be expected to take care of oneself. Even though those living together with their parents often due to economic problems which many Georgian families face, or in order to take care of their parents, one could argue that it is also a sign of mutual dependence between adult children and their parents. In a number of cases, even if adult children can afford to live separately, they often prefer to stay with their parents. The latter can be regarded as a sign of dependence.

To conclude, Georgian parents want children to be hardworking, responsible, tolerant, and independent, and to have religious faith. As the findings presented in this blog post show, some of the parents naming these very qualities, however, fail to share these values themselves. The best demonstration of this is, probably, the large share of parents who mention ‘tolerance and respect for other people,’ but do not want to have homosexuals or people of a different religion or race as their neighbors.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on the CRRC Facebook page, here, or in the comments section below.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Under surveillance: Public perceptions of safety while talking on the phone in Georgia

Illegal government surveillance is an issue which has been intensely debated in recent years in Georgia. Surveillance related legislation was adopted in 2010 and allowed law enforcement agencies to have unlimited access to telecommunication servers and hence to monitor everyone’s phone conversations at any time. Before 2012 Parliamentary elections, this legislation was criticized by the Georgian Dream Coalition (GDC) and was expected to be significantly altered after GDC came to power in 2012. This, however, did not happen, and the new surveillance law passed in 2014 did not change the situation much, allowing the Ministry of Internal Affairs to maintain direct and unlimited access to surveillance equipment.

A survey commissioned by Transparency International – Georgia (TIG) and conducted by CRRC-Georgia in 2013 included a number of questions about Georgians’ perceptions of privacy while talking on the phone. This blog post presents the results of this survey and shows that the majority of Georgians report restraining from sharing critical opinions about the government while talking on the phone, while a quarter of Georgia’s population believes that the government listens to everyone.

When asked, “In Georgia today, do you think or not that people like yourself have the right to openly say what they think?” 76% of Georgians answered “yes,” according to CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey in 2013. However, when the TIG survey asked, “Would you share a critical opinion about current political events in Georgia with a friend over the phone?” 69% of Georgians answered negatively. Importantly, similar attitudes were recorded when the question was asked about sharing a personal secret with a friend, which demonstrates that Georgians do not feel comfortable or safe talking on the phone, and, generally, do not consider phones a secure means of communication, irrespective of the topic they are discussing.

The results presented in the chart above are hardly surprising, taking into consideration that a quarter of the population reports that they believe the government listens to everyone’s phone conversations, and a further 39% answer “Don’t know” or “Refuse to answer” – an extremely large share, suggesting that people didn’t feel comfortable answering this question.

In addition, 18% of Georgians think that the government monitors his/her internet activities including email, social networks and forums. People agree with the latter statement irrespective of which sector they are employed in – public or private. However, people working in the public sector are almost twice as likely to express uncertainty about whether or not the government listens to everyone.

The data also shows that, in Tbilisi, 28% think that the Georgian government listens to everybody and monitors people’s internet activities, while this share is smaller in other urban settlements.

The data discussed in this blog post tells us more than just about Georgians’ perceptions of illegal surveillance. These perceptions are important as they can effect civic engagement significantly. People who think that the government is following their internet activities and listening to their phone conversations are likely to limit discussing politics through the internet and phone, as well as publicly which, in turn, limits public discussion and critical evaluation of current events. Even though this data was collected in 2013, when the new surveillance legislation had not yet passed, how much do we expect public perceptions to have changed since?

The upcoming data from TI Georgia’s 2015 survey, to be available shortly, will show whether these perceptions have changed since 2013. Meanwhile, you can learn more about the 2013 results here.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Ethnic minorities, Georgians, and foreign policy orientation

Georgia’s prominent West-ward political orientation has been demonstrated numerous times, especially in the period following the 2004 Rose Revolution. The signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014 emphasized once more the country’s willingness for closer cooperation with the EU. Georgia’s choice of strategic partners is stark when looking at the country’s neighborhood, with Azerbaijan moving one step forward and one backward in regard to partnership with the EU, Armenia flirting with both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and Turkey a “forever-candidate” of the EU. Importantly, Russia considers Georgia’s EU and, especially, NATO aspirations a threat to its national security.

While Georgia’s closer ties with the EU represent the views and beliefs of a large majority of Georgian citizens, support for the Euro-Atlantic path is notably weaker among the country’s ethnic minority citizens than among the ethnic Georgian population. Hence, it is important to look at the micro dynamics of attitudes and perceptions within the population of Georgia and explore whether ethnic minorities in the country share the same attitudes as the ethnic majority population. CRRC-Georgia’s 2013 survey Knowledge and attitudes toward the EU in Georgia, funded by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, offers the opportunity to engage in such an endeavor. Ten percent of all survey respondents were sampled from ethnic Azerbaijanis living in the Kvemo Kartli region and ethnic Armenians in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, and the data is representative of the opinions and attitudes of ethnic minorities. Notably, minorities in ‘ethnic enclaves’ are often different from ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis that live in other parts of Georgia and, in some ways, are better integrated into Georgian society. Throughout this blog post, we refer to the subsample of Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the noted ‘ethnic enclaves’ as “minorities,” and to the rest of the sample as “Georgians”.

While 83% of Georgians would vote for Georgia’s EU membership and 74% would vote for Georgia’s NATO membership if a referendum was to be held the day after the survey interview in 2013, only 38% and 31%, respectively of minorities would do the same. Notably, minorities’ non-response rate for these two questions was also much higher compared to Georgians. Thus, minorities are visibly less inclined to support Georgia’s membership in either the EU or NATO.

Opinions on potential allies that can best support Georgia are also different, with most Georgians (38%) choosing the EU, while most minorities (57%) choose Russia. Smaller, but almost equal shares of Georgians think that the USA and Russia (18% and 17%, respectively) can best support the country, and smaller shares of minorities (17% and 14%, respectively) think that the United States and the EU would be best. If choices of the EU and USA are jointly considered as an orientation towards the West, then 56% of Georgians see the West as the best supporter of Georgia, while the same share of minorities (57%) would see Russia in this role.

Minorities differ from Georgians in other respects as well. Asked about the three most important issues currently facing Georgia, the most visible differences in the opinions of Georgians and minorities regard relations with Russia and Georgia’s territorial integrity. While most citizens of Georgia, no matter their ethnicity, name employment (“jobs”) as the most pressing issue (indicated by 63% of the population), their opinions about the importance of other issues differ – the second most frequently mentioned issue for minorities is relations with Russia (indicated by 56% of minorities), while for Georgians it is territorial integrity (indicated by 39% of Georgians).

This blog post compared the views of ethnic minority populations living in the Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions of Georgia with the rest of the population in the country. Georgians and minorities have different views especially when it comes to Georgia’s membership in the EU and NATO, international actors that can currently best support Georgia, and partially in relation to the most pressing issues the country currently faces.

How do you think these differences in points of views are manifested or reflected in Georgia’s foreign or domestic policy choices? Join the conversation on the CRRC Georgia Facebook page or in the comments section below.