Monday, November 30, 2015

Public opinion on Georgia’s EU membership prospects in 2015

If a referendum were held tomorrow, a majority of the Georgian population (61%) would vote for the country’s membership in the European Union, according to the fourth wave of the Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey carried out by CRRC-Georgia for the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in May of 2015. But anyone familiar with the situation in Georgia and the politics of EU enlargement understands that EU membership is, at best, a long term prospect for Georgia. The country’s democratic consolidation and economic development, in addition to the settlement of the oft mentioned territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are crucial to Georgia’s prospects for becoming a candidate for EU membership. With this in mind, what does the Georgian public think about the country’s EU membership prospects?

Generally speaking, Georgians are optimistic in their outlook on the country’s EU membership prospects. This optimism though appears to have declined in the last two years. While in 2013 roughly a third of the Georgian public believed the country would become an EU member state within five years or less (from the period of survey fieldwork), today roughly a fifth of the population believes so.

Skepticism about eventual membership also appears to have increased. While a negligible share of the population once reported that Georgia would never join the European Union, today approximately one in ten Georgians think so. Over time, the share of Georgians who are unsure of whether Georgia will ever be an EU member state has remained relatively stable at approximately two fifths of the population.

Despite the optimism still remaining about eventual membership prospects, most Georgians recognize that the country has a fair way to develop. Between 42% and 52% of them believe that Georgia is not yet ready for EU membership when it comes to Georgian legislation’s harmonization with the EU’s, having a competitive market economy, the protection of human rights and, specifically, minority rights, rule of law, and the formation of democratic institutions. The share of the population that believes Georgia is more ready than not for EU membership in the fields noted above is between 20% and 32%.

The Georgian public recognizes a number of structural barriers as impetuses to eventual EU membership. The most commonly reported barrier is the unresolved territorial conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (43%). This is followed by political instability (28%) and an underdeveloped economy (21%). The next two most frequently reported barriers are related to foreign policy – Russia (17%) and a lack of political will from the EU (12%).

Note: A show card was used. The respondents could choose up to three answer options. 

The Georgian population is aware of the barriers to the country’s membership in the EU, and between 2013 and 2015 the assessment of the country’s prospects to become an EU member have become more realistic. Take a look through the 2015 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey data using CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool, here.

Parenting, gender attitudes and women’s employment in Georgia

In Georgia, unemployment is high, and it is higher among women than men. Policy changes are definitely needed not only to increase the employment opportunities, but also to ensure more equal employment opportunities for men and women. However, survey findings show that changes in Georgians’ attitudes towards gender roles are no less needed, as the population does not always support the idea of women having paid jobs – especially so, when they have young children. This blog post looks at what the population of Georgia thinks about working mothers and their ability to care for their children.

Women’s employment can be beneficial for families and societies in many ways. The potential benefits for children when they have working mothers were recently described in an article published by the Harvard Business School. The findings of a cross-national survey covering 24 countries suggest that it is good for children under the age of 14 if their mothers work, instead of staying at home full time. The study showed that the sons of working mothers are more caring for family members compared with the sons of stay-at-home mothers. Probably more importantly, daughters raised by working mothers had greater career success and more stable relationships than the daughters of stay-at-home mothers. Other studies indicate that the relationship between women’s attitudes early in life towards gender roles and their later employment is recursive: “women’s early gender role attitudes predict their [adult life] work hours and earnings, and women’s work hours predict their later gender egalitarianism” (Corrigall and Konrad, 2007).

In October 2014, CRRC-Georgia conducted a nationwide public opinion poll for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on attitudes towards gender issues in Georgia. A representative sample of 3885 respondents was interviewed in order to explore their attitudes towards women’s participation in society and politics as well as ideas about how to improve women’s position in society.

The survey’s results indicate that female unemployment may not be considered a serious problem by Georgians, because women are believed to be capable of self-realization even if they do not have a job. Moreover, unemployed mother’s children are believed to be better off compared to the children of employed mothers. The chart below shows that 65% of Georgians believe “It is better for a preschool aged child if the mother does not work” and a smaller but still considerable share (37%) is more radical, disagreeing with the opinion that “Employed mothers can be as good caregivers to their children as mothers who do not work”. Over half (55%) of Georgians think that because of household responsibilities, women cannot be as successful in their career as men, and just below half of the population (44%) think that “Taking care of the home and family satisfies women as much as a paid job”.
Exploring these findings by gender shows that women are less likely to share traditional views regarding gender roles. Women are especially critical of the opinion that “Taking care of the home and family satisfies women as much as a paid job”, and 54% of Georgian women disagree with this opinion compared to 39% of men. It is also noteworthy that men have slightly but consistently higher rates of answering “Don’t know,” or refusing to answer these questions, which might mean that they are not really aware of women’s preferences and abilities when it comes to work-family balance.
Exploring the data by age shows that there is a tendency among young people to hold slightly more egalitarian views on gender roles compared to the older generations. Those who are 56 and older are less likely to think that “women and men equally need a job to feel self-realized,” than their younger fellow citizens.
To sum up, the data suggests that the higher level of women’s unemployment in Georgia compared to men’s may be caused, to a certain extent, by public attitudes towards gender roles. The good news is that women and young people share more egalitarian views, suggesting that the vicious circle between attitudes towards women’s employment in Georgia and their actual employment may have already started break down.

To take a deeper look into the data, explore it on our Online Data Analysis tool.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Awareness of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement in Georgia, one year on

The June 27, 2014 initialing of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, a wide reaching, largely economic treaty, was marked with celebration in Tbilisi as the fruit of a long running diplomatic effort to tighten ties with the European Union over the course of three Georgian administrations. To date, 27 EU member states have ratified the Agreement. The EU has become a more important market for Georgian goods since the signing of the Agreement, with the share of total exports to the EU increasing from 21% in the first eight months of 2014 to 28% in the same months of 2015, according to Geostat data. Using the findings of the 2015 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey carried out by CRRC-Georgia for Eurasia Partnership Foundation, this post looks at public perceptions of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement one year on and, specifically, examines whether Georgia’s ethnic minority population’s awareness of the Agreement has increased since 2013, when a previous wave of the same survey was conducted. 

While in 2013, before the initialing of the Association Agreement, 19% of the population of Georgia reported having heard of the Agreement, today 63% report so. It should be noted, however, that this impressive increase is a measure of reported awareness and does not necessarily reflect the accuracy of information people have about the document. 

Characteristics of those aware of the Agreement fall along the lines to be expected. While half of those with secondary or lower education report having heard of the Agreement, the same is true for three quarters of those with tertiary education. People aged 36 to 55 years old are slightly more likely to report knowing about the Agreement. Interestingly, according to findings of other surveys, representatives of this age group tend to be the most informed about other issues as well, such as, NGOs. Representatives of the youngest and oldest age groups are equally aware of the Agreement (60% and 58%, respectively, report having heard of it). Finally, as is commonly found with other knowledge questions in Georgia, residents of the capital are most informed, with three quarters reporting awareness of the Agreement compared with slightly over half of the residents of other urban and rural settlements. Interestingly, men report having heard of the Association Agreement slightly more frequently than women (67% compared with 58%).

Considering that the previous, 2013 wave of the EU survey found a considerable discrepancy between awareness of the Association Agreement between Georgian speakers and ethnic minority populations, it is important to take a look at this issue in 2015. While reported awareness of the Association Agreement increased by roughly five times between 2013 and 2015 among the non-Georgian speaking, ethnic minority population (from 6% to 26%), this is still half the level of awareness of the Agreement that Georgian speakers report. 

Importantly, the non-Georgian speaking ethnic minority population who have not heard about the Association Agreement are more willing to get more information about the EU than are Georgian speakers who have not heard of the agreement. 

*Note: Only the answers of those who reported that they had not heard of the Agreement, responded that they did not know whether they had heard of the Agreement or refused to answer the question about the Association Agreement are presented in the chart above (74% of ethnic minorities and 34% of ethnic Georgians).

While the majority of the population of Georgia has heard of the Association Agreement with the European Union, slightly over a third of the population is still unaware of its existence. Lack of awareness is particularly acute among representatives of ethnic minorities, but considering that many of those who are unaware of the Agreement are interested in finding out more about the EU, both the Government of Georgia and the European Union could consider public information campaigns on the Association Agreement. As in the past, this is particularly important in ethnic minority settlements where knowledge of the EU and EU-Georgia Association Agreement is much lower than in the rest of Georgia.

To look into the subject more, take a look at the data using the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool, here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015 EU survey report: Major trends and recommendations

The Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia 2015 survey report was presented today by Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) in Tbilisi.

Four waves of the survey were conducted within the framework of EPF’s European Integration program in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015, and the data provides information about the dynamics of opinion, attitudes and knowledge over the last seven years. The surveys were conducted by CRRC-Georgia, and the data is free to access on CRRC’s online data analysis platform.

The major findings of the 2015 survey discussed in the report include:

  • Support for EU integration is still strong among the population of Georgia, but compared to 2013, the share of those who would vote for EU integration, if a referendum were held tomorrow, dropped from 78% to 61%; 
  • The fear that the EU will harm Georgian culture and traditions has increased in Georgian society. This fear appears to have contributed to the decrease in the number of supporters of Georgia’s EU membership;
  • As was the case in 2013, representatives of the ethnic minority population are the least knowledgeable about the EU and its activities in Georgia, although there is evidence of impressive increases in their knowledge after 2013. Residents of the capital, on the other hand, are the best informed about the EU; 
  • The population believes that high-ranking Georgian officials benefit more from EU assistance provided to Georgia than regular people do, and knows very little about EU assistance to the general public.
  • The Georgian population’s trust towards crucial social and political institutions has been decreasing. The population expresses the least trust in those social institutions, which, potentially, could ensure the democratic development of society – such as NGOs, Parliament, political parties, media and local government. 

Based on the most important findings of the survey, EPF has come up with the following recommendations for the Government of Georgia, the EU, nongovernmental organizations operating in Georgia, the mass media, and representatives of academic institutions both in Georgia and EU countries. It is recommended:

  1. That more attention is paid to the coverage of EU-related issues in the traditional media (first and foremost, on television) rather than the Internet, which is often not available in remote rural settlements. Of course, this does not mean relaxing efforts to spread information via the Internet – online resources should be maintained as an important source of information, but efforts should be enhanced to inform those segments of the population who do not use the Internet. Actors should coordinate efforts to produce more informational and educational TV programs about the EU, its aims and its role. Information should be prepared not only in Georgian, but also in the Azerbaijani and Armenian languages.
  2. That documents concerning EU assistance spending are made public and accessible, thereby informing society about the diverse profile of its actual beneficiaries. Journalists may produce reports and/or programs recounting the personal stories of ordinary people – farmers, students, nurses, etc. – about the role of EU assistance in their lives. It is important to cover the stories of beneficiaries in various sectors, for example - education, healthcare, civic engagement, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. 
  3. That the reasons behind the fear that the EU is threatening Georgian culture and traditions are thoroughly studied, in order to understand the nature of this fear and the reasons that have contributed to its intensification since 2013. Actors should find ways of relieving or eliminating the fear. Coming to an understanding of what exactly people see as “Georgian traditions”, which of these are being threatened and how, could be a first step in this direction. 
  4. That efforts are enhanced to increase the efficiency of governmental and nongovernmental organizations operating in the country in order to boost the population’s trust in these institutions. One of the first steps in this direction may be a thorough study into the reasons for distrust in the population.

The 2015 EU survey report is available online, here. Over the coming week, we will post a number of blog posts highlighting some of the major findings of the report.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Educated parents, educated children?

Numerous scholars stress that parents’ level of education has a tremendous impact on their children’s educational attainment, as the parents are the first role models and teachers. According to Gratz, children of parents with higher levels of education are more likely to receive tertiary education than people whose parents have lower levels of education. There are a variety of opinions about whether a person’s educational attainment is more closely related to that of his/her father’s or mother’s; still, more and more researchers stress that both parents have an important influence on their child’s education.

This blog post is based on data from the Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey carried out by CRRC-Georgia in April-May, 2014. The findings allow us to see whether parents’ and their children’s educational attainments are correlated.

The survey provides information on:

  • Highest level of education completed by the respondent; 
  • Highest level of education completed by respondent’s mother;
  • Highest level of education completed by respondent’s father;
  • Respondent’s self-assessed proficiency in Russian and English languages, and;
  • Respondent’s self-assessed proficiency in computer use (Microsoft Office programs, excluding games). 

For the analysis performed for this blog post, the data was not weighted.

In line with what earlier studies suggest, Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey data also show that a person’s mother’s and father’s levels of education are strongly correlated. At the same time, the levels of education of both the mother and father are only moderately correlated with that of the respondent. Still, respondents’ level of education is slightly more strongly correlated with the father’s level of education than the mother’s (see the table below). However, the correlation between the levels of education of the respondent and his/her mother or father weakens when we control for the level of education of another parent.

* The level of education is measured on an ordinal scale with values from 1 to 8 ( 1 – “No primary education,” 2 – “Primary education,” 3 – “Incomplete secondary education,” 4 – “Completed secondary education,” 5 – “Secondary technical education,” 6 – “Incomplete higher education,” 7 – “Completed higher education,” 8 – “PhD, Postdoc or a similar degree”). In order to come up with both parents’ combined level of education, codes for mother’s and father’s levels of education were summed (e.g., mother’s secondary technical education, code 5 and father’s completed secondary education, code 4 would add up to code 9 on the combined scale). This combined scale ranges from 2 to 16; the higher the resulting code, the higher the level of education of both parents taken together, and vice versa. 

The chart below shows that when at least one of the parents has tertiary education, the respondent is statistically more likely to also have tertiary education compared to people with parents who do not have tertiary education. This is confirmed by results of a Kruskal-Wallis test.

* The original question on the highest level of education achieved by the respondent has been recoded. Answer options “No primary education”, “Primary education”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were combined into “Secondary or lower education.” Answer options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education”, and “PhD, PostDoc or a similar degree” were combined into “Tertiary education”. 
** The original variables on the highest level of education achieved by respondent’s mother and father were recoded into the variable “Parents’ education” covering all possible combinations of the parents’ level of education: (1) both parents have tertiary education; (2) both parents have secondary technical or lower education; (3) father has tertiary education, mother has secondary technical or lower education; (4) mother has tertiary education, father has secondary technical or lower education. 

As for individuals’ self-assessed proficiency in foreign languages and computer use (Microsoft Office programs, excluding games), more respondents whose parents have tertiary education  report an advanced level of knowledge in these areas compared to those whose parents’ level of education is lower. Not surprisingly, the share reporting advanced knowledge of how to use computers is even higher when both parents have tertiary education compared to when only one parent has tertiary education. Interestingly, when only one parent has tertiary education, the level of knowledge of English is reported to be higher when it is the mother who has tertiary education, rather than the father. The Mann-Whitney test shows this difference is statistically significant.

Thus, the data shows that the levels of education of both parents are strongly correlated with each other, while respondent’s level of education is moderately correlated with that of each of his/her parents. The data shows that parents’ levels of education are most strongly correlated to the child’s when the mother’s and father’s levels of education are combined. The respondent’s level of education tends to be higher when at least one of the parents, no matter whether it is the mother or the father, has tertiary education. The same is true about self-reported level of knowledge of foreign languages (English and Russian) and computer use (Microsoft Office programs, excluding games). Those whose mothers have tertiary education report better knowledge of English.

For more information about parents’ level of education and their child’s occupation, take a look at these earlier blog posts: A taxi driver’s tale, Part 1  and Part 2. Also, check out our Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Making energy matters matter: entering the electoral field

[Editor’s note: This is the seventh post in the series Thinking about Think Tanks in the South Caucasus, co-published with On Think Tanks. It was written by Tutana Kvaratskhelia of World Experience for Georgia. The views expressed in this post are the author's alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia]

Elections are coming in Georgia. Although some thinktankers suggest that elections are a difficult time for think tanks to find an audience, it has also been pointed out that they present opportunities to contribute to the democratic process. At World Experience for Georgia (WEG), in part inspired by previous posts on think tanks and elections at On Think Tanks, we decided to see whether we could indeed help to shape an important debate.

To do so, we developed a set of activities (more on this below) to try to insert energy policy into the pre-electoral debate. Before getting into the details, some background is important.

WEG, Georgian elections and energy policy

WEG is a boutique think tank in Georgia, primarily focusing on the energy sector but also on sustainable development more broadly. Energy issues have strategic importance for the country, but the growing role of foreign interests in Georgia’s energy sector, the lack of transparency in government dealings, and the pre-election populist promises made by politicians, increase the country’s vulnerability to external influences during the election cycle.

In Georgian elections past, political parties have promoted populist, vague and sometimes unrealistic promises that they can rarely keep. While this may not be unusual in some respects, some of the promises have been particularly outlandish when it comes to energy policy. For example, during the 2012 electoral campaign, then candidate and now former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili announced that it was possible to instantly slash electricity bills in half, using Georgia’s sizeable hydroelectric resources. Two months after coming to power, he confessed that the calculations about tariffs were wrong, and he might have overstated what was really possible.

In order to safeguard Georgia’s interests through developing energy security and a European political orientation, WEG has decided to actively participate in pre-election discussions surrounding energy policy in Georgia.

Our proposal: Introducing evidence based policy to the campaign

Electoral campaigns have yet to reach full speed as the elections are still a year away, but to accomplish the above goal, we have started to think about how to make political promises rely on realistic policy options and how we (and think tanks more broadly) can insert our proposals and data into pre-electoral campaigns, leading to impact. As a result, we have developed a strategy for advocating for evidence based energy policy during Georgia’s upcoming electoral campaigns. The strategy consists of three main areas of activity:

  1. Critical examination of energy issues before the elections – here, we intend to review and analyze the main problems in Georgia’s energy sector. These include the growing influence of other countries in the domestic energy sector, grey areas in legislation and practices, which when coupled with unrealistic populist promises by political parties pose risks to the country’s independence.
  2. Monitor the party programs during the run up to the elections – this will enable engaged citizens to independently contrast the different policy positions of parties and make an informed choice in the elections. If political parties have not publicly declared their policies, then WEG will contact them directly and request their positions on energy issues. We will analyze their manifestos on a number of relevant indicators.
  3. Increase public awareness about populist and potentially harmful policies – we are going to communicate with journalists and send them questions to ask while covering the election campaigns. We will also organize roundtable discussions and presentations of our monitoring results during this period. 
We hope that our activities will have some impact on pre-electoral discourse and if successful that it will provide a framework for think tanks in other sectors in Georgia to emulate.

It is important to note that we are not reinventing the wheel here – reviewing the problems facing a society, monitoring political programs and promises, and public awareness and roundtable events are bread and butter think tank activities. This suggests that if it works, the model will face low adoption costs by other think tanks and provide some organizations which are skeptical of election years as working years a familiar model to work off of.

All the above said, we are still in the process of thinking about and discussing what our options are and how we can improve our strategy. Any additional suggestions or remarks would be highly appreciated. If you have some, please do share them in the comments section below.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Household income and consumption patterns in Georgia

After the collapse of the Georgian economy in the 1990s, the country slowly started to recover, and between 2000 and 2014, the gross national income grew from $3.4 billion to $16.7 billion (in current USD). According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the official unemployment rate in Georgia was 12.4% in 2014, but according to numerous surveys the rate is much higher. Compounding matters, the low salaries of the majority of those who are employed make it difficult for many families to make ends meet. According to World Bank statistics in 2012, 15% of Georgians still live below the national poverty line, which is slightly under $1.25 a day.

Classic micro-economic theory tells us that consumption depends on income levels, but also on the type of good. Normal goods, a good example of which in Georgia would be an Opel Astra if we are talking about cars, are consumed less when income falls. Inferior goods, on the other hand, are consumed when consumers do not have enough money to buy something better – with cars, one would choose a Zaporozhets instead of an Opel. Or, when a family’s budget is tight, they might buy no-name sports shoes rather than Nikes, or a standard mobile phone rather than a smart phone. Finally, demand for luxury goods (a Land Rover instead of an Opel) increases more than proportionately as incomes increase.

Recently, we saw that most people in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia cannot afford to buy certain durable goods. But, when income is scarce, it also obviously influences everyday choices, such as what to eat for dinner, when to turn on the heater, and whether to buy your child that chocolate bar she really wants.  

So how does the consumption of everyday goods differ by income level in Georgia? The chart below shows the percentage of households in Georgia which report restricting consumption of certain foods because of their limited income.

Note: The original scale measuring household income was recoded for this chart. GEL was converted into USD. The income groups “USD 401-800”, “USD 801-1200” and “More than USD 1200” were combined into “More than USD 400” and the groups “USD 0”, “Up to USD 50” and “USD 51-100” were combined into  “Up to USD 100”. Only “yes” answers are reported. Error bars indicate a 95% confidence interval.

As expected, the percentages of households limiting consumption differ by income group, with households in the highest income group limiting their consumption the least. Importantly, this trend is obvious in spite of the fact that we did not control for the size of households for this blog posts, i.e. did not take into account per capita income of the household members, or number of children or elderly in the households.

Even in the group with the highest household income, about one in four households limits consumption of beef – and reports doing so solely due to budgetary difficulties. In the $251-400 income group, between 8% (potatoes) and 54% (beef) of Georgians say they restrict consumption of certain goods. In households with an income between $101-250 these shares increase to 14% and 76%. In the poorest households, with less than $100 income per month, four out of five households report limiting consumption of beef and one out of five limits even the consumption of staple foods like potatoes.

In each income group, the highest percentage of households limits consumption of beef and sweets/chocolate, while the smallest percentage limits consumption of potatoes. Milk and vegetables are somewhere in between. In addition to the obvious explanation suggesting that higher shares of households limit consumption of beef and sweets/chocolate simply because these are relatively expensive, this trend might also be explained by what economist call income elasticity of demand. The concept is a measure of how sensitive consumption is to changes in income. Among food products, beef and sweets are probably seen more as luxury rather than absolute necessities, because of comparatively high prices and potential substitutes.

Hence, how Georgians limit their food consumption differs by both income group and type of food. Yet, looking at this issue only from the monetary income perspective does not take into account cases when, in rural settlements, families produce their food themselves.

Interested in this or a similar topic? Browse the Caucasus Barometer and other CRRC survey data here.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Nine things politicians should know about Georgian voters

When discussing political competition in Georgia, some politicians bemoan Georgian voters: they describe the majority of voters as socially conservative and economically short-sighted. Therefore, parties have few options to campaign on, beyond promising immediate benefits or subsidies, while keeping silent about liberal values and an open economy.

This blog post shows that despite significant problems related to political competition in the country, the blame directed towards voters is exaggerated. Based on a small scale pilot survey of 342 voters in suburban Tbilisi (representative of the voters living in Gldani and Samgori districts of Tbilisi), and conducted between March and April of 2015, this post shows that voters’ preferences are more nuanced than some politicians give credit for. In fact, voters often hold seemingly conflicting views. Hence, this blog post claims that Georgian political parties have many options to put forward effective electoral programs for the 2016 parliamentary elections.

The questionnaire contained 14 pairs of questions about voters’ preferences on economic and social issues. Most of these pairs of questions included statements with opposed meanings that were read out in a random order. The respondents were asked to agree or disagree with each statement using a scale from 0 (“Completely disagree”) to 10 (“Completely agree”). Hence, the survey helps not only to understand voters’ preferences, but also to examine inconsistencies between the voters’ positions on opposed statements.

Descriptive analysis of the data leads us to observe that Georgian political parties would find helpful. These observations are grouped below under nine major issues, with mean scores for the respective statement, measured on an 11-point scale, reported in parenthesis. All reported differences are significant as tested using t-test. The data was not weighted, hence we use “voters” and “respondents” interchangeably throughout this blog post.

  1. Economic liberalism: Voters are quite liberal on some economic issues, such as the state’s role in income redistribution and business ownership. For example, more respondents supported the statement that “The Government should provide equal opportunities for economic activity and then should not get involved in income redistribution” (7.85) than the statement that “The government should increase taxes for the rich to finance the poor” (5.33). Moreover, more respondents endorsed business ownership and investments in the country regardless of the investors’ nationality (5.52) compared to reserving business ownership to Georgian nationals alone (4.68).     
  2. Land ownership: Respondents do not mind if foreigners invest in the Georgian economy and own a business, but most believe that the land should be owned by Georgian citizens, no matter how the owner uses it (6.73). The opposing statement – that the owner’s nationality does not matter in so far as s/he uses the land profitably – received relatively low approval (4.37).
  3. Government spending: As much as respondents appreciate the idea of limited government interference in the economy, they do expect the government to increase social spending, even if this requires cutting money from infrastructure development (6.99). Significantly, fewer respondents supported the option of developing infrastructure even if it requires reduced social spending (3.51).
  4. Support for democracy: Voters are very liberal in terms of human rights and participatory governance: an overwhelming majority supports the idea that “human rights are a supreme value and should always be protected” (9.19). In contrast, relatively few respondents believe that the state’s interests should prevail over human rights (4.20). Even fewer voters endorse a strong leader who makes decisions for the good of the country (2.99).The vast majority of respondents approve of an elected leader who makes all the important decisions in consultation with the public (7.88).  
  5. Prioritizing traditions: Support for democratic values is not unconditional. If such values clash with traditions, respondents expect the government to sacrifice freedom for the sake of tradition. More voters say that the government should restrict publishing any information which contradicts the traditions of society (6.18), than voters who believe that publishing any information is the publisher’s sole responsibility and the state should not get involved (4.76). 
  6. The split over secularism: It is well known that the Georgian Orthodox Church has been the most respected institution in the country for the past decade. Voters are, however, split on the issue of the church’s involvement in politics: secularists are in the majority (“Religious institutions should not participate in political decision-making” – 5.76). Yet, quite a few respondents believe that, “In policy making, politicians should obey religious institutions” (4.73). 
  7. Law enforcement: Voters support stricter law enforcement than what they witness in today’s Georgia. More respondents report that “The police are too lenient on the people who break the law” (6.05) than agree with the opposing statement (3.64).
  8. Inconsistent preferences: If voters’ preferences were perfectly consistent, opposed statements would be negatively correlated with a coefficient of -1. However, no pairwise correlation is so strong: the highest correlation coefficients are observed for the land ownership and law enforcement questions (-.56), followed by the questions on religious institutions and business ownership (-.47). It is noteworthy that respondents did not see pairs of statements on the government’s role in income redistribution and freedom of information as having opposed meanings. 
  9. Issues and parties: Increasingly, Georgian voters do not identify with any political party, i.e. they do not name any political party which is “close” to them. It is a very relevant question for all political parties to find out whether such voters are systematically different from their fellow citizens who support a political party. This survey shows that party identification is not a significant factor for issue preferences. Moreover, inconsistency of preferences is also not related to party identification, showing that non-partisan voters are not more confused than partisan voters. 

Georgia’s political parties will soon enter a very important race to win votes in the 2016 parliamentary elections. This blog post shows that the window of opportunity for political parties to pursue meaningful electoral programs is quite wide: voters have a range of preferences on significant policy issues such as the state’s role in the economy, human rights, democratic governance, freedom of information, state-religion relations and law enforcement. Surely, a larger, representative sample and deeper analysis is needed to describe Georgian voters in more profundity, but one thing is clear: rational political actors will benefit from systematic and comprehensive study of voter preferences before making judgments about their opportunities and constraints.