Monday, February 29, 2016

What the population of Georgia wants to know about the EU and how people want to be informed

The Government of Georgia (GoG) recently announced a plan to better inform the public about European Union (EU) programs in Georgia and their benefits. This effort is important, because the population often does not have accurate information about the EU and Georgia’s relations with it, as described in a recent blog post, as well as in a more comprehensive report. Nonetheless, roughly half of the Georgian population reports they would like to get more information on the EU, and this share has remained steady since 2013. This blog post aims at understanding how the EU and GoG could best design their information campaign about Georgia-EU relations by covering topics Georgians are most interested in. To do so, we take a look at the 2013 and 2015 waves of Europe Foundation’s Knowledge and attitudes towards the EU survey which was conducted by CRRC-Georgia.

To start, existing knowledge about the EU is rather limited. Only 27% of the population of Georgia knew in 2015 that the EU had between 21 and 30 member states, while 23% chose an incorrect answer. Most importantly, half of the population responded that they did not know the answer or refused to answer the question. These findings are roughly the same as in 2013

The population’s level of education seems like an understandable place to turn for possible explanations for the lack of knowledge. However, 46% of those providing an incorrect answer to the respective question report having at least some higher education – in fact, the shares of people with various levels of education are the same irrespective of whether they answered this question correctly or incorrectly.

Note: During the interviews, a show card was used for the question, “How many member states are currently in the EU?” The options from the show card have been recoded for this chart. The option “Incorrect” combines options “Up to 10 [member states]”, “From 11 to 20”, “From 31 to 40”, and “More than 40.” The option “Correct” corresponds to the option “From 21 to 30 [member states]”. Reported level of education has also been recoded for this chart. The options “Complete or incomplete primary”, “Incomplete secondary”, and “Complete secondary” have been combined into category “Secondary or lower education”. The options “Incomplete higher [education]”, “BA”, “MA”, and “Postgraduate” have been combined into the category “At least some higher education”.

When assessing how interested people are in various areas of knowledge about the EU, there is obviously a great deal of interest in the EU’s potential practical benefits for Georgia. Forty-one percent of those who report they would like to get more information about the EU want to have more information on Georgia-EU trade relations, consistent with the finding that economic reasons are named most frequently when Georgians are asked why they support the country’s membership in the EU. Unemployment and poverty being at the top of people’s concerns, it again isn’t surprising that the Georgian population is interested in the socio-economic situation in the EU.

Note: A show card was used for this question. Only the most frequently named answers are presented in the chart. 

Although 35% of those who would like to get more information on the EU mentioned that they would like to have more information on the EU’s role in conflict resolution, when asked what the EU Monitoring Mission does in Georgia, only 20% answered that it helps regulate the situation in the areas affected by the 2008 August War. Forty one percent reported they did not know the answer.

Television was identified by the Georgian Government in 2013 as the main source of information for Georgians about the EU and European integration. However, 40% of the population reported in 2015 that, in their opinion, there was little or no information on the EU on TV – almost twice as much as in 2013.

Note: A 5-point scale was used to record answers to the question, “How much information about the EU do you get from TV?” On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the answer “No information at all” and code ‘5’ corresponded to the answer “A lot of information”. For the analysis presented in this blog post, answer options ‘1’ and ‘2’ of the original scale have been combined and labeled as “Little / No information”. Option ‘3’ was not recoded and is labeled ”A fair amount of information”. Answer options ‘4’ and ‘5’ were combined and labeled as “A lot of information”. Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 5% if combined) were excluded from the analysis. 

Thus, on the one hand, about half of the Georgian population reports wanting to have more information about the EU, and its main source of information is TV. On the other hand, in 2015 more people reported that they receive little or no information on the EU from TV than did so in 2013. But efforts like the harmonization of Georgian legislation with EU legislation in areas such as the common market, sectoral policy, law, freedom, and security require wide ranging and costly reforms before leading to practical benefits. This means the reforms require public support if they are to be sustained. Therefore, it is increasingly important that TV broadcasters and other media find a way to keep Georgians informed about the EU and the country’s European integration. 

If the EU and GoG concentrate their communication efforts on the practical benefits for regular people, they are likely to succeed in sustaining the high level of approval towards European integration in the country.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Trends in Scientific Output in the South Caucasus: 1996-2012

Increases in the quantity of peer reviewed publications, on the one hand, and citations, on the other hand, are believed to measure scientific progress. In the 1960s, efforts to document, explore and explain trends in scientific progress gave rise to the quantitative study of science and science policy – Scientometrics. The SCImago Journal & Country Rank Portal covers the period from 1996 to 2014 and provides indicators that help us examine the dynamics of scientific output worldwide, including in the countries of the South Caucasus (SC). In this blog post, we present the following indicators: 
  • Number of publications in peer reviewed journals by academics affiliated with the country’s scientific institutions;
  • The ratio of cited peer reviewed publications to uncited ones;
  • International collaboration, measured by the ratio of peer reviewed publications co-authored by individuals from different countries.

The number of peer reviewed publications by authors from all three South Caucasus countries has increased between 1996 and 2012. The chart below shows a notable increase after 2002.

Importantly, the number of both cited and uncited publications has been increasing in each scientific discipline. The ratio of cited to uncited publications, however, has declined slightly, as the chart below shows. 

At the same time, international collaboration, measured as the ratio of SC authors’ peer reviewed publications co-authored with authors from other countries, seems to have increased between 1996 and 2012. As the chart below shows, Azerbaijan falls behind, while international collaboration is slowly but steadily increasing in Armenia and Georgia. 

To sum up, the number of peer reviewed publications is the most rapidly growing indicator, suggesting positive developments in the scientific community of the countries of the South Caucasus. However, it seems that there is still work to do when it comes to the impact of the publications by scholars in the South Caucasus.

To learn more on the subject, take a look at this comparative analysis of the scientific output of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia; this study which examines trends in the development of science in the CIS countries, and this article (in Georgian) focused on Georgian academic institutions. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dwellings in Georgia's cities

View of Tbilisi from Turtle Lake (Photo by Mariam Kobaladze)

According to the World Bank, Georgia has become more urbanized since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The shift from a planned to a market economy was accompanied by increasing regional disparities, and more people moved to large urban centers looking for economic opportunities and better living conditions. As a result, more than half of the country’s population (57.5%) currently lives in urban settlements, according to the 2014 census. Based on the STEP Skills Measurement Survey conducted in March and April 2013 in urban settlements in Georgia by CRRC-Georgia on behalf of the World Bank, this blog post looks at the type of dwellings where the urban population lives, including data on the number of rooms per dwelling, type of floor covers and toilets, as well as the ownership status of these dwellings at the time of the survey. The survey data was released in 2015 and, for the time being, is the most recent data available.

The majority of Georgia’s urban population (78% of the population of Tbilisi and 53% of the population of other towns and cities) lives in apartments in large apartment blocks with more than ten apartments. Only 14% of Tbilisi residents live in single family houses compared with 41% of residents of other urban settlements.

When it comes to ownership, 83% of Tbilisi residents and 90% of the residents of other towns and cities own their dwellings. Only 9% of Tbilisi residents and 3% of the residents of other urban settlements rent their homes or apartments.

About one third of residents of urban settlements live in three-room dwellings. One- and two-room dwellings are more common in the capital, while five-room or larger dwellings are more common in the non-capital urban settlements.

Parquet floors are the most common flooring material in Tbilisi, where 73% of floors are made from parquet. The respective share in other urban settlements is 44%. The next most common flooring material is wood boards used in 16% of dwellings in Tbilisi and 39% in other urban settlements.

As the survey was only conducted in urban settlements, it is not surprising that most of the dwellings have flush toilets connected to a piped sewer system (97% in Tbilisi and 79% in other urban settlements). Still, there are dwellings that have pit latrines with slab (2% in Tbilisi and 11% in other urban settlements).

Note: The sum of answer options exceeds 100% due to the rounding. 

Thus, most urban Georgians reside in apartments in large apartment blocks. About a third of the urban population lives in dwellings that have two or three rooms. Most people own the dwellings they live in. Notably, there are still homes in the cities that do not have toilets connected to the sewage system.
To explore this topic more, have a look at the data, here.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Playing on traditions: Has Russia’s propaganda worked?

Has Russian influence in Georgia increased in recent years? While the political elite and civil society leaders argue a lot about this issue, in an August 2015 survey, CRRC and NDI asked people what they think. Findings presented in a recent blog post show that a significant share of Georgians (44%) perceives Russian influence as having increased since 2012. This number is all the more alarming considering that only 17% think that the EU’s influence has increased during the same period. Paradoxically, all this is happening against the backdrop of Georgia’s declared EU aspirations and a number of important EU-related foreign policy achievements. This blog post explores how recent efforts of Russian propaganda may have contributed to a decline in support for EU membership.

European Initiative – Liberal Academy Tbilisi (EI - LAT) recently conducted research on Russian soft power and hard power policy in Georgia and published a policy brief highlighting specific mechanisms used by Russia to increase its influence in Georgia. The research findings suggest that there is evidence of increased Russian influence on Georgia, and the brief describes some of its mechanisms. According to the document: 

"Political myths are one of Russia[n] propaganda[‘s] most important tools in Georgia. Russian propaganda is often built on emotional messages to create and strengthen negative stereotypes of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, discrediting the western political or cultural space and supporting homophobic and xenophobic opinions among the public. By cultivating these myths, Russia [presents] itself as Georgia’s only ally with a common identity, [religious] faith, history and culture. Simultaneously, it portrays the West as a threat to all the above-mentioned values."

While this statement is based on qualitative research findings, it finds support in CRRC’s public opinion survey data. In 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 CRRC conducted four waves of The Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia (EU survey) survey, funded by the Europe Foundation (formerly the Eurasia Partnership Foundation). These surveys’ findings show that, overall, the Georgian population’s reported support for Georgia’s EU membership has decreased between 2013 and 2015.

The EU survey data shows that Georgians increasingly perceive the EU as a threat to Georgian traditions. These traditions are extremely important for the people in Georgia who believe that preserving traditions is more important for a good citizen than being critical towards government or working as a volunteer. Thus, the above discussed mechanism of cultivating anti-Western myths may be very efficient in altering Georgia’s pro-Western course.

In fact, according to the EU survey data, the fear that the EU will harm Georgian culture and traditions has increased in Georgian society over the past seven years, especially after 2013. The 12% increase in the share of those who fully agree with the statement, “The EU threatens Georgian traditions,” over two years is a significant change and indicates the existence of a mechanism amplifying this fear.

The same attitude is demonstrated in the answers to another question asked on the same survey. About a third of Georgians believe there will be less respect for Georgian traditions if the country becomes an EU member. Notably, the share of those who think that respect for Georgian traditions will decrease significantly has doubled since 2013. 

The increasing fear that Georgia’s membership in the EU could threaten the country’s traditions can be considered another indicator or outcome of Russian propaganda discussed in detail by EI – LAT. Although this blog post does not prove that there is a direct causal relationship between Russia’s propaganda and changes in public attitudes towards the EU, the CRRC/EF data clearly show three trends that are, most probably, interrelated: 

1. Traditions are very important for Georgians; 
2. The EU is increasingly perceived as a threat to Georgian traditions; 
3. Although still at a high level, direct support for EU membership has declined. 

Based on both CRRC/EF and EI-LAT findings regarding Russia’s propaganda, we can assume that Russia’s propaganda was not only well informed and well planned, but also successful to a certain extent: the fear that the EU will harm Georgian traditions appears to have contributed to a decrease in the number of supporters of Georgia’s EU membership. This result is likely facilitated by the public not being well-informed about the EU, specifically – its commitment to preserve national traditions and supporting cultural heritage. 

The findings presented in this blog post shows that empirical research can be used not only for planning a successful propaganda campaign (by getting information on the most sensitive and important aspects of a given society), but also for detecting propaganda mechanisms and, potentially, taking counter measures.

Further research is essential and should focus on exploring the nature of the fear of “losing” traditions, as well as what people mean by Georgian traditions, as suggested by the Europe Foundation in a recent report. The findings also suggest that an awareness raising campaign on what EU membership actually implies is crucial for combating anti-Western propaganda.

If you would like to explore  Georgians’ attitudes towards the EU more, the data used for this post is available on CRRC’s online data analysis platform. As always, we welcome further analysis and your comments on our Facebook or in the comments section below.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Georgian public's perceptions of the EU’s and Russia’s influence on the country

Numerous news reports in 2015 focused on foreign influence in Georgia (for instance, see the Financial Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Foreign Affairs for some of the stories related to Russian influence), but how does the Georgian public see the situation? This blog post takes a look at how much influence the Georgian public think two foreign powers, the EU and Russia, have on Georgia compared with how much influence they think these powers should have, using August 2015 National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia survey findings.

The Georgian public thinks that Russia has more influence on Georgia than it should have. Forty-nine percent of Georgians assess Russia’s political influence on Georgia as somewhat or very high, while only six percent thinks it should be so. Sixty-eight percent think Russia’s political influence on Georgia should be low or that they should have no influence at all. When it comes to cultural influence, the mismatch is smaller although the pattern remains similar – 43% of Georgians assess Russia’s cultural influence as low  or none, while 58% think that it should be low  or none. When it comes to economic influence, 30% of Georgians assess Russia’s influence on Georgia as somewhat or very high, while only 12% think it should be so.

In comparison with Russia, the influence that the Georgian public thinks the EU should have in Georgia is closer to influence Georgians think it does have, but there is still a mismatch, especially when it comes to assessments of political influence.

The share of Georgians who think that Russian influence on Georgia has increased since 2012 is higher than the share of those who think that EU influence has increased in the same period (44% and 17%, respectively).

When it comes to foreign influence on Georgia, Georgians clearly think that Russia has much more political, economic, and cultural influence than it should have. The assessments are much more similar in case of the EU. Notably, more Georgians perceive Russian influence as having increased since 2012 than those who think the EU’s influence has increased.

Want to explore the data in more depth? Take a look here, using our online data analysis tool.