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.  

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