Monday, April 11, 2016

Attitudes toward public opinion polls in Georgia

In his book Polling and the Public Herbert Asher notes that findings of public opinion polls have significant effects on citizens’ attitudes and behavior. This is clearly true in Georgia where public opinion polls (especially those focused on political attitudes) are widely discussed by politicians, experts, and the media. Using CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data, this blog post examines attitudes towards public opinion polls in Georgia.

Generally, the public’s trust in the results of public opinion polls is mixed in Georgia. One-third of the population reports trusting poll results, another third reports a neutral attitude, and 21% reports distrusting them. A small share of the population either does not know anything about the polls, answers “Don’t know” or refuses to answer this question.

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record answers to the question: “Generally speaking, to what extent would you say you trust or distrust the results of public opinion polls conducted in our country?” On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the option “Do not trust at all” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the option “Completely trust”. For this blog post, the answers were grouped as follows: codes ‘1’ through ‘4’ were labeled as “Distrust”; codes ‘5’ and ‘6’ were labeled as “[In the middle]”; codes ‘7’ through ‘10’ were labeled as “Trust”. Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were combined. 

Reported trust in the results of public opinion polls varies in different demographic groups. Tbilisi residents tend to report slightly higher trust compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. Those who are younger (18 to 35 years old) also report higher trust than those who are 56 years old or older. A slightly greater share of those with higher than secondary education reports trusting poll results compared to those with secondary or lower education.

Note: Only shares of those who reported trusting public opinion poll results are shown in the chart. The answer options for the question on education level were grouped as follows: options “No primary education”, “Primary education (either complete or incomplete)”, “Incomplete secondary education” and “Completed secondary education” were grouped into “Secondary or lower”. Options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or specialist degree)” and “Post-graduate degree” were grouped into “Higher than secondary”.

Interestingly, nearly half (46%) of those who report trusting the media also report trusting poll results, and statistical correlation of the answers to these two questions is significant. By comparison, only a quarter (26%) of those who distrust the media report trusting poll results.

Note: A 5-point scale was used to record answers to the question, “Please tell me how much do you trust or distrust Georgia’s media?” For this blog post, answer options "Fully trust" and "Rather trust" were combined into "Trust media"; ”Rather distrust" and "Fully distrust" were combined into "Distrust media". Options "Don't know" and "Refuse to answer" are not shown on the chart.

Attitudes toward public opinion poll results in Georgia are mixed, and nearly equal shares of the population trust, distrust or neither trust nor distrust the results. There are, however, some differences between those living in different settlement types, as well as between representatives of different age groups, and those having different levels of education. Generally, those who report trusting the media tend to trust the results of public opinion polls.

To learn more about public opinion polls, take a look at earlier blog posts including Ask CRRC | Survey vs Census and Pre-Election Polls | what would be needed. To learn more about how CRRC collects data, take a look at this video or read CRRC-Georgia’s Research Guidelines

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