Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CRRC’s Fourth Annual Methodological Conference: Research for Development in the South Caucasus

CRRC’s fourth annual Methodological Conference took place on June 24 and 25, 2016 in Tbilisi. Over 50 participants representing numerous institutions from seven countries attended.

David Lee, Chairman of CRRC’s Board of Trustees, opened the conference highlighting the importance of the issues discussed at the conference not only for the region, but also for the world.

The conference had a wide variety of workshops, such as Koen Geven’s  workshop on Causal Inference and Estimating Treatment Effects and  Julie A. George’s Methodological Approaches to Estimating Voter Fraud.

With four conference sessions focused on migration, politics, ideology and media, and gender inequalities in the labor market, the conference participants – academics and policymakers alike – had the opportunity to discuss the challenges with and ways forward towards generating more reliable knowledge on the issues.

CRRC-Georgia’s President, Koba Turmanidze, closed the conference noting that next year’s Methodological Conference will continue to focus on policy research and methodological issues, which can lead to better development policy in the region.

For more information, the full conference program can be accessed here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Perceptions of surveillance in Georgia: 2013 – 2015

In May, 2015 CRRC published a blog post about public perceptions of surveillance in Georgia. It showed that people in Georgia were concerned about their privacy when talking on the phone and when using the internet. Even though the current government criticized the surveillance-related legislation and practices of its predecessor, and, after coming to power, passed a new surveillance law, the new law did not change the situation much. Importantly, this law still provides the Ministry of Internal Affairs with direct and unlimited access to Georgian telecommunications data. Surprisingly for many, in March, 2016 government representatives themselves became the victims of surveillance, when videos from their personal lives were spread on social media. It is a sad irony that  surveillance practices became a “weapon” used against members of the government, who had largely ignored representatives of civil society's critiques of these practices.

CRRC-Georgia carried out a new wave of public opinion poll of the Georgian-speaking population of the country for Transparency International – Georgia (CRRC-TIG Survey) in April, 2015. The results show that, unsurprisingly, like the surveillance law itself, public perceptions of surveillance practices in Georgia have not changed much between 2013 and 2015. This blog post discusses the results of this poll and shows that in 2015, a majority of Georgians were still uncertain or concerned about surveillance practices in the country, feeling insecure when talking over the phone and browsing the internet.

As in 2013, in 2015 only about one fourth of Georgians reported feeling comfortable sharing a critical opinion about current political events in the country with a friend while talking on a cell phone. The remainder was either undecided or reported they would not share their views.

In 2015, only 27% didn’t think the government monitored their internet activities. Moreover, almost half believed that law enforcement authorities wiretap politically active citizens that are not criminal suspects, journalists, or politicians. As the chart below shows, a large share of Georgians think that the government wiretaps crime suspects, politicians, journalists and ordinary, politically active citizens.

These results are alarming not only because they indicate a public state of fear, but also because this fear could prevent people from being politically active and critical citizens. It could also discourage individuals from becoming journalists or politicians.

Even though the results discussed in this and the previous blog post presented public perceptions of existing surveillance practices in Georgia, as recent events have evidenced, these perceptions may not be far from reality. Therefore, public perceptions should inform the government about the potential weaknesses of their governance in this regard.

On a positive note, the Constitutional court of Georgia recently ruled that the current laws and regulations about surveillance are unconstitutional, and that Parliament must prepare new surveillance legislation by March 31, 2017. CRRC-Georgia will continue tracking people’s opinion on this issue and hopes that the new regulations will help Georgians to be more critical and active citizens who do not fear that the government is monitoring their activities.

To explore the CRRC-TIG survey data, please visit CRRC’s online data analysis tool.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Changes in the level of trust in social and political institutions in Georgia

The population’s level of trust in government and other institutions can be affected by many factors, and of course, may change over time. This blog post looks at how reported levels of trust in the president, local government, executive government, parliament, the army, healthcare system, police, educational system and courts have changed over the years in Georgia, using CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey data from 2011 to 2015 and NDI-CRRC polls.

The level of trust in most political institutions has declined in Georgia since 2012. One of the largest declines was in the level of trust in executive government, which dropped from 49% in 2012 to 21% in 2015. Reported trust in local government has also declined since 2011. There was a large drop in trust in the president since 2011, however, after 2013, it has increased by 10 percentage points. Since 2014, NDI-CRRC polls have shown decreasing support for the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition, which has a majority of seats in the parliament and forms the government. President Giorgi Margvelashvili, on the other hand, is quite distanced from the ruling party, is often criticized by the GD coalition and has made a number of critical remarks towards GD and its leaders. This may explain the discrepancy between rising trust in the president and declining trust in the executive government and the parliament between 2013 and 2015, although more research is needed.

Note: Answer options “Fully trust” and “Rather trust” were combined for the charts in this blog post. The charts only show the share of those who report trusting each institution. 

While there has been a consistent drop in trust in most political institutions since 2011, there is a similar albeit less dramatic decline in trust in the police and educational system. The healthcare system is an exception – trust in this system has increased by 16 percentage points since 2012. This may be in response to the introduction of the State Universal Healthcare Program in 2013. Notably, the performance of the Ministry of Labor, Healthcare, and Social Affairs is ranked among the highest of all ministries according to NDI polls. The level of trust in the army is consistently high. Trust in courts has slightly increased since 2012, although it has not returned to its 2011 levels.

Since 2012, the levels of trust in local and executive government, parliament, the educational system and the police in Georgia have declined. Trust in the president and the healthcare system, on the other hand, have increased. Trust in the army remains high.

To explore data on trust in institutions in the South Caucasus further, take a look at our Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Attitudes towards public opinion polls in Georgia (Part 2)

CRRC/NDI’s public opinion polls become the subject of intense discussions after the results of every wave of the survey are released, with politicians from various political parties criticizing the polls. Such a situation, though, is not unique to Georgia. As Professor Arthur Lupia recently put it, pollsters are a “popular whipping boy in politics”, yet they also “can give people a stronger voice”. In a previous blog post, we showed that attitudes toward public opinion poll results are mixed in Georgia, with nearly equal shares of the population trusting, distrusting, and neither trusting nor distrusting the results. This blog post shows that even though public opinion polls are regularly criticized in Georgia, there is still a public demand for them. 

CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey asked respondents to rate the level of their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

“Public opinion polls help all of us get better knowledge about the society we live in”;
“Ordinary people trust public opinion poll results only when they like the results”; 
“Public opinion polls can only work well in developed democratic countries, but not in countries like Georgia”;
“The government should consider the results of public opinion polls while making political decisions”;
“Politicians trust public opinion poll results only when these are favorable for them or for their party”;
“I think I understand quite well how public opinion polls are conducted”.

Those who, while answering the previous question about trust in polling results, reported they did not know anything about public opinion polls, were not asked these questions.
Two-thirds of the population agrees with the statement that the government should consider the results of public opinion polls while making decisions, and nearly half agrees that polls help everyone to better understand the society they live in.   

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record answers to these questions. On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the option “Completely disagree” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the option “Completely agree”. For the charts in this blog post, the answers were grouped as follows: codes ‘1’ through ‘4’ were labeled “Disagree”; codes ‘5’ and ‘6’ were labeled “Neutral”; codes ‘7’ through ‘10’ were labeled “Agree”. Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” aren’t shown on the charts.

The share of the population who disagree with the statement that “polls can only work in developed democratic countries, but not in countries like Georgia,” is almost twice as large as the share of those who agree with this statement.

At the same time, people don’t feel they have a good knowledge of how public opinion polls are conducted. Only 36% report believing they have a good understanding of it. 45% also report that ordinary people trust the results of public opinion polls only when they like them, and 62% report the same in the case of politicians. Increasing knowledge of and trust in polls are clear challenges for pollsters in Georgia.

Whether people trust them or not, polls are important for society, and the results presented in this blog post show that people do acknowledge this importance. Polls help everyone grasp what society thinks, and the majority of the population thinks the government should consider poll results when making decisions.

To learn more about public opinion polls, take a look at earlier blog posts including Attitudes toward public opinion polls in Georgia,  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