Monday, January 28, 2019

Georgians have more negative attitudes towards the Chinese than other foreigners in Georgia

Georgia is often famed for its hospitality. While the country is more tolerant of other ethnicities, relative to Armenia and Azerbaijan, it has also experienced a rise in nationalist rhetoric and movements in recent years. A number of incidents have also taken place, with hate crime directed towards immigrants and religious and ethnic minorities. This blog post looks at attitudes towards different migrant groups based on a survey experiment in the Caucasus Barometer 2017 survey.
On CB 2017, respondents were randomly assigned to be asked one of five questions. The basic text read, “In your opinion, will the foreigners that come to live in Georgia contribute to the economic development of Georgia or not?” In the other four questions, respondents were asked about Russians, Americans and Europeans, Chinese, and Turkish people instead of foreigners. Since each group was randomly assigned, it is possible to look at whether attitudes to any of these groups differ from foreigners in general without base lining effects (i.e. the respondent reporting their attitudes towards one group based on a comparison with the previous groups they were asked about).
Only 11% of Georgians think that the Chinese people who come to live in Georgia will contribute to the country’s economic development and 40% think they will not. In contrast, 23% think “Foreigners” without their nationality specified will contribute and 26% that they won’t. People are also relatively more negative towards Turkish people, with 32% reporting a negative attitude.

The above results suggest a relatively lower level of tolerance for Chinese and Turkish migrants relative to people from Russia and “Americans and Europeans.” The importance of tolerance aside, this matters for Georgia’s economic development. Turkey and China are important trade partners for the country, with Turkey consistently being one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Georgia. Looking to the future, Georgia is likely to have more economic relations with China due to its strategic position along China’s New Silk Road project. A lack of tolerance towards these groups, if anything, will work against improving economic relations.
While the pattern is clear, the sources for the particularly negative attitudes towards Chinese people is less so. Have a hunch on the cause(s)? Join the conversation on our Facebook or Twitter pages. The data used in this post is available from CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Budget priorities are similar to people's spending priorities

Georgia’s state budget amounted to GEL 12.5 billion in 2018.  The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs; Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure; and Ministry of Education and Science had the largest appropriations at 28.2% (GEL 3.528 billion), 14.5% (GEL 1.815 billion), and 9.5% (GEL 1.186 billion) of the budget, respectively. In the 2018 June CRRC/NDI survey, respondents were asked, “What are your top three priorities for spending, understanding it means cutting elsewhere?” Respondents were provided with a show card and allowed to name up to three answers. This blog post looks at whether responses match up with actual spending, and how priorities vary among different demographic groups.

Overall, healthcare was named most often, with 61% of the population reporting it was a priority, followed by education (55%) and pensions/social assistance (47%).  No other issues were named nearly as frequently, with support for SMEs and infrastructure being the next most commonly named issues (reported to be priorities by 12% of the public).

People’s views on budget priorities and the current state budget correspond to each other. Healthcare and pensions/social assistance (which are under the Ministry of Labor) and education had the largest share of the budget in 2018. Georgia’s population thinks that these spheres should be budget priorities.

While priorities generally match up with appropriations, who prioritizes different realms of spending? The data suggests that compared to young people (18-35) those who are over the age of 36 are more likely to name healthcare, perhaps unsurprisingly since healthcare spending generally increases with age. Women are also significantly more likely to report healthcare than men. Interestingly, ethnic minorities are less likely to name healthcare as a budget priority. These results are supported by a logistic regression analysis, which found each variable to be a significant predictor of mentioning healthcare.

About half the population (55%) report that education is one of their top three priorities. The data suggest people with tertiary education are more likely to name education as a priority for the state budget than people who have a lower level of education. Age also matters. People between the ages of 18-55 are more likely to name education as a top priority than those who are above 55. People who live in rural areas and ethnic minorities are less likely to name education as a top priority. A logistic regression analysis supports these results.

People 56 years old or more are more likely to name pensions and social assistance as a state budget priority than younger people. Compared to men, women tend to mention pensions and social assistance as a priority. People who think the economic situation is good in the country are less likely to name pensions and social assistance in their top three priorities for the budget. Interestingly, those who live in rural area are also less likely to mention pensions/social assistance as a budget priority.  These results are also supported by a logistic regression analysis.

The above data leads to two conclusions. First, the state budget largely matches up with people’s spending priorities. Second, priorities vary significantly between age groups, settlement types, sexes, and ethnicities.

To look into the data on the issue further, visit CRRC/NDI survey results and visit our Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Institutions need to replace personality

[This article was first published on OC-Media.]

A fair amount of scholarship indicates that (dis)trust in political institutions provides an indication of how well the institutions work. Hence, trust in political institutions is an important indicator for the functioning of a democratic government.

Following this line of logic, one would expect that trust in institutions reflects the public’s trust in who runs them. Caucasus Barometer (CB) data from 2011 to 2017 support this argument.

Overall, the data indicates that trust in political institutions has declined since 2011. None of the political institutions asked about on CB (the president, local government, executive government, parliament, and political parties) received as high a level of trust on the 2017 Caucasus Barometer as on the 2011 or 2012 waves of the survey.

While trust has declined overall, the relative levels of trust have largely been in sync with the changes of power in the country.

After Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, there was an increase in trust towards the executive government (from 39% to 48%) and parliament (from 37 to 44%), the two institutions that changed political leadership.

Trust in the president continued to decline from 58% in 2011 to 28% in 2012 and 23% in 2013. All of these surveys were done while Mikheil Saakashvili was still president.

Trust in the president grew in 2015, the first wave of CB after the 2013 presidential elections, which ended Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency and brought Giorgi Margvelashvili to office.

Public trust in local government did not follow the same logic as executive government, parliament, and the presidency. Even though Georgian Dream won the 2014 local elections, trust in local government did not change between 2013 and 2015.

This could be due to the relatively weak public expectations of local government. Indeed, in 2013, only 4% of the public reported they had attended a local government meeting in the last year on a CRRC/TI survey. Besides low expectations, many local government officials had defected from the UNM to GD in the years since the change of power. Hence, it is not clear that the elections truly marked a change of power.

At the same time that trust in local government did not increase, trust towards executive authorities and the parliament declined as the popular glow surrounding Georgian Dream wore away. Trust towards the executive fell from 48 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2017. While 44 percent trusted parliament in 2012, trust fell to 22 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, trust in President Margvelashvili continued grow, which might be attributable to his de facto opposition to the ruling party, without defection to the UNM.

Trust in political parties has remained low and showed little change from year to year. It declined between 2011 and 2015, yet, trust in political parties does not appear to follow the electoral cycle as trust in institutions controlled by specific parties appears to.

Growing public mistrust toward political institutions in Georgia is a sign of weak state institutions in the country. Renewed optimism and trust in institutions appear to follow changes in political leadership, but without strong institution-building processes, optimism turns into disappointment.

While Georgian democracy has made consistent progress for the last three decades, transitioning from personality to policy driven politics remains a challenge for Georgia’s democratic consolidation.

This article was written by Kristina Vacharadze, Programs Director at CRRC-Georgia. The opinions expressed in the article do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.

To explore the data further, visit our Online Data Analysis tool.