Tuesday, September 28, 2021

What do Georgians think about Tbilisi Pride?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by David Sichinava, Research Director at CRRC Georgia, and Otto Saladze, a researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the authors' alone, and do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

On 5 July, a homophobic riot broke out on the streets of Tbilisi, leading to injuries and possibly a death. While Georgia’s population is generally conservative, what do people think of the events of 5 July, and how have these views shifted since a similar riot on 17 May 2013?

On the morning of 5 July 2021, hundreds of Georgians responded to the calls of the Patriarchate of Georgia and far-right, pro-Russian, and anti-Western groups to protest against the planned Tbilisi Pride march. 

Ostensibly planned as a peaceful prayer in the front of the Kashueti Saint George Church, located on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue, violence soon broke out. Protestors, overwhelmingly male, ransacked the offices of Tbilisi Pride, the organisers of Pride Week, and of the Shame Movement, an activist group. 

The protestors turned rioters dispersed a camp of anti-government protestors in front of the country’s parliament building. The mob assaulted more than fifty journalists, one of whom passed away a week later.

The events of 5 July were reminiscent of those of 17 May 2013, when a similarly violent mob, also supported by the Georgian Orthodox Church and various far-right groups, attacked a handful of queer rights activists on Rustaveli Avenue who were marking International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. The police’s inaction in both situations seemingly further emboldened the mobs.

But what do Georgians think about the events of 5 July? Data from CRRC Georgia’s omnibus survey shows that while most Georgians think that holding a pride march posed a danger to the country, the majority is against the violence that took place and supports the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the country’s constitution. 

Importantly, compared to 2013, the majority of Tbilisi residents do not approve of physical violence — even against those who, in their view, threaten national values.

Awareness of the 5 July events

Eighty-five percent of Georgians have heard about the 5 July events in Tbilisi. Those that had heard about the rallies found out on TV (69%) or social media (45%). One in ten heard about the riots from acquaintances who were not there, while one in fifty claimed to have heard directly from witnesses to what happened.

The majority of Georgians who had heard about the 5 July events were unsure who the organisers of either the Pride March (65%) or the counterdemonstration (67%) were. 

Sixteen percent said that the Tbilisi Pride civic organisation organised the Pride March, while 11% named LGBTQ+ people. Some (5%) mentioned outside forces or foreigners, while 4% named the opposition United National Movement.

As for the violent counterdemonstration, 15% of those who had heard of the 5 July events said that ordinary citizens were behind it. In total, 8% reported that radical groups and leaders organised the counterdemonstration, including the Georgian March, Guram Palavandishvili, and Levan Vasadze

Seven percent named the Georgian Orthodox Church while 5% believe that the government and the ruling Georgian Dream party organised the counterdemonstration.

Would holding a march have endangered Georgia, in the public’s view?

Many politicians, including the prime minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, refrained from supporting the Pride March. Gharibashvili even alleged that through organising the Pride March, ‘radical opposition groups’ were stirring up ‘civic unrest’ and ‘chaos’ in the country.

While half of Georgians (52%) who had heard of the 5 July events said the Pride March could have endangered Georgia, more than a quarter (26%) thought it would not have created problems. Additionally, 22% were unsure.

There was relative consensus on this across major social and demographic groups. Still, fewer young people (48%) believed the Pride March posed a danger than people aged 35–54 (57%). Similarly, young people were less uncertain and more likely to think the march would not have been a threat.

Tbilisi residents too were less likely to agree that Tbilisi Pride would have harmed Georgia (46%) than people in other settlements, and were more likely to believe that the Pride March was not a threat. 

While a similar proportion of people from across the partisan spectrum perceived danger in the Pride March, opposition supporters were more likely to disagree with this perception. 

While most (54%) still agreed that organising a pride march would have endangered the country, 35% disagreed. Supporters of the government, and those who were unaffiliated or refrained from reporting their political sympathies, were more likely to be uncertain in their views than opposition supporters.

What did the public think of the violence?

While with the church’s blessing, far-right groups violently retaliated against activists and media workers on 5 July, few in Georgia approved of such conduct. 

Ninety-one percent of Georgians who had heard about the 5 July events said that physical violence is unacceptable in any circumstance. 

Sixty-nine percent disagreed with the proposition that violence was admissible against a group that jeopardised national values. 

Three-quarters of Georgians (74%) fully or partially agreed that the country’s constitution should grant freedom of expression to anybody, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual identity.

How do Georgians evaluate the response of different actors?

Opinions are split when it comes to the assessment of how different actors responded to the 5 July events, with a significant proportion of the country’s population having ambiguous views. 

Forty-two percent positively evaluated the police’s work, while 30% negatively assessed how law enforcement agencies handled the situation. 

Forty percent had a positive outlook on the church’s actions, with 30% negatively evaluating the Georgian Orthodox Church’s handling of the 5 July events. 

More Georgians (36%) had positive views of journalists’ work than negative (29%). 

Roughly similar shares of Georgians had positive (33%) and negative (30%) views of the prime minister’s actions during the events.

The plurality of Georgians were ambivalent when assessing the work of president Salome Zourabishvili and foreign embassies. More Georgians think positively about Zourabishvili’s handling of the situation (25%) than negatively (21%), yet more people either viewed her response as neither positive nor negative or were uncertain about it. 

About thirty percent negatively evaluated the work of foreign embassies, as opposed to 17% who saw their actions during the 5 July events in Tbilisi positively, though again, people were mainly ambivalent or uncertain. The majority (64%) negatively assessed how the Tbilisi Pride organisation handled the situation.

How have attitudes changed in Tbilisi since the 2013 riots?

A set of similar questions were asked to Tbilisi residents in late May 2013 about the 17 May 2013 homophobic riot

In 2013, about 57% of Tbilisi residents believed that an anti-homophobia rally would have endangered Georgia, while 30% disagreed. 

After eight years, while the plurality of Tbilisians still believes in the dangers of the Pride March, more agree that such events do not threaten Georgia.

Compared to 2013, the opinions of Tbilisi residents on whether physical violence is acceptable against those endangering national values have shifted significantly. 

In 2013, half of Tbilisians said they approved of violence in such circumstances, while 46% disapproved. 

According to the omnibus data, eight years later, almost three-quarters of people living in the country’s capital disagree that physical violence is acceptable against those endangering Georgia’s national values.

The 5 July events shocked Georgia. While the country’s population is socially conservative and religious, the majority does not approve of violence, even against those who, in their view, might present a threat to national values. 

Importantly, survey results also suggest that compared to 2013, Georgians’ attitudes have shifted. While a plurality of Tbilisi’s residents still believe that LGBTQ-themed events pose a threat, the proportion of those who think so has decreased by almost ten percentage points. 

Seemingly, Georgians slowly but steadily have come to the view that violence is unacceptable, contrary to what some church leaders and politicians might have called for.

Note: This analysis makes use of a multinomial regression model predicting Georgians’ attitudes on whether holding a Pride March have endangered Georgia or not. Covariates include standard sociodemographic characteristics such as gender, age, settlement type, education, ethnic identity, partisanship, and a durable goods index. Replication of the analysis is available here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Georgia’s COVID-19 cases exploded due to the 2020 parliamentary elections

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. The article was written by Givi Silagadze, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia, and Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article represent the authors' alone and do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

New analysis released in CRRC Georgia’s policy bulletin suggests that the 2020 parliamentary elections led to a massive rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Georgia. 

While the analysis of last year’s vote looks bleak, this is not to say that the 2 October local elections should be cancelled, which this analysis in no way addresses. However, political parties, the government, and voters need to exercise caution if a repeat of last year is to be avoided. 

The newly released policy brief estimates that approximately 1,250–1,450 of Georgia’s COVID-19 deaths and 100,000–140,000 cases are associated with Georgia’s October 2020 parliamentary elections.

To come to these estimates, a synthetic controls model was used. Synthetic controls models are a type of quasi-experimental statistical model which help to estimate what would have happened in the absence of a large-scale policy change or event. To do so, it constructs a baseline scenario from other countries which are not affected by the particular event. By comparing the baseline scenario to what actually happened, it is possible to estimate the effect of an event.

The chart below shows the results of a model for COVID-19 deaths per million people. The results suggest that around 1,450 people passed away from COVID-19 that would not have had elections not been held. Other models suggested approximately 1,250 deaths were associated with the elections.

Notably, the divergence between the baseline scenario and real Georgia starts two weeks after the elections, in line with the scientific consensus that death rates pick up approximately two weeks after COVID-19 cases start to pick up. The model suggests Georgia had elevated deaths for three months. Two additional models in the policy brief provide lower point estimates of around 1,250 deaths, but substantively similar results.

Similar models were created for COVID-19 cases per capita. The models suggest that between 100,000 and 140,000 cases are associated with the elections. As with the model above, the elevated case counts lasted for approximately two to three months.

The model’s estimates of the increase in COVID-19 cases are in line with the estimated COVID-19 per capita deaths. During this time period, approximately 1.1% of COVID-19 cases resulted in fatalities in Georgia. The deaths and cases the model attributes to the elections is in line with this figure at 1.03%–1.28%.

These results suggest that the government needs to actively work on preventing the spread of COVID-19 on election day on 2 October, and citizens need to follow safety guidelines to prevent the local elections from resembling the 2020 parliamentary elections in terms of COVID-19 spread. 

The full policy brief this article is based on is available here. The full replication code for the analysis is available here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Support for gender equality in parliament is rising in Georgia

This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Eto Gagunashvili, a researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the National Democratic Institute, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity. 

Despite the introduction of gender quotas, Georgia’s parliament remains an unequal place in terms of gender. However, the data suggests support for more women in politics is rising.

Women have been and are underrepresented in Georgia’s parliament, with only 17% of seats held by women as of March 2021. This is despite the passage of gender quotas in 2020, according to which parties must nominate at least one woman for every four candidates. 

The discrepancy stems from a mixture of the mixed electoral system and a lack of requirement to name female candidates for the first past the post or majoritarian component of the elections. The legislation passed in 2020 will slowly increase gender quotas, and assuming parliamentary elections become fully proportional, will increase the requirements to one in three candidates being of the opposite gender by 2028. 

In line with legislative changes, CRRC Georgia and NDI’s data suggests that the public has become increasingly supportive of equal representation in parliament for women and men. Notably, support does not vary significantly by partisanship.

From 2014, the CRRC/NDI surveys asked about the best proportion of men and women in parliament. The data show that the share of Georgians who support an equal share of women and men has increased from 32% in 2014 to 49% in February 2021. 

Further analyses suggests women, younger people, and those with a higher education were more likely to support an equal number of men and women in parliament, while older people and men are less likely to do so. 

Women supported equal representation 18 percentage points more often than men, on average, controlling for other factors. 

Young people were 9 and 13 percentage points more likely to do so than people 35–54 and 55+, respectively. 

People with a higher education were 6 percentage points more likely than people with lower levels of education to support an equal parliament. 

Notably, the type of settlement and partisanship were not associated with support for an equal share of men and women in parliament. 

While support for women’s equal participation in politics is on the rise in Georgia, men are less supportive of equality than women, as are older people and those without higher education. 

The data does not suggest differences between supporters of different parties, meaning that support for equality is not a partisan issue for most citizens.

Note: The above analysis is based on a logistic regression, where the dependent variable is equal support for male and female members of parliament. The independent variables include gender, age, settlement type, education, and partisanship. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

With local elections coming, what matters to the public?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not represent the views of the National Democratic Institute, CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

Local elections are set for 2 October, yet a newly released CRRC and NDI survey on Georgian politics shows that 51% of voters identify most closely with no party in particular. For parties, this presents an opportunity to try to win over the half of the public which views no party as closest to them. But what do voters care about? 

The data suggest people are most concerned about roads, the water supply, and the environment in their communities. As the expression goes, politics are local, and the data suggests the importance of different issues varies significantly by settlement.

What are the issues?

Overall, the most important public goods issue for the Georgian public is roads, with 30% of the public naming this as one of the most important issues. This is followed by water supply, with 22% mentioning this issue. In third comes pollution and the environment, with 12% of the public reporting this is the most important issue for them. 

The importance of different issues has fluctuated over time. Fewer people report that roads and the water supply are among the most important public goods issues in their community compared with in 2015. The importance of the environment has declined compared to December 2018 as well. 

Whose priorities?

The data suggests that the main factor associated with people’s views of the above issues is what type of settlement they live in. People in rural areas are six times more likely to report that the water supply is a problem in their settlement compared with people in Tbilisi, controlling for other factors. 

They are also twice as likely as people in the capital to report roads among the main public goods issues in their settlement. By comparison, people in Tbilisi are three times more likely to report that the environment and pollution are more important, controlling for other factors.

Attitudes also vary based on party support, when controlling for other factors. Opposition supporters are slightly more likely to care about the environment as well as roads. Georgian Dream supporters are slightly less likely to consider water a key concern.

The data suggest that there are no significant interactions between party support and settlement type. This means that the differences between supporters of different parties and between people living in different settlement types hold despite their settlement type or which party they support.

Aside from this, wealth is associated with whether or not someone named the environment and the water supply. 

People in the poorest households had a 22% chance of naming the water supply compared to an 11% chance in the wealthier households in the survey, controlling for other factors. Conversely, people in wealthier households had a 20% chance of naming the environment, while those in the poorest households had a 6% chance, controlling for other factors.

Older people were 11 percentage points less likely to name roads.

For political parties looking to campaign in the upcoming elections on policy rather than personality, the above data provides a few ideas. Notably, people in rural areas are more interested in roads and water, while people in Tbilisi are more interested in the environment and pollution. For parties looking to attract unaffiliated voters, promising to improve roads might be a good place to start.

Note: This analysis of which issues are most important is based on a logistic regression analysis. As control variables, it includes settlement type (Tbilisi, other urban, rural), age group (18–34, 35–54, 55+), ethnicity (minority or not), wealth (a simple additive index of durable goods a household owns), sex (male or female), education level (tertiary education or not), and political party (don’t know/no party, opposition supporter, or Georgian Dream supporter).