Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Georgians increasingly optimistic about joining the EU

This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Lucas Fagliano, an International Fellow at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the views of the Europe Foundation, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

Despite worsening relations between the EU and Georgia, newly released survey data from the spring of 2021 suggests Georgians are increasingly optimistic about the country’s prospects of joining the bloc within the next five years.

According to data from the newly published Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia 2021 survey CRRC Georgia conducted for the Europe Foundation, there was a steep rise between 2019 and 2021 in the share of people thinking that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years.  This is of course an unrealistic expectation, as the EU accession process itself would likely take more than five years if Georgia already had candidate status.

Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 12-percentage point jump in people believing that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years. This growth marks a recovery in optimism towards Georgia's EU accession chances. 

In 2015, people were 16 percentage points less likely to think Georgia would join the EU in the following five years compared with 2013. In 2019, it was at 13%, and today, 25% believed Georgia would join in the next five years.  


In its 2020 parliamentary election platform, later transformed into the ‘Building a European state’ parliamentary project, Georgian Dream declared the country would apply for EU membership candidacy in 2024. 

As a result, one might expect that the unrealistic expectations stem primarily from Georgian Dream supporters. 

The data does suggest that Georgian Dream supporters are significantly more likely to think Georgia will join the EU in the next five years than people who support no party, though by only eight percentage points. However, there is no significant difference between opposition and Georgian Dream supporters. 

Ethnicity also matters. Ethnic minorities were 17 percentage points less likely than ethnic Georgians to believe Georgia will join the EU in five years or less. 

Looking closer at ethnicity, the data indicates that language also matters. Ethnic minorities had a 20% chance of thinking Georgia will join the EU in the next five years or less if they speak Georgian, while ethnic minorities that did not speak Georgian had a seven percentage point chance of believing Georgia would join the EU in the next five years. 


The growth in the belief that Georgia will join the EU in the next five years highlights a rising optimism in the EU, but also a rising incoherence with past experiences of EU enlargement. 

Accession procedures have lasted on average between eight and nine years after the country applies for candidate status. Georgia's current foreign policy strategy states that by 2024 Georgia will apply for candidate status, expecting to be accepted as a candidate by 2030

If accepted and if negotiations start right away (instead of in 2030), Georgia will need to join in two years to comply with the five-year belief. That is six years below the average, one year ahead of the fastest accession, and eight years ahead of the post-2000 average. 

This could be possible, as there is no time requirement for EU negotiations, and every accession is dealt with individually. However, it is highly unlikely.

It seems particularly unlikely considering the increasingly tense relations between the EU and Georgia. An illustration of this was Georgia’s ‘rejection’ of the EU’s September 2021 financial assistance package under the auspices of healthy economic decision making. However, EU officials, both from the Commission and the Parliament, reiterated the fact that Georgia would not have been able to receive the aid given its failure to fulfil the rule of law and reform conditionalities. 


With Georgia’s relations with the EU in quite poor shape, Georgians are also increasingly optimistic about when the country will join the European Union. Whether Georgians’ optimism will eventually be translated into closer relations though, remains an open question.

The data used in this article is available here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Do people think voter secrecy is respected in Georgia

Note: This post first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dr. Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author's alone and do not reflect the views of ISFED, CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.

International and local election observers often note violations of the secrecy of the ballot in Georgia, and the 2021 local elections were no exception.  According to a recent study, a plurality of people think such violations could take place in Georgia, and some have heard of such cases in the past year.

On the survey on election-related attitudes carried out by CRRC Georgia for ISFED,  respondents were asked about a hypothetical country where a citizen’s vote was somehow revealed to a neighbour who was on the election commission. 

Respondents were asked if they thought that something like this could happen in Georgia. A plurality of respondents thought it was possible, while around a third deemed it impossible. The rest were unsure.



A regression analysis shows that people in the 18-34 age group were around 1.2 times more likely to think that someone else might find out who they voted for than older people. 

Even though election observers recorded more violations of the secrecy of the ballot in areas predominantly populated by ethnic minorities, ethnic Georgians were 2.4 times more likely to think this kind of violation was possible in Georgia compared to ethnic minorities. 

People with higher than secondary education were 1.2 times more likely to deem it possible than people with secondary or lower education. 

The more durable goods a household owned (a proxy for wealth), the more likely a person was to think the secrecy of the ballot could be compromised in Georgia.

Opposition party supporters were 2.1 times more likely than Georgian Dream supporters and 1.4 times more likely than people who did not name any party as close to their views to think this was possible in Georgia. 

There were no differences in terms of gender, settlement type, or employment type.

Note: This and the following chart were generated from a regression model. The model includes gender (male, female), age group (18–34, 35–54, 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), ethnicity (Georgian, ethnic minority), education (secondary or lower, secondary technical, tertiary), employment status (public sector, private sector employee, self-employed, not employed), party respondent names as closest to his/her views (Georgian Dream, opposition party, did not name a party (Don’t know, Refuse to answer, No party)), and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth.

In focus groups and in-depth interviews, some participants felt that the secrecy of the ballot could only be violated when a voter chooses to show someone their ballot or tell them who they voted for. 

Some participants reported that party coordinators asked voters to send a picture of their ballot. Other participants indicated that voters might mark their ballot by drawing a line or putting a dot on it so that it is possible to tell who they voted for. 

However, participants underlined this would still mean that the voter revealed their preferences. 

One participant stated, ‘I have heard of many things, that they have told them to mark it in a specific way, put a cross on it or a dot. So I have heard of it, but not that they have forced someone. Such things happen. I don’t know. They talk about many things.’

The survey shows that, in the past year, 27% of the population had heard of a voter taking their ballot outside the election precinct. Most of the population (61%) had not heard about such an incident. 

A regression analysis shows that ethnic Georgians were 1.9 times more likely to report knowing of such cases than ethnic minorities. 

Similarly, opposition party supporters were 3.1 times more likely than Georgian Dream supporters and 1.6 times more likely than people who did not name a party to report that they had heard of a ballot being taken out of an election precinct. 

Wealthier people were also more likely to say they knew of such cases. There were no gender, age, settlement type, or employment related differences in the data.

Regardless of whether they had heard of someone taking their ballot outside the election precinct, a majority (88%) of the population thought that it was unacceptable or completely unacceptable when a political party coordinator asks a voter to take a picture of their ballot. There were no differences between different groups on this issue.

Thus, a plurality of Georgia’s population thinks it is possible for someone to know who you voted for. Qualitative data suggests that the public thinks this only occurs if a voter reveals their vote to someone else. 

For a majority, it is unacceptable to be asked to take a photo of one’s ballot. Young people, ethnic Georgians, people with higher than secondary education, opposition supporters and people with better economic situations were more likely to question whether the secrecy of the ballot is respected in Georgia.

The data used in this article are available here.


Tuesday, November 09, 2021

What issues do Georgians think about when voting?

This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of OC Media and CRRC Georgia. It was written by Makhare Atchaidze, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia.

While voters in Georgia tend to look to personalities rather than policies in determining who they will vote for, policies also matter to a large number of people. But what issues are most important to voters?

On 2 October 2021, 1.8 million voters participated in Georgia’s local elections. In Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze won the most votes in the first round, but failed to pass the 50% + 1 threshold for winning outright in the first round. This resulted in runoff elections in a number of Georgian cities, including Tbilisi, where Kakha Kaladze was re-elected with 56% of the vote. 

In the second round of the campaign, a number of observers noted a shift in the discourse to a conversation around social policy.

Analysis of a recent CRRC Georgia survey funded by the National Endowment for Democracy suggests that in the context of municipal elections, environmental issues are the top policy priority voters think about when deciding who to vote for. 

CRRC Georgia conducted a survey of approximately 3,000 residents of Tbilisi a month before the first round of the elections. Respondents were asked what policy issues matter to them most when deciding who to vote for.

The data shows that the most important issues people think about when it comes to deciding who to vote for are related to the environment and transport infrastructure.

These issues were present in the platforms of the mayoral candidates in the runoff elections. 

Nika Melia focused on maintaining recreational areas, improving cleaning services and wage policies, and waste management. 

Kakha Kaladze’s platform suggested that the City Hall would spend ₾300 million ($95 million) on environmental issues over the next four years. This included spending on renovating old parks and building new ones, forest restoration around Tbilisi, implementing waste separation, and continuing the Healthy City Programme, which includes these and other initiatives. 

Both candidates had even more in their platforms on transport issues.

Further analysis which looks at who mentioned parks and green spaces, environmental pollution, and/or clean streets suggests that attitudes vary by a number of characteristics. 

A regression model suggests that people over 55 were less likely to mention environmental issues than other age groups. Saburtalo, Vake, and Didube residents were significantly more likely to report they would vote for a party that would resolve environmental issues.  People with a higher education and women were more likely to name environmental issues as important as well.


Note: This and subsequent charts were based on a logistic regression model. The model includes gender (male, female), age groups (18–34, 35–54, 55+), district of Tbilisi (Mtatsminda, Vake, Saburtalo, Krtsanisi, Isani, Samgori, Chughureti, Didube, Nadzaladevi, Gldani), employment status (employed or not), education (secondary or lower, technical, tertiary), IDP status (forced to move due to conflicts since 1989 or not), ethnicity (Georgian, ethnic minority), wealth (ownership of 10 different items, a proxy variable), and closest party to the respondent’s views (Georgian Dream, opposition, Don’t know/Refuse to answer/No party).

The next most common issues were traffic, public transport, and roads. Looking at who named at least one of these variables shows that transport issues were significantly less likely to be mentioned in Mtatsminda compared to all other districts. 

As far as policy issues, people living in Tbilisi mostly think about environmental and transport issues when deciding who to vote for. Women, younger people, and people with a tertiary education are more likely to mention environmental issues. People in Mtatsminda are least likely of all districts to be concerned with public transport. 

The data used in this article is available here. Replication code for the above analysis is available here.

The views presented in this article do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia, the National Endowment for Democracy, or any related entity.  



Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Party activists near polling stations not acceptable for the majority in Georgia

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint production of CRRC Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Elene Ergeshidze, a Researcher at CRRC Georgia. The views expressed in this blog post are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, ISFED, or any related entity.

The presence of party activists and coordinators outside polling stations collecting information on voters has become a point of contention in recent years in Georgia. But what does the public think?

A number of local and international election monitors (including the OSCE, NDI, GYLA, ISFED) noted the widespread presence of party activists during 2020’s parliamentary elections. 

According to a CRRC and ISFED survey conducted in August 2021, only 16% of the public said they noticed a candidate, party activist, or coordinator near the election precinct during the past year, recording information about voters or asking voters for personal information. 

A large majority (78%) did not see coordinators, and 5% either reported not knowing or refused to answer. 

Opposition supporters were more likely to report noticing coordinators (33%) than Georgian Dream supporters (10%). Also, people from wealthier households (22%) were more likely to report so than poorer households (11%). 

About half of people did not think that the presence of coordinators at election precincts created an intimidating environment for voters (51%) or influenced who people vote for (55%). Still, more than a third of the respondents agreed with these statements (38%, 34%, respectively). One in ten did not know how to respond to the questions. 

A regression analysis suggests that partisanship and actually reporting seeing a party representative or coordinator predict attitudes towards the perceived atmosphere at election precincts. 

Opposition party supporters were 22 percentage points more likely to agree that it created an intimidating environment than Georgian Dream supporters and 24 percentage points more likely to say the presence of coordinators influenced who people vote for than supporters of the governing party. 

Those who said they have seen party representatives or coordinators near an election precinct were more likely to report that it created an intimidating environment for voters and influenced who people vote for than those who had not seen them.

Although more than half of the public disagreed that coordinators’ presence influenced how people vote or said it created an intimidating environment, a majority (59%) said that their presence was unacceptable. Only a third (30%) of the public said this was acceptable. 

As with the above variables, party support predicted who was more likely to think it was acceptable. Georgian Dream supporters were 2.5 times more likely (48%) to report it was acceptable than supporters of other parties (19%) or those with no specific party identity (27%). 

Those who reported they have not seen coordinators near voting precincts were more likely to find it acceptable (34%) than those who reported noticing them (23%). 

Interestingly people employed in the public sector were also more likely to report they felt it was acceptable for party representatives or coordinators to be present at voting precincts (36% vs 28%). 

While most of the public does not think the presence of coordinators at polling places influenced voters, a majority disapproved of the practice nonetheless. Notably, Georgian Dream supporters were much more accepting of the practice than others. 

The data used in this blog is available here. The analysis of whether different groups viewed the above issues differently was done based on a logistic regression model, which included sex, age group (18-34, 35-54,55+), settlement type (Tbilisi, other urban, rural), ethnicity (minority or not), education level (Secondary or less, vocational, or tertiary education), saw a coordinator or not, employment status (working in the public sector, private sector or not working), party support (Georgian Dream, Opposition, or don’t know/refuse to answer/ no party), and a simple additive index of durable goods (a common proxy of wealth).