Thursday, April 25, 2024

Georgians are feeling the effects of climate change

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia, Caucasian House, or any related entity.

The effects of climate change are increasingly being felt acutely in Georgia. A CRRC poll investigated Georgian people’s perception of climate change, and found that 90% of respondents considered it to be an important issue, and 75% had experienced changes in local weather patterns. 

Climate change is increasingly having catastrophic impacts around the world, from an increase in insect-borne infectious disease to a rise in deadly heatwaves, flooding, and storms. 

These impacts are also being felt in Georgia, with unpredictable weather severely impacting agriculture and winemaking, glacial melting causing an increase in natural disasters, and deadly weather events like the Black Sea storm Bettina increasing in frequency. 

However, climate change had only infrequently appeared in mainstream Georgian discourse prior to the tragic Shovi landslides

In this context, what does the Georgian public think about climate change? 

Data from a newly released CRRC Georgia poll suggest that an overwhelming majority of Georgians consider climate change important, and most believe that they have personal experience of climate changing in their area.

While few considered climate change one of the primary issues that Georgia faced, almost all believed that climate change was happening. 

To assess the relative importance of climate change, the surveyed public was asked to identify the top issues the country faced, and allowed to name two. As in most surveys, economic concerns prevailed, with 21% naming the economy and 18% naming poverty as Georgia’s top issues. In contrast, 2% named climate change and 5% named environmental protection. In total, 6% named one or the other, as some respondents named both climate change and environmental protection. 

While the data suggests that climate change is not seen as a high priority issue, it also shows that the public does nonetheless consider it to be significant. 

When asked how important or unimportant the issue was, 90% considered it to be important (31%) or very important (59%). The data paints a similar picture for how concerned the public is about climate change — 80% of the public is worried (42%) or very worried (38%) about climate change. 

While there is a high degree of sympathy towards the issue, the public is relatively unclear about the root causes of climate change. Only a third of Georgians (32%) believe that climate change is primarily driven by human action, while 42% believe it is partially natural and partially human driven. One in five (21%) believe that climate change is primarily driven by natural causes. 

While the primary cause of climate change is less than clear to the public, there is consensus on climate change being real: only 1% of respondents reported the belief that climate change is not happening at all.

The strong belief in climate change may be connected to a high prevalence of people reporting seeing the effects of climate change in their communities, and that they have experienced weather events that they take as proof of climate change. 

Three quarters (75%) of the surveyed public reported that there have been changes in their local weather patterns, and 74% agreed with the statement that ‘I have personally experienced unusual weather that I feel is clear proof of climate change’.

Regarding the specific weather events that people had noticed, unusually warm weather for the time of year, heavy rains and flooding, and sudden changes in weather topped the list. In contrast, less than 10% of respondents named heavy snowfall, large storms, and unusually cold weather.

The above data shows that while climate is not a primary concern to the Georgian public it does matter to them, with people aware of the changing climate in their communities. 

This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a non-resident senior fellow at CRRC Georgia. It is based on a new report, available here.

Dustin works as a polling consultant for climate change-related organisations, as disclosed on his LinkedIn profile. The views within this article reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia, any related entity, or any entity which Dustin works for.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Georgians are split on economic relations with Russia

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Zachary Fabos, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia and Milorsh Shengelia, a Researcher at CRRC-GeorgiaThe views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia, Caucasian House, or any related entity.

Despite significant negative public sentiment towards Russia’s relations to Georgia, a 2023 CRRC survey found that there were mixed opinions on Georgia’s economic ties to Russia. 

In CRRC Georgia’s 2021 Caucasus Barometer Survey, 66% of Georgians surveyed identified Russia as the country’s main enemy. However, NDI and CRRC Georgia’s October 2023 survey data found that those surveyed had a variety of opinions on Georgia’s economic relations with Russia. 

Georgian support for deepening economic relations with Russia reached a peak of 53% in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A month later, in March 2022, support for the opposite — limiting economic relations — was at its highest at 39%. Since then, support for deepening relations has remained steady, while support for limiting relations has declined, with each position supported by a quarter of the surveyed public as of October 2023. At the same time, there has been an uptick in support for leaving relations as they stand, at 34%. 

Opinions on how to manage Georgia’s economic relations with Russia vary with settlement type, ethnicity, and gender. 

Tbilisi residents were 20 percentage points more likely to support the idea of limiting economic relations with Russia than those living in other urban settlements, and 28 points more likely than those in rural communities.

Ethnic minorities are 15 percentage points more likely to report the country should deepen economic relations with Russia, while men are 10 points more likely to support deepening economic relations with Russia than women. 

The share in favour of maintaining relations as they stand tends to be stable amongst social and demographic groups, with 35-39% of the different demographic groups holding this view, controlling for other factors. The two exceptions to this pattern are Tbilisi residents, who as noted previously tend to believe that relations should be limited, and ethnic minorities, who are more likely to believe relations should deepen.

Aside from demographic factors, partisanship predicts attitudes towards Georgia’s economic ties with Russia. 

The largest difference of opinions along party lines is between supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the United National Movement (UNM). After controlling for other factors, supporters of the ruling party are twice (33%) as likely as UNM supporters (15%) to favour deeper economic relations with Russia. UNM supporters are also nearly four times as likely (52%) to think relations should be limited compared with Georgian Dream supporters (14%), controlling for other factors.

Georgian society is split on how the country’s economy should interact with Russia’s, and these differences of opinion vary substantially along social, demographic, and partisan lines. 

Note: The analysis in this article makes use of multinomial regression analysis. The analysis included gender (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, and 55+), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), education (secondary/ secondary technical/ lower, and tertiary), ethnicity (ethnic Georgian, ethnic minority), employment (not employed, employed), a wealth index (0-10), and political party support (No party/don’t know/Georgian Dream, UNM, other party, and refuse to answer), as predictor variables. 

This article was written by Milord Shengelia and Zachary Fabos, researchers at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC Georgia, or any related entity.