Monday, October 16, 2017

Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?

CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.

In May 2017, only about 1% of the population of Georgia reported having not heard of visa liberalization. A majority, 64%, reported being glad to have the possibility to travel to the Schengen zone countries visa free, although only 16% believed they personally would take advantage of the visa-free regime in the next 12 months. About a third of the population said visa liberalization did not matter for them, and a rather small minority (4%) reported not being glad about visa liberalization.

Five major conditions have to be met by Georgian citizens to enjoy visa-free travel: they should be able to provide a return ticket, travel insurance, proof of financial means to cover their trip expenses, the address where they will be staying during the trip (a hotel reservation or the address of people inviting him/her) and hold a biometric passport. The Georgian government has implemented a large-scale information campaign to spread information about the conditions of visa liberalization as widely as possible. In order to learn how effective this campaign was, the survey included an open question, “Which are the documents that a Georgian citizen needs in order to travel to the Schengen zone countries visa-free?”

According to the findings, people best remembered the requirement of having a biometric passport – 78% named this condition of visa-free travel. Much smaller shares remembered the other conditions: 45% named financial means, 40% a return ticket, 34% the address where a traveler will be staying during the trip, and only 24% named travel insurance. Understandably, those planning to travel to the Schengen zone in the next 12 months demonstrated a better knowledge of the conditions of visa-free travel. However, the differences were not impressive, especially taking into consideration the small size of this group and thus a relatively larger margin of error.

Overall, only 12% of the population named all these conditions during the survey. Rather surprisingly, the rural population and those living in urban settlements outside the capital “scored” better in this exercise compared to the population of the capital and ethnic minority settlements. On the other hand, 18% failed to name any of the five conditions of visa-free travel. The population of ethnic minority settlements demonstrated the poorest knowledge.

Importantly, as of May 2017, a quarter of the population of Georgia mistakenly believed that as a result of the visa-free regime, Georgian citizens obtained permission to work in the EU. The share increases to 34% among those who say they will travel to a Schengen zone country in the next 12 months. Thus, a preliminary look at the findings about knowledge of the conditions of visa liberalization for Georgian citizens suggests that the information campaign needs to expand, and become more intense and targeted to potential travelers.

The datasets and findings of all waves of Europe Foundation’s survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia are available on CRRC’s online data analysis platform. A report focused on the 2017 data is available here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Prioritizing the personal: People talk more about personal issues than political events

There is nothing new in the idea that, in general, people would primarily be interested in their own lives, rather than in social or political events. In other words, social and political events will, most probably, be overshadowed by events in one’s personal life. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey data provides more detailed insights on this. In this blog post, we compare answers to two CB questions: “When you get together with your close relatives and friends, how often do you discuss each other’s private problems?” and “When you get together with your friends and close relatives, how often do you discuss politics / current affairs?” in Armenia and Georgia.

The population of both countries report discussing private problems with much higher frequency than politics and/or current affairs. Interestingly, while the populations of the two countries report rather similar low frequencies of discussing politics and/or current affrairs, the population of Georgia reports discussing private problems frequently almost twice as often as the population of Armenia.


Note: Originally, 10-point scales were used for these questions, with code ‘1’ corresponding to the answer “Never” and code ‘10’ corresponding to the answer “Always”. For the charts in this blog post, the original scales were recoded into 3-point scales, with codes 1, 2 and 3 combined into the category “Rarely”, codes 4 through 7 combined into the category “With average frequency”, and codes 8, 9 and 10 combined into the category “Frequently”. Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% of the cases) were excluded from the analysis. 

When looking only at the most radical answers on the original 10-point scales (“Never” and “Always”, i.e. codes 1 and 10), in both Armenia and Georgia the share of those who report always discussing politics and/or current affairs is much less than the share of those who report never discussing these issues. In Armenia, 8% report always discussing politics and/or current affairs when they get together with close relatives and friends, as opposed to 29% who report never doing so. The respective shares are 11% and 25% in Georgia.

When it comes to the shares of the population recording the most radical answers about the frequency of discussing private problems, the pictures in the two countries are quite different. While practically equal shares report discussing private problems with close relatives and friends in Armenia either always (14%) or never (16%), in Georgia, four times as many report always discussing private problems when they get together with close relatives and friends (29%), compared to 7% who report never doing so.

Even when researchers rely on self-reported information only, as is the case with these CB questions, a high frequency of discussing certain issues reflects people’s interest in them. In Armenia and especially in Georgia, few people spend time talking politics. Not surprisingly, these are mostly older people. While there are no large male-female differences, the reported frequency of discussing politics with close relatives and friends differs for the population of different settlement types. Most surprisingly, the findings in this respect are rather different for the capital cities of Armenia and Georgia.

Thus, although the general patterns of frequency of discussing different issues with close relatives and friends are similar in Armenia and Georgia, there are certain important differences that would merit further research. Specifically, one important question to answer is, are Armenians – especially those living in Yerevan – much more reserved while discussing politics?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer and other survey data is available at our Online Data Analysis portal.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Get credible! ... Or a modest proposal to implement pre-registration in think tank research

[Note: This post first appeared at On Think Tanks. It was written by Aaron Erlich Assistant Professor of Political Science and Founding Member of the Centre for Social and Cultural Data Science at McGill University and Dustin Gilbreath a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The Caucasus Research Resource Centers in collaboration with Aaron Erlich and Caucasus Survey recently announced a pre-registration competition for articles that will use the 2017 Caucasus Barometer Survey. This post is a reflection on how and why think tanks can and should use pre-registration based on the experience of setting up the competition and a summer workshop on pre-registration hosted at CRRC-Georgia in summer, 2017.]


It’s almost a cliche to say that think tanks operate on the basis of credibility. The media, politicians, and some in the general public have increasingly questioned think tanks’ credibility in recent years, with think tanks and tankers becoming increasingly thought of as lobbyists under a different name. Think tanks are not the only ones experiencing a credibility problem. Social science outside the think tank world is also in the middle of a credibility crisis. This crisis stems from the lack of reproducibility of results, scandals related to data fabrication, reliance on small sample studies, and questionable data analysis practices in the search of statistical significance. In response to this crisis, one proposal that aims to ameliorate the situation is the pre-registration of studies. Pre-registration not only represents an opportunity for social science, but also for think tanks to increase the credibility of their work, lighten workloads, and increase donor independence.

What is pre-registration?
A pre-registered study is one where research design elements like sample size, hypotheses, any experimental protocols, and statistical analyses are defined, justified, and placed in a secure registry prior to actually carrying out data analysis. Usually, this means registering the study prior to data collection. However, in some cases one can pre-register a design while data collection is ongoing or before the data are available to the researcher.

For example, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (Aaron’s former employer and Dustin’s current) is currently holding a competition for papers on foreign policy preferences in the South Caucasus based on the 2017 Caucasus Barometer survey. The survey, at the time of writing, is entering the field and is expected to be complete at the end of October. However, the data itself will not be released until December. To participate in the competition, researchers must register their research design at the Open Science Foundation registry (one of a number of reputable locations to register a study) and then submit their paper based off their pre-registration (without results) to the journal Caucasus Survey. The papers will be reviewed and accepted or rejected without the results of analyses, hence taking away the incentive to find statistical significance.

Like in other studies, analysis commences once an organization has collected data. However, in contrast to an unregistered study, after data collection a researcher need only focus on carrying out the analysis described in their pre-registration plan (or even simply run pre-written code for analysis) and insert the tables and graphs into their report. The bulk of the registration document serves as the report, hence front-loading the writing. Any exploratory data analysis, not described in the pre-registration, is reported as such in the final report.

Why would a think tank pre-register a study?
From the perspective of a think tank, there are reputational advantages as well as more subtle bonuses for managing a think tanks’ workload. The most important advantage of pre-registration will likely be that it increases the credibility of the think tanks’ findings. While in the past, research consumers often simply considered quantitative work robust, today issues surrounding replicability, and statistical modeling like hacking data for statistical significance at the holy 5% level have cast a large shadow over a great deal of quantitative work. Pre-registration precludes statistical hacking among other issues like researcher degrees of freedom, thus leaving fewer avenues of attack for potential critics.

Besides increasing credibility, pre-registration of research design can be particularly valuable for think tanks who work on commissioned studies. While philanthropy is one of the main sources of funding in the United States, in the developing world, think tanks often survive on service contracts and grants for studies on specific issues. Pre-registration is beneficial for both the academic reasons outlined above as well as for the think tank’s work load and independence.

When it comes to workload, a pre-registered study shifts a great deal of effort to project start up, but has the potential to decrease the ultimate workload. Because hypotheses are specified ahead of time, researchers will have to start writing out their expectations instead of focusing solely on design at the start of projects. This means that clients need to agree beforehand on what analyses the think tank will perform, and that agreement can be put into the deliverables of any contract. In this manner, donors who contract research could be constrained in their ability to request more analyses at the end of the project (at least without paying and specifying that these were not pre-registered results). In turn, this prevents researchers from needing to run (potentially hundreds) of additional analyses at the end of a project, when the client is unsatisfied with the results for whatever reason or curious about some other result they had not thought of ahead of time.

When it comes to independence, in the current environment, many donors do not hesitate to pressure researchers to produce results supportive of donors’ positions. With a pre-registered study, researchers have listed out the exact analysis they will implement beforehand along with their expectations about the results of the analysis. Donors who have have been educated in the way this process works can use pre-registration to make stronger arguments. Moreover, the analysis can be built into the deliverables of the project. Hence, donors will be less facilely able to suggest a different analysis or measure in place of the one the researcher chose at the start, thus decreasing the number of avenues through which donors can apply pressure, particularly since changing the analysis would have cost implications.

Many in the think tank community might be skeptical of this proposal. Afterall, donors hold the purse strings. Still, we think that the process will benefit many donors. In many cases, donors want the highest quality study possible, even when motivated by short term goals, because it will help them advance their agenda. While if the donor is so baldly seeking a single result and not willing to accept anything else, we accept the fact that the proposal won’t work. In many case, however, we think donors would take enhanced quality at no cost in exchange for a loss of some control over the final product.

Pre-registration does have limitations and drawbacks. For example, it only works when a researcher can credibly demonstrate that they do not have access to data before pre-registering. Moreover, although it is likely the model could be applied to qualitative research in some form, to date, the model has yet to be implemented widely. Since qualitative research arguably comprises the majority of think tank research, the scope of use is somewhat limited.

While pre-registration is not panacea to the problems of social science or the problems think tanks face, it is a tool for think tanks to consider, which can enhance credibility and potentially decrease workloads and increase independence - three things we don’t think many tankers would be against.

Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia and the Communications Manager at Transparify. 

Aaron Erlich is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Founding Member of the Center for Social and Computations Data Science at McGill University, and previously a Research Consultant at the Caucasus Research Resource Centers in the Tbilisi office.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why NATO? The main reasons for approving and disapproving of the Government of Georgia’s stated goal of joining NATO

On 1st August, 2017, US Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the United States’ support for the Georgian government’s aim to become a NATO member at a joint press conference in Tbilisi with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Membership in NATO has been a stated aim of successive Georgian governments since 1999. According to CRRC/NDI survey findings from February 2012 to June 2017, this aim enjoys popular support in Georgia. However, less is known about the reasons why people either approve or disapprove of Georgia’s goal of joining NATO. These reasons are explored in this blog post using CRRC/NDI survey data.

Data from the past five years shows a 60%-80% approval rate of Georgia joining NATO. While the share of those who either answered “Don’t know” or refused to answer this question has declined, the share of those who answered “Disapprove” has increased over this period.


Information on the reasons for approval or disapproval of Georgia’s membership in NATO was collected during the April 2017 CRRC/NDI survey. As the chart below shows, a hope for greater security was the main reason for approval, with 71% of the population mentioning it. Expecting improvement in the economic situation in Georgia was the second most frequent reason for approval, which 30% of the population mentioned.


Note: An open question was asked. Up to three responses were accepted. 

About a fifth (21%) of the population reported disapproving of Georgia joining NATO in April 2017. When asked to name up to three reasons for their disapproval, about half of those who disapprove reported doing so, because they believed it will cause conflict with Russia. 


Note: An open question was asked. Up to three responses were accepted. The margin of error is larger for these answers since a very small subsample answered this question. 

The majority of the population of Georgia consistently support the country joining NATO. Quite logically, hopes for increased security are named most often as the reason for support. The strength of approval suggests that the Georgian government has a strong mandate to continue pursuing NATO membership.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, please visit our online data analysis tool.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Private tutoring and inequality in Georgia

According to the March 2016 CRRC/TI-Georgia survey, roughly 4 in 10 households with school-aged children reported hiring a private tutor at the time of the survey for at least one subject that a child in their household was studying at school. Since the question was asked about private tutors for only subjects that pupil(s) were studying at school at the time of the fieldwork, the share of households that hire private tutors is likely higher than reported. This expectation is based on the fact that aptitude tests that are a required part of the university entrance exams for all applicants are not related to any specific school subject, yet, create a high demand for private tutoring. While, as has been noted before, private tutoring reflects economic inequalities in Georgian society, it also contributes to furthering these inequalities. This blog post looks at how the frequency of hiring private tutors in Georgia differs by settlement type and level of education of the interviewed household member.

Compared to other settlements, private tutoring is most widespread in Tbilisi. While 47% of Tbilisi households with school-aged children reported hiring a tutor for at least one school subject, only 32% of rural households reported the same.


Note: All charts in this blog post are based on the sub-sample of households with school-aged children (39% of all households). Thus, margins of error are higher for the reported findings. Answers “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% if combined) were excluded from the analysis. 

How the person interviewed was related to the child(ren) of school age living in the same household was not recorded during the interviews. Thus, we do not know his or her role in decisions about the child(ren)’s education, and specifically the hiring of private tutors. Still, we look at their level of education as a proxy for the entire household.

In cases when the household member reported having higher than secondary education, the school-aged children living in his/her household were more likely to have private tutor(s), compared to when the household member reported having secondary technical or secondary and lower education. Higher levels of education are also associated with relatively higher incomes. Hence, households where higher levels of education are reported also are likely to have more resources to cover the costs of private tutoring.


Note: Answer options to the question “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?” were recorded in the following way: “Primary education”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were combined into the category “Secondary education or lower”. “Secondary technical education/vocational education” is labeled “Secondary technical education”. “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or Specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were combined into the category “Higher than secondary education”. Answers “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 5% if combined) were excluded from the analysis. 

Reported private tutoring practices differ by a number of variables in Georgia. School children living in Tbilisi and in households where interviewed household members report higher levels of education tend to have private tutors more often compared to other children.

To have a closer look at the CRRC/TIG survey data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Saturday, September 09, 2017

Attitudes towards immigrants in Georgia, and how they differ based on a person’s economic situation

A recent protest in Tbilisi was a reminder of the importance of studying attitudes towards immigrants in Georgia. A previous blog post discussed how these attitudes vary based on whether a person has or has not had personal contact with immigrants. This blog post explores how attitudes towards immigrants differ based on whether people believe or not that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, and how they describe their households’ economic condition compared to the households around them, using CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey (CB) data. “Immigrants” was operationalized in the questionnaire as “foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than three months.”

A plurality of the population of Georgia (45%) report that immigrants will sometimes contribute to the country’s economic development and sometimes not. About one in five (22%) think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, and 18% think the opposite. Among those who think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, 50% report positive attitudes towards them. However, when people think that immigrants sometimes will and sometimes will not contribute to the economic development of Georgia or when they think immigrants will not contribute to it, they generally report neutral attitudes towards immigrants. Notably, among those who believe that immigrants will not contribute to the economic development of Georgia, 17% report negative attitudes towards them, which is the highest share of negative attitudes reported.



Note: For the question, “How would you characterize your attitude towards the foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than 3 months?” the original 5-point scale (1 – ‘Very bad’, 2 – ‘Bad’, 3 – ‘Neutral’, 4 – ‘Good’, 5 – ‘Very good’) was re-coded into a 3-point scale, with codes 1 and 2 labeled “Bad attitude” and codes 4 and 5 labeled “Good attitude” on the charts in this blog post. Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” are not shown and hence the percentages reported in the charts in this blog post may not sum to 100%.

Interestingly, the better a person’s assessment of their household’s relative economic condition, the better attitudes they report towards immigrants.



Note: For the question, “Relative to most of the households around you, would you describe the current economic condition of your household as …?” the original 5-point scale (1 – ‘Very poor’, 2 – ‘Poor’, 3 – ‘Fair’, 4 – ‘Good’, 5 – ‘Very good’) was re-coded into a 3-point scale, with codes 1 and 2 labeled “Poor” and codes 4 and 5 labeled “Good” on the chart above.

Overall, reported attitudes towards immigrants are rather neutral in Georgia. Importantly though, when people think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia or consider the current economic condition of their households to be good, their attitudes tend to be more positive.

To have a closer look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Monday, September 04, 2017

A generation gap in retirement planning in Georgia

The pension system in Georgia faces challenges. According to the World Bank, in a country with a declining working age population (see slides 6 and 7), a retirement system in which the state is solely responsible for providing pensions – as in Georgia – is unadvisable. The Government of Georgia, with the help of international organizations, has been working to reform the country’s pension system, with the latest pension reform plan approved in spring 2016. The government is set to launch the new system in October 2017. With the new plan, in addition to the basic “universal” pension, still provided by the government, the employee, his/her employer, and the government will each make contributions to the employee’s retirement savings account. Each of the contributors will pay at least 2% of the employee’s monthly salary, totaling a minimum of 6% of his/her salary in a given month. Hence, an individual’s retirement savings will consist of these contributions and the interest accumulated on the retirement account.

According to the March 2016 CRRC/NDI survey, the plurality of the population of Georgia plans to or is supporting themselves in their old age with state pensions (49%) and/or assistance from their children (31%). Roughly a quarter (27%) reported that they have done nothing, have never thought about it, or don’t know what they do or plan to do to support themselves in old age. Younger people, however, plan to rely on sources of income other than state pensions more often than older people.



Note: A show card was used for this question. Up to three answer options were accepted per interview. Answer options “Saved or plan to save money in the bank” and “Rely or plan to rely on support from my relatives (besides my children)” were named very rarely and are thus combined with the answer option “Other.”

The above chart shows the distribution of answers nationwide, but there are important differences by age. The majority (72%) of the population 56 years old and older name government pensions as a means to support themselves in old age. In contrast, only 29% of young people between 18 and 35 years old report planning to rely on government pensions when they get old.


Note: Answer options “Made or plan to make investments”, “Saved or plan to save money, but not in the bank”, “Saved or plan to save money in the bank”, and “Bought or plan to buy a house/apartment for rent or sale” were combined with the answer option “Other”. 

Government should encourage the diversity of options for retirement planning that young people already report they plan on using as it may reduce dependence on state pensions in the long term. Awareness raising campaigns about such options are also important for supporting citizens in making informed decisions, and could be integrated into the campaigns already planned before the launch of the new pension system in 2017.

The data presented in this blog post is available at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis (ODA) tool.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Helping in Georgia: A myth confronted

There are a number of persistent myths about the population of Georgia, with some of the most famous being about hospitality and readiness to help others. As with any myth, it would be quite impossible to say exactly where such beliefs come from. However, relevant survey data often allows for the testing of whether these myths are accurate or not.

CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey findings make it possible to get quite specific information about whether and how people in Georgia help others – from donating money to a church or mosque to helping a neighbor or a friend with some household chores or childcare. This blog post compares how similar or different reported behavior is in the case of non-monetary vs. monetary help (donations), with the latter being asked separately about religious and non-religious charity. As the findings show, there are no drastic differences in the reported level of involvement in these activities.



For a society that praises “helping others” and, according to a widely cited CRRC report, is characterized by an “abundance” of bonding social capital, the share of the population that reported having helped others is unexpectedly small. Even in villages, where, intuitively, mutual help would be expected to be the most widespread, only 63% reported having helped neighbor(s) or friend(s) in the six months prior to the survey. This share is the lowest in urban settlements outside Tbilisi, with just around half of the population reporting having helped neighbor(s) or friend(s). Overall, men report helping others slightly more often than women, as do those in the youngest age group. This share is 67% among those who are between 18 and 29 years old. Among those who are 65 or older, the respective share is almost half of that, at 37%.

Importantly, helping others with household chores or childcare is an activity that does not require any direct monetary investment, and thus it is very different from the other forms of help CB asked about – donating money to a religious or non-religious cause. In a society like the Georgia’s, where almost 2/3 of the population report they need to borrow money to buy food at least occasionally, the economic situation will inevitably influence the population’s potential to donate money to a cause, even if people strongly support it. Still, and quite surprisingly, the share of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque in 2015 is not any different from the share of those who reported having helped others with household chores or childcare. The demographic profiles of these two groups are, however, slightly different. For example, there are no obvious gender differences in the case of religious charity, and the population of the capital reported having made such donations more often (62%) than the population of other settlement types. Similar to the case with non-monetary help though, those who are 65 years old or older are the most passive in the case of religious donations.

Only 67% of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque reported to have also helped others with household chores or childcare. Slightly less, about 2/3, of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque also reported having made a contribution to a non-religious charity, including donations by sms or giving money to beggars.

With monetary donations, a person’s economic situation does not seem to be solely conditioning whether s/he would actually donate money or not. Even when people report they needed to borrow money for food, some still say they have donated money for either religious or non-religious charity – often at a rate similar to those who report being better off. Of those who said that it happened at least on a monthly basis in the past 12 months that they did not have enough money to buy food, equal shares (49%) reported having donated and not donated money to a church or mosque. As for non-religious monetary donations, however, the situation is rather different. Only 38% of this group reported having made a contribution to a non-religious charity (including donations by sms or giving money to beggars) and a larger share, 60%, reported not having done so. Involvement in non-monetary help was reported at the same level by people of different reported levels of well-being.


 Note: The category “At least every month” combines the original response options “Every day”, “Every week”, and “Every month”.

Leaving aside the relatively low involvement of the population of Georgia in a variety of activities aimed at helping others, there are understandable differences by one’s economic situation when it comes to monetary vs. non-monetary help. People of different levels of well-being report very similar, albeit rather low levels of helping neighbors or friends with household chores or childcare. When it comes to monetary help, however, economic well-being obviously makes a difference, but less so in the case of religious charity. Although the answers may partially be subject to social desirability bias, the behavioral patterns reported in cases of religious and non-religious charity are unlikely to be explained by such a bias alone.

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer and other survey data is available at our Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Statistical Hiccups Cause Georgia to Become Lower-Middle Income Country

[Note: This article originally appeared on Eurasianet. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgia’s economy appeared to take a step backward earlier this summer when the World Bank demoted the country to “lower-middle-income” status. The demotion, however, has more to do with statistical hiccups than it does with a substantial decline in economic activity.

In 2016, Georgian officials cheered when the World Bank promoted the country into the ranks of “upper-middle-income” states. It was big news in Tbilisi, the capital. But in July, officials didn’t have much to say when the country slipped back into the “lower-middle-income” ranks.

To understand the up-and-down tale of Georgia’s economic status, one needs to know how the World Bank classifies countries into income groups, a bit about Georgia’s 2002 and 2014 censuses, Georgia’s fluctuating exchange rate, and what country classifications are used for in practice.

To start, the World Bank measures economic status primarily by relying on gross national income (GNI) per capita, which is composed of GDP, as well as incomes flowing to the country from abroad, including interest and dividends. To make these calculations, the Bank uses something called the Atlas method, which accounts for fluctuations in the exchange rate using a three-year, inflation-adjusted average of rates.

Thresholds for each income group change slightly every year based on inflation. In the most recent year, countries with less than $1,005 in GNI per capita were designated low-income countries; those with GNIs from $1,006 to $3,955 fell into the lower- middle-income group; $3,956 to $12,235 were upper middle income; and those with $12,236 and above attained high-income status.

Georgia isn’t the only post-Soviet country to experience a downgrade in recent years due to exchange-rate woes and other factors. Russia, for example, moved down to upper-middle-income status in 2016 after three years in the high-income group.  Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, which is grappling with a severe downturn due to the global drop in energy prices, is at risk of demotion to lower-middle-income status next year. And Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan appear poised to slip back into the lower-income category.

GNI per capita is a population-based measure. That means that as the number of people decreases, the figure increases. For this reason, the 2014 census made Georgia an upper-middle income country. This fact stems from Georgia’s population size between 2002 and 2014 being estimated using the 2002 census. In 2002, the Georgian government carried out its first census since the last Soviet census in 1989. The census’s final population count is believed to have heavily overestimated the population at about 4.4 million citizens. Between censuses, the population data is updated using birth and death registries. These too had problems, showing that Georgia’s population was growing steadily.

In contrast to the 2002 census, the 2014 census was more rigorous. It showed a 17% smaller population figure than the Georgian National Statistics Office had estimated for 2014. This meant that the per capita figures for GNI jumped, pushing Georgia into upper-middle income status. Notably, estimates of GNI per capita which use more realistic population figures for the years between 2002 and 2014 suggest that Georgia had likely crossed the upper-middle income threshold in 2013.

Even though the Atlas method takes into account fluctuations in exchange rate, GNI per capita is ultimately denominated in dollars for the World Bank’s calculations. In Georgia’s case, the Lari has dropped from around GEL 1.7 to the dollar in early 2014 to about GEL 2.4 to the dollar at the time of this writing. The value of the Lari was even lower for a time. In practice this has decreased Georgia’s GNI per capita figures to the point of knocking the country into a different income category.

Against the backdrop of population estimate revisions and fluctuating exchange rates, Georgia’s economy has been growing, albeit very slowly for a developing country in recent years. Georgia’s economy grew at an average rate of about 5.9 percent from 1995-2013; since 2014, it has grown at an average rate of 3.4 percent

The exchange rate fluctuation is hampering growth prospects. For one, rate volatility makes it harder for businesses to predict costs. In addition, many Georgians have dollar-denominated loans, while their incomes are in Georgian Lari. Although nominal salaries have slightly outpaced inflation, they have not kept pace with the decline in the Georgian currency’s value. Hence, debt payments consume a rising share of income for those trying to pay off dollar-denominated loans. The Georgian Government and National Bank are addressing this situation via a program that subsidizes the conversion of foreign-currency loans into Georgian Lari at a favorable rate.

While Georgia’s income group status has more to do with how the statistic is calculated than the actual state of Georgia’s economy, the changes have had clear implications. For instance, the Global Fund - an organization that has provided over USD 100 million to Georgia over the years to combat tuberculosis and AIDS - has different rules on aid for lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries. Meanwhile, a Brookings Institution study suggests that upper-middle income countries receive aid more often in the form of credits (i.e. loans) than grants when compared with lower middle income countries.

Some development organizations explicitly change lending terms when a country moves from lower middle to upper middle income status, although the World Bank itself does not. Hence, Georgia’s downgrading may have a silver lining, potentially leading to more aid opportunities.

But downgrading also has significant downsides. In political terms, it’s not good news for incumbents because it fosters an appearance among the population that the country is moving backwards. It also can impact the decisions of potential foreign investors. The demotion in status is unlikely to make Georgia a more attractive investment destination.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Who makes political decisions in Georgia: What people think

[Note: This post was written by Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The post was originally published here in partnership with On.ge. The views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]

Bidzina Ivanishvili resigned from the post of prime minister of Georgia on November 20th 2013, and in his own words, “left politics“. Speculation about his continued informal participation in the political decision-making process began even before he resigned and still continues. Some politicians think that Ivanishvili gives orders to the Georgian Dream party from behind-the-scenes, while others believe that he actually distanced himself from politics. Politicians, journalists and experts continue to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, a majority of Georgia’s population thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still involved in the governing process and that his informal participation is unacceptable.

The results of CRRC-Georgia and NDI-Georgia surveys carried out during the last two years indicate that the majority of the population of Georgia thinks that former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili continues to be a decision-maker in the actions of the government. Notably, this is people’s perceptions and may not coincide with reality. In none of the main demographic groups (in terms of sex, age, level of education and settlement type) does the majority indicate otherwise. In total, 56% of the population would prefer that the former prime minister not be involved in the decision-making process at all. About one fourth of the population, on the other hand, thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili should hold an official position and make political decisions. Only 7% would prefer Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal involvement in Georgia’s governance.

People who say that the United National Movement is the party closest to them more frequently indicate that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still a decision-maker in politics, compared to Georgian Dream supporters. A majority (86%) of United National Movement supporters say that it is preferable if Bidzina Ivanishvili is not involved in decision making processes, while 43% of Georgian Dream supporters think that the former prime minister should be involved in these processes in an official capacity. It is noteworthy that the share of Georgian Dream supporters who prefer that Bidzina Ivanishvili participate in the political decision-making process in an official capacity decreased during the last two years.




Note: The question about party support was asked as follows: “Which party is closest to you?” People were grouped as supporters of the Georgian Dream or United National Movement based on their answers to this question.

These differences are not entirely unexpected considering the polarized political environment. Though, as we see, even among Georgian Dream supporters, only a small share prefers Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal participation in political decision-making processes.

The data show that informal governance is unacceptable for the majority of the population of Georgia. No matter an individual’s sex, age, education, place of residence or political orientation, the majority of the population thinks that if a person resigns from politics, s/he should no longer influence the government’s decisions. These results indicate that basic principles of democratic governance, namely transparency of decision-making processes and accountability, are important for people. Politicians should take this into consideration.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Rare evidence: Judges on challenges in the court system of Georgia

Georgia has long faced problems with its court system. On CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey, only about one in four people in Georgia reported trusting the country’s court system. Since 2012, there have been three sets of judicial reforms, yet according to a number of NGOs, there are still important issues to be solved.
We often hear what NGO representatives think about the challenges facing the judiciary system in Georgia. It is, however, rare to have the chance to learn what judges think about the system. In partnership with the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, CRRC-Georgia interviewed 12 current and former judges in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Zugdidi in October-December, 2016. Although 28 judges were sampled originally, others could not be contacted or refused to be interviewed. Importantly, the findings of these interviews cannot be generalized. Still, they provide rather unique insights into what judges think about the problems in the judicial system in Georgia. 
Respondents named several important issues that have a negative impact on the court system. First, judges have large caseloads that might affect the quality of decisions. Thus, more judges are needed to handle cases. Second, judges note a lack of courtrooms. Both problems result in trials being delayed. As one judge noted:
We have a shortage of staff, we need more judges. There are too many cases. We fail to handle them all. We lack judges, <…> so, this may affect the quality of [court] decisions. Trials take too long, because we simply don’t have [enough] courtrooms. (Current judge; male; Tbilisi City Court).
Importantly, both these issues have already been addressed in the draft version of the 2017-2021 Court System Strategy, which calls for an increase in the number of judges as well as courtrooms.
The interviewed judges also noted the lack of trust in the court system as another important issue. The respondents believe that it may be the judges themselves who are sometimes responsible for the lack of trust in the court system. In their opinion, if judges in Georgia consistently issued well-elaborated verdicts, the system would earn more trust, since such verdicts would help avoid any suspicion about the quality of the verdict, particularly from representatives of the party that has lost.  
Respondents also think that the media influences public opinion about the courts. Some of the respondents believe that the media prefers to cover problematic cases, especially when the court competence is to be questioned, rather than the cases when the court came up with a well-reasoned and convincing verdict. Generally, the interviewed judges are not against media coverage of the court proceedings and believe that such coverage increases the transparency of courts. However, some of them believe that journalists should be trained on how to use legal terminology properly.
In spite of the challenges associated with such interviews, it would be valuable to continue to collect these first-hand accounts of the court system from judges. The full report of this study is available here

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rugby: The sport Georgians report the country is most successful at

The Georgian National Rugby Team’s achievements have been many in recent years. From gaining automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in 2015 for the first time to ranking 12th in the world rugby rankings, the team has obtained widespread national support and established a presence on the international rugby scene.

The results of a telephone survey CRRC-Georgia conducted in May 29-30, 2017 suggest that the public recognizes these achievements. According to the survey, a majority (62%) of the Georgian public think that rugby is Georgia’s most successful sport. This attitude is more common in Tbilisi (72%) than in other urban (67%) and rural areas (51%). Notably, more women (67%) than men (57%) consider rugby to be the most successful sport. The public also backs financial support for rugby: after football (38%), Georgians report second most often (27%) that rugby should be supported.

In 2015, Georgia won the right to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship for the first time, one of the highest level juniors’ tournaments in the rugby world. The tournament kicked off on May 31 in Kutaisi and came to an end on June 18, in Tbilisi at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium. Tournament awareness was high. According to the CRRC-Georgia survey results, more than half of the population (55%) was aware that Georgia was about to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship.

In spite of strong support for rugby, many Georgians don’t know much about the game. The survey shows that only 18% of the population knows what the amount of points for a try without conversion kick is (five points), and only 6% of Georgians know how many players are in the scrum (eight players) for each team. While 21% gave the incorrect answer on this question, 73% responded don’t know. Notably, men (28%) gave the right answer more often than women (10%) to the question on tries.


CRRC-Georgia’s survey results show that Georgians recognize the country’s rugby achievements and support allocating financial resources to it. However, many aren’t so knowledgeable of the game’s rules.

The above results are based on a panel telephone survey carried out between May 29-30, 2017 with 726 completed interviews. The panel was created using random digit dialing. The results are representative of Georgia and have an average margin of error of 2.9%. Want to know what Georgians think about another issue or track attitudes over time? Get in touch with us at crrc-geo@crrccenters.org if your organization has questions about Georgian public opinion.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nudging Marshrutka Safety

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. ]

Auto safety is a perennial issue across Eurasia, as the generally poor condition of highways and byways, the proliferation of haphazardly maintained vehicles and a proclivity for reckless driving mean that death is a constant part of life on the road.

Among the most hazardous forms of public transportation are the ubiquitous communal minibuses known as marshrutkas, which ferry passengers around and between cities and towns. Marshrutkas are a mixture of taxi and public bus, and, for passengers, make up in convenience what they lack in comfort. But there is also a significant risk involved in using marshrutkas because many are old and in need of repair, and they are operated by overworked, stressed-out and distracted drivers.

But there is good news for marshrutka users: an experimental project conducted in Georgia suggests that a cost-efficient monitoring program could significantly increase rider safety.

The monitoring format, developed by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers-Georgia, underwent a month-long test, starting last September 20. CRRC recruited paid observers to ride on marshrutkas and monitor the driving behavior of operators. Monitors tracked marshrutka trips in three phases. In the first, they recorded whether a group of drivers engaged in dangerous driving behaviors, including passing in places where it was illegal, and distracted driving behaviors like smoking and talking on a cell phone. This contingent formed the trial’s control group.

For the second phase, monitors followed a different group of drivers, who were told in advance that they were being observed and that if they were judged the safest driver in the survey, they would receive a fuel voucher. The drivers in the second group were also told that an anonymous monitor would at some point in the near future come back to observe their road behaviors.

The last step involved monitors returning to both the control and treatment groups unannounced to observe driving.

By comparing the results of the first phase to the second, it was possible to determine the effect of overt observation on driving patterns. Evaluating participants in the second phase to the same minibuses in the third provided insight into whether those who knew they were monitored, and were told they would be monitored again, maintained safer driving practices. Lastly, by comparing the first-phase drivers to their third-phase performances, it was possible to test for the consistency of driving behaviors by the control group.

The results of the trial indicated that a small, anonymous monitoring program could be effective in improving driver practices. While in the first round of observation, 96 percent of drivers engaged in some form of dangerous driving, among those in the second group, who were told in advance that they were being monitored, the number was 70 percent. And while 79 percent of drivers made illegal passes in first phase, 43 percent from the second group engaged in such behavior.

In the third phase, carried out several weeks after the first two phases, drivers from the second group still engaged in 14 percent fewer dangerous driving behaviors than those from the first group who had not been told in advance that they were being observed.

CRRC-Georgia’s project involved the monitoring of 360 inter-city minibus trips in a randomized control trial (RCT). RCTs are considered the gold standard in social science because they provide firm evidence of cause and effect through randomly giving a treatment to some individuals, and not others and then comparing outcomes.

While the marshrutka safety experiment raises hopes that a monitoring program could encourage changed behaviors, the evidence is not definitive. The experiment did not take weather into account, a factor that can potentially alter driving patterns. It also could not measure precisely for the possibility of contamination of the source pool, i.e. drivers who had been observed later talking about the project with colleagues, and encouraging other drivers to be more careful behind the wheel.

While the experiment was carried out in Georgia, there is no particular reason to suspect that such a policy would not work in other areas and contexts.

Monitoring projects could be conducted either by non-governmental organizations or by municipal government agencies. A government-run project would likely stand a better chance of improving safety, as drivers could be fined for hazardous driving, as well as rewarded for safe driving. This policy would likely have a greater impact since social scientists have repeatedly shown that individuals strive to avoid losses much more intensively than they seek out gains. 

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. The full report this article is based on is available here: http://bit.ly/2txNQRR. The data and replication code for the analysis in this article is available here: http://bit.ly/2us0tCr. The research presented in this article was funded through the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this article is the sole responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflects the views of USAID, the United States Government, or EWMI.]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some in Georgia fear visa liberalization will lead to more refugees

Visa liberalization with the EU Schengen zone countries has been a much celebrated milestone for Georgia. But with new opportunities for Georgia to move closer to Europe come new opportunities for anti-European sentiment. CRRC data show that some people in Georgia fear that visa liberalization could increase the number of refugees coming to Georgia. To complicate the issues further, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz made a comment suggesting that there was a need to build refugee camps outside the EU, in countries like Georgia. Such statements could play on fears of an increase in refugees and foreigners more generally in Georgia.

In looking at data from the most recent CRRC/NDI survey, conducted in April 2017, approximately half of the population of Georgia believe that as a result of visa liberalization more refugees will come to Georgia, with a sizable share of the population (20%) responding they don’t know whether this will or will not be the case. While it is true that the visa liberalization process required the Government of Georgia to harmonize their laws in accordance with EU legislation, including making laws on the process of accepting refugees and asylum seekers clearer, the truth is that these laws will not necessarily increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Georgia. CRRC/NDI data, however, suggest that at least part of the population is misinformed about the issue.

 

In contrast, when asked about potential threats of visa liberalization more broadly in an earlier, CRRC/CIPDD survey conducted in January/February 2017, far fewer people mentioned refugees, or foreigners more generally, entering Georgia. According to the findings of CRRC/CIPDD survey, 27% said visa liberalization would have no negative consequences and 15% said they didn’t know. Slightly over half (58%) named some negative consequences of the visa liberalization. Rather small shares, though, named the threat of more foreigners (5%), refugees (4%) and terrorists (9%) coming to Georgia.


Note: This was an open-ended question for which each respondent could provide up to two answers.

While the answers to these two survey questions cannot be compared, they give us some understanding of the fears of the population of Georgia about visa liberalization regarding the possible influx of refugees. Although a small share of the population was worried about refugees entering the country even before visa liberalization came into force and saw that possibility as a potential threat, a much bigger threat was associated with Georgian citizens leaving the country.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, visit our online data analysis tool. Keep an eye out for the CIPDD dataset in the near future as well.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Visa liberalization: Expectations in Georgia

In March, 2017, after nearly five years of negotiations, a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen zone countries came into force for Georgian citizens. Even though political elites generally perceive this achievement as a step forward for Georgia, the public’s attitudes and expectations about visa liberalization are not solely positive. Using CRRC/NDI April 2017 survey data, this blog post presents some assessments of the EU-Georgia visa liberalization.

Nine in ten people in Georgia report having heard about visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries for Georgian citizens, however, not everyone feels they have enough information about the rules of visa free travel. Importantly, roughly 4 in 10 people disagree with the view that visa free travel will benefit them or people like them.


 


Note: For these two questions, the sample was split equally: half of the respondents were asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit people like you?”, while the other half was asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit you?” 

A number of specific statements about visa liberalization were also assessed during the survey. Overall, attitudes are rather mixed. There is a widespread belief that visa liberalization will not have any negative consequences for the Georgian economy. Approximately 2/3 of the population think it will increase emigration from Georgia. Probably most importantly, 78% think that ordinary people will not be able to afford traveling in the EU, even though visas are not required.


 

To conclude, expectations of the visa liberalization are not uniformly positive in Georgia. To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Municipal Transparency Ratings

In 2014, CRRC-Georgia requested information from Georgian municipalities through the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI). Only 37 of 63 municipalities responded to our request. 31 of these provided some information. Only 17 provided complete information in response to our request. Based on this experience, CRRC-Georgia decided to rate the municipalities’ responses. While a score of 0 means that the municipality didn't respond at all, municipalities received 1 point for at least responding to the letter. Municipalities which received a score of 2 provided us with some of the information requested, while municipalities that scored 3 provided all requested information.
 

Months later, we repeated our endeavor. However, this time, freedom of information requests were submitted directly to the municipalities. This time around, we asked for data in an Excel file. Almost all the municipalities responded, however, the quality of responses varied. 44 municipalities sent Excel files and 39 contained the requested information. An analogous rating system was used to rate the responses to this round of freedom of information requests.
 

Based on these two rounds of our unintentional rating of municipal transparency, we created an index of municipal FOI transparency, summing up the two scores. Zero corresponds to no response for both rounds of requests while six reflects response with full data provided.

Monday, June 26, 2017

CRRC’s Fifth Annual Methodological Conference: In Search of Methodological Innovation

CRRC’s fifth annual Methodological Conference took place on June 23 and 24, 2017 in Tbilisi. This year the conference’s focus was on policy analysis in the South Caucasus, and the search for methodological innovation. Over 50 participants representing institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and Canada attended.

Alexis Diamond of the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), San Francisco gave an opening address for the conference titled: Deliberate ignorance: The dangers of knowing too much too soon. The talk covered a wide range of issues in evaluation, however, emphasis was placed on the importance of honest evaluation.
The first day of the conference had four sessions, with papers on a wide variety of subjects from the geographies of polarization and inequality in Tbilisi to a field experiment on marshrutka safety and a machine learning approach to profiling tax awareness in Armenia. 
The opening slide of David Sichinava’s presentation on Spatial Patterns of Emerging Inequalities in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The second day of the conference was dedicated to workshops. Alexey Levinson of the Levada Center, Moscow lead a workshop on open-ended group discussions and Aaron Erlich of McGill University discussed the fundamentals of multiple imputation. The conference also included workshops on case studies in public health, web surveys, and synthetic controls.
Aaron Erlich discussing why and when to use multiple imputation.
For more information, the full conference program can be accessed here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Back to the USSR? How poverty makes people nostalgic for the Soviet Union

A recent CRRC/NDI survey asked whether the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good or bad thing for Georgia. People’s responses were split almost evenly: 48% reported that the dissolution was a good thing, whereas 42% said it was a bad thing for the country. Such a close split raised questions in the media about why people took one view or another.

While it is tempting to explain assessments of a past event, such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, using people’s attitudes towards foreign policy issues, this blog post only looks at respondents’ socio-demographic and economic characteristics and some reported behaviors that could potentially shape their attitudes. Specifically, we look at the impact of gender, age, education, ability to speak English and Russian, frequency of internet use, settlement type and the number of durable goods a household possesses, out of the ten durables the survey asked about: a refrigerator, color TV, smartphone, tablet computer, car, air conditioner, automatic washing machine, personal computer, hot water, and central heating. We interpret the number of durables owned as a measure of the households’ economic status. Surely, this measure is not perfect and gives us only partial information about the household’s economic conditions. However, this is the best available measure from this particular survey, provided that many people do not like reporting their income or expenditures, or do not provide accurate information on these.

The chart below shows the results of a logistic regression model which predicts the odds of a respondent saying that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good thing for Georgia. The dots on the chart indicate point estimates for each independent variable, and the lines show 95% confidence intervals. If a line does not cross the vertical red line, we are 95% confident that the variable has an impact on the dependent variable, i.e. the belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good thing for Georgia. The further a horizontal line from the vertical red line, the larger the effect of the variable.

The model shows that gender and the ability to speak either English or Russian do not influence people’s assessments of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As one might expect, age has a significant, negative impact: the older a person is, the lower is the probability that s/he will express a positive attitude towards the dissolution of the USSR. Education, frequency of internet use and possession of durables have the opposite impact: people with tertiary education are more likely to assess the dissolution positively than people with less than tertiary education. Likewise, people, who use the internet at least once a week assess the dissolution more positively than people who use the internet less often or never. Also, the more durables a household owns, the higher the probability of assessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a positive event for Georgia.

As expected, settlement type also matters: the chart shows the effect of living in Tbilisi, other large towns, predominantly Georgian-speaking rural settlements and ethnic minority settlements, which are compared to small towns – the reference category. Large towns include six cities with more than 40 thousand people, whereas smaller urban settlements are grouped into a small town category. We define an ethnic minority settlement as a location in which 40% or more of the inhabitants are ethnic minorities. Normally, these are towns and villages with large Armenian or Azerbaijani populations in the Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti regions.

While residents of large towns and rural settlements have similar opinions about the dissolution of the Soviet Union as residents of small towns, Tbilisi residents are more likely to assess the dissolution positively. In contrast, those living in minority settlements tend to assess the dissolution negatively.
Based on the above, we conclude that age, education, frequency of internet use, possession of durables and settlement type influence an individual’s assessment of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a next step, we tested whether age, education, frequency of internet use, and possession of durables influence individuals’ attitudes differently in different settlement types.

The analysis shows that the impact of age, education and internet usage does not vary by settlement type. However, we observe a very different picture in the case of household possessions: possessing more durables increases the probability of positive assessment of the dissolution of the USSR in all settlement types except for (non-minority) villages and small towns. Its impact is largest, however, for residents of ethnic minority settlements. If an individual living in such a settlement has no durables, his or her probability of assessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union positively is below 20%. However, as the number of durables in the household increases, the probability of a positive assessment increases nearly linearly, and exceeds 60% when the household owns all ten items asked about on the survey.

Hence, we conclude that age, education, settlement type, and economic conditions significantly influence people’s assessments of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The impact of a household’s economic situation is largest in ethnic minority settlements. Therefore, economic deprivation, arguably caused by and interrelated with a number of other factors, seems to be the most important driver of negative assessments of the dissolution, rather than minority status per se.  

To have a closer look at the CRRC/NDI data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Most households in Georgia report limiting food consumption, despite economic growth

According to the World Bank, GDP in Georgia increased from USD 10.1 billion to USD 13.9 billion between 2009 and 2015. Despite this growth, according to CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey (CB), the share of those who reported not having enough money to buy food on at least a weekly basis did not decrease between 2011 and 2015. This blog post shows how this finding differs by settlement type and reported household income.

As the chart below shows, the general picture did not change between 2011 and 2015. Only about one third of the population claims it never happened during the 12 month prior to the survey that they did not have enough money to buy food they or their family needed. More than one third report encountering such difficulties periodically and about a quarter monthly or more often.


Note: Answer options “Every day” and “Every week” have been combined for the charts in this blog post.

Taking into account the margin of error, the share of people who reported not having enough money to buy food every week or more often is approximately the same in different settlement types. Importantly, the most common response in Tbilisi and the second most common response in other urban settlements is “Never”. This answer is, however, reported by less than half of the population of these settlement types.

Note: Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis.
                       
A lack of money for food logically suggests a low income. The chart below shows that the higher the reported household income, the higher the share of the population reporting never being in a situation when they did not have enough money for food. According to CB 2015, 61% of the population reported their household income was less than USD 250 the month prior to the survey.


CB data show that a large share of households in Georgia have financial difficulties supporting their families’ primary needs and a majority struggle with not having enough money for food at least some of the time.

To have a closer look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Georgia: Disapproval Rising for NATO Membership

[Note: This piece was originally published on Eurasianet. Dustin Gilbreath is a policy analyst at CRRC-Georgia. Rati Shubladze is a researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of either CRRC-Georgia or the National Democratic Institute.]

NATO recently recognized Georgia’s contributions to peacekeeping missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo by holding a session of the alliance’s parliamentary assembly in Tbilisi in late May. The occasion reinforced the hopes of Georgian leaders that their country can one day soon gain admission to NATO. However, polling in the lead up to NATO’s parliamentary assembly also sheds light on a trend that could potentially hinder its membership bid.

Public support in Georgia for the country’s NATO membership bid remains strong. A recent survey CRRC-Georgia carried out for the National Democratic Institute shows that 68 percent of Georgians support the government’s goal of joining the alliance. If Georgia were a NATO member, this would be the third highest level of support of any member state polled in a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Yet, CRRC and NDI’s data also shows that disapproval with the prospect of membership is rising. Back in 2012, roughly a quarter of the public was uncertain over whether the country should join NATO; since 2015, however, only about one in 10 have reported uncertainty. Over the same period, disapproval of NATO membership doubled from about one in 10 Georgians to roughly one in five.

This trend has at least two potential explanations.

First, people who used to report that they are not sure about membership might have always been opposed to the Alliance. Rather than telling interviewers this, they felt social pressure not to say so, because they perceived NATO support to be popular in Georgia. This phenomenon, being shy about reporting unpopular opinions to survey interviewers, is common, and is known as social desirability bias.

If this explanation is correct, then the shift from uncertainty in response to disapproval is a sign of a trend in Georgian society and its foreign policy discourse: anti-Euro Atlantic views are more widely accepted or at least perceived to be more socially acceptable than in years past. Over the past couple of years, politicians have expressed less confrontational views towards Russia, at least when compared with the virulently anti-Russian rhetoric of former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement, which lost its parliamentary majority in 2012. This change in discourse might contribute to the trend, making it more widely acceptable to express views that are not pro-Western. While beyond the scope of this article, Russian propaganda too could be playing some role.

A second possible explanation is that a significant number of those who were previously undecided are now making up their minds: no longer sitting on the fence, they have decided that the actual or potential costs of NATO membership are too great, or the chance of NATO membership too low, to make the required sacrifices.

Georgia is a small country and, even in absolute terms, it contributed more soldiers to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan than any other non-member state. This contribution has not come without a cost: over 30 Georgian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and hundreds have been wounded.

The potential for NATO membership to incite Russia’s ire weighs heavily in the minds of those who disapprove. When those who reported opposing Georgia’s NATO bid were asked why they disapprove, the most common response was that it will cause conflict with Russia.

Despite Georgia’s sacrifices, membership in the Alliance seems distant to a majority of Georgians. Since the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration, which stated that Georgia and Ukraine would someday become members of the Alliance, a Membership Action Plan – a first step towards membership – has proven elusive. This is reflected in public opinion about when Georgia will join NATO: 16 percent think the country will never join, and an additional 38 percent are uncertain if or when the country will be offered membership. A majority of those who are uncertain about a membership date favor Georgia’s NATO bid.

Even though disapproval of Georgia’s NATO bid may be rising, the head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has suggested that Georgia is more prepared for membership than even some member states. Notably, Georgian military expenditure has consistently exceeded 2 percent of GDP, the level required of NATO members, despite the fact that only five member states meet this spending target. On top of this, a full 80 percent of those polled think that military spending should either stay the same or increase.

If the Alliance is dedicated to its 2008 Bucharest commitments, it should make its intentions clear to the Georgian public. The lack of a clear signal from the Alliance seems likely to only keep stoking uncertainty and disapproval of members among the Georgian public.