On April 28, IRI published its most recent survey of Georgian Public Opinion (posted here). 

Surveys of this sort are commonplace in Georgia these days, regularly commissioned by several international organizations, the Georgian Government, and even individual political parties.  It was not always that way.  Thirteen years ago, in May 2003, when IRI conducted its first national poll in Georgia, the very notion that polling data might have relevancy to the Georgian context was new and controversial.  Many international scholars and observers of the former Soviet Union considered Georgia a failed state where government policy was founded in the wants and needs of the very few.  Ultimately, the introduction of polling (and particularly data on voter intentions), helped lay the groundwork for the Rose Revolution’s claims that the ruling party could not possibly have received anything close to their vote totals on election day without electoral malfeasance. 

In the years that have followed, IRI has continued its tradition of providing methodologically sound and well-researched survey data to Georgian leaders and to the population, confirming the validity of elections, helping new leaders better understand why the won (or lost), and highlighting policy initiatives that are important to the people. 

Among the takeaways from this most recent poll, 70 percent of Georgians feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction.  This is the greatest percentage that feel this way since June 2009, and it’s easy to see why.  Sixty-five percent think that the country’s economic situation has worsened in the past two months, and 55 percent say that their household is financially worse off than two months ago.  At all levels (national, local, household), unemployment is the primary concern, outstripping the number two concern (general economy at national and household levels, roads at local level) by at least two- or three-to-one.  Fully 84 percent believe that these problems are due to currency devaluation (more than 50 percent decrease in value in the past year), and another 52 percent cite the high price of utilities.  Even worse, 63 percent do not believe that the current political situation is conducive to solving the problems that they face in daily life, and 86 percent believe that the political spectrum is too polarized.  With parliamentary elections approaching in October 2016, the government has its work cut out for it. 

This is not to say that the news is all bad.  It certainly is not.  Despite the economic downturn, 95 percent or respondents report that they have not been asked to pay a bribe in the past year to receive a service or decision.  Four in ten Georgians (39 percent) praise the government’s efforts at solving healthcare service issues, and 75 percent state that healthcare in the country has improved.  Statistics regarding improvement of gender diversity in politics are also strong, with 68 percent supportive of increasing the number of women in politics, and 63 percent either supportive or neutral on gender quotas for elected bodies.  Sixty percent would be supportive of women in their immediate family becoming active in politics.  General interest in politics remains relatively high, and 86 percent of respondents expressed their intention to vote in October.  All these data points are strong, and indicate a strong underlying optimism and hope for the future despite the problems of the present. 

Polling and surveys are now a regular feature of Georgian politics, and politicians and other leaders often draw upon many sources of data in order to formulate their messages and platforms.  Overall, the political space has become more open, and more responsive to citizen needs and concerns.  As IRI publishes its 24th survey of Georgian Public Opinion, we are proud of the small role we played in helping the voices of everyday Georgians to be heard. 

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