The FINANCIAL - In Georgia, local and international politics matter, but not for everyone

In Georgia, local and international politics matter, but not for everyone

When it comes to political matters, we Georgians talk a lot, especially among friends or relatives. We are a bit more interested in local issues compared to what is going on internationally. While the majority of us is concerned and talk about domestic or international politics, interests differ among the population.

A large majority of Georgians frequently discuss politics with their friends or relatives regardless of its nature - local or international. I remember we almost never discussed local politics back during the Soviet times, perhaps because local government officials had very limited if any independence from Moscow, and elections were just a formality that could more aptly be called “selections.” Much more of our time was spent discussing international politics, though this was based on either limited information provided by Western radio stations (VOA, BBC, RFE/RL) or easily available Soviet propaganda. Obviously, both lacked comprehensiveness compared to what is available today.

The data presented below is based on GORBI’s nationwide public opinion surveys. Some of the questions we are repeatedly asking respondents to keep up on changes in public mood. These questions are also asked in various countries, thus allowing for comparison across nations. Historically, based on longitudinal survey projects (the World Values Survey or European Values Surveys (which GORBI is in charge in Georgia) the overall number of those who are spending their free time to discuss politics is steadily growing. There are several contributing factors, with the largest being ongoing democratisation around the world since the collapse of Soviet Union and increasing internet penetration globally.  

When it comes to Georgia, 7 out of 10 respondents discuss local political matters frequently or occasionally, fewer respondents (four percentage points) talked about international issues. These numbers did not change significantly since August 2012. In addition, those who never discussed international political issues make up approximately one third of the total population and since August 2012, on average, around 27% of respondents never discussed domestic issues with their friends. 

Chart 1.Q. When you get together with friends or relatives, would you say you discuss politics frequently, occasionally or never about...?

Source: GORBI, Georgian nationwide surveys. 


Like elsewhere, Georgian society is made up of many groups each with its own different value structure, preferences and demographics. Here I am focusing only on differences among demographic variables in order to quickly analyze who spends most of their time talking about local politics. Males are spending more time talking about local politics compared to females, 71% and 63% respectively. And age does matter too – the young cohort of the Georgian society spends significantly less time discussing political issues compared to older groups. Champions are respondents aged from 45 – 54, with (77%) of this group engaging in political discussions.

Those who possess higher education (and there are around 27% with higher education, based on the 2002 census) talk about politics two times or more compared to those with primary education (44% vs. 81%, respectively) and the poorer a Georgian is, the less he or she is discussing domestic politics with peers.

Table 1. Demographic variables (frequently or occasionally talks about local politics)



Source: GORBI, Georgian nationwide surveys. 


Such discussions are positive since they associate the public with the political decision-making process and this is even more desired for us at this stage in Georgia’s democratisation.

Theory says that frequent political discussions may increase public engagement in community affairs and civic participation and we will soon see whether this is the case in practice. However, one thing is certain – if you don’t want to talk about politics while having an informal meeting with a Georgian person, you’d better make sure that he/she holds no diploma, is impoverished or is young. 

Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. All surveys were conducted on a national representative sample of 1,000 respondents; data retains a 3% margin of error, with confidence at 95%. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial. Please do not visit our site ( www.gorbi.com ); it is under construction.

 

Author: Merab Pachulia, GORBI


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