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IRI poll: Georgians maintain pro-Western attitudes

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, May 3
The International Republicans Institute (IRI) released the results of a new poll on April 28, which shows that Georgians are in favor of a pro-Western foreign policy in order to stave off Russian threats and to improve their economic prospects.

The survey was conducted in all regions of Georgia, except the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, from March 12 to April 2, 2016. The survey had a randomly selected sample of 1,500 permanent residents of Georgia, age 18 or older and eligible to vote.

According to the poll, 85% of those surveyed say they support joining the European Union and 79% support joining NATO. Georgians list the European Union and the United States as important partners while 71 % consider Russia to be their country’s biggest threat. However, 59% strongly support further dialogue with Russia.

The IRI says that 77% of respondents describe Georgia’s relationship with Russia as “bad” and 67% believe Russian aggression is active and ongoing.

According to Stephen Nix, the IRI’s Eurasia director, for Georgians a close relationship with the West is incredibly important.

“The West does not only provide a safeguard against Russian aggression, it also offers the promise of economic growth. Georgians see the West as their link to broader stability overall,” he said.

The poll results revealed that high unemployment, inadequate infrastructure and rising crime are making Georgians feel increasingly pessimistic about their country.

According to the results, 70% of surveyed individuals say the country is headed in the “wrong direction” and 65% say the economic situation in Georgia has worsened over the last two months. Georgia’s currency devaluation, high utility prices and high taxes were listed among the main pressures on personal finances.

To the question “Which party would you vote for if parliamentary elections were held next Sunday?” the results are following: 20% would vote for the Georgian Dream (GD) and 19% for the United National Movement (UNM), 13% for the Free Democrats, 8% for the Labor Party, 4% for the Patriot’s Alliance, 3% for the United Democratic Movement, while 15% for none of them.

Moreover, the poll showed that the majority of respondents named Paata Burchuladze as the most favorable politician with 75%, while Davit Sergeenko 64%, Irakli Alasania 60 %, Giorgi Margvelashvili 60%, Giorgi Kvirikashvili 56%, Davit Bakradze 54%, Shalva Natelashvili – 50%, Davit Usupashvili 48%, and Kakha Kaladze 36%.

The majority say they do not accept the IRI survey results and say that both the IRI and NDI (National democratic Institute) work for the opposition UNM and their polls are not important.

"Clearly, these organizations work for the United National Movement. This is a kind of preparation of public opinion for putting the election results under question - they wish to repeat the Ukrainian version here, but I doubt they will be able to do it,” stated majority MP Tamaz Mechiauri.

A member of the UNM, Mikheil Machavariani, believes that the number of people who are pessimistic about the development of Georgia increased due to the ineffective work of the government.

“Citizens see that the government is unable to solve their problems, so they see the way out in other forces,” stressed Machavariani.

According to political expert Gia Khukhashvili, the IRI research results clarify that the majority of population reject both the GD and UNM parties.

“The main opponent of the government at present is not the UNM, but the part of population who reject both of them. The government should think about this problem and not the percentage difference between them and the UNM,” Khukhashvili said.