80% of Georgians feel relations with the European Union are good, EU-funded polls show
By Levan Abramishvili
Wednesday, July 10
The EU has financed 2019 opinion polls in Georgia through its ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project. The survey took place between February and April 2019 and was based upon face-to-face interviews among a representative sample of 1,000 people throughout the country. We offer to our readers a brief overview of the key findings of the polls.
According to the report, “the purpose of the annual surveys is to investigate the opinion and the level of information that citizens of the EaP countries have on the EU in general and, in particular, on EU-funded cooperation and development programmes/projects.”
The survey found that half (50%) of Georgians have a positive image of the EU, 43% feel neutral about it and only 4% hold a negative view.
Positive perceptions have remained stable compared to 2018, after the peak recorded in 2017 when the visa-free short-term travel to the Schengen countries was granted.
The share of Georgians who have no opinion or have never heard of the EU continues to be minimal (3%) and three times less than it was in 2016 (9%).
The EU is the most trusted foreign institution, with 71% of the population tending to trust it and only 14% of individuals who did not feel confident enough to express their opinion.
Trust towards the EU is mirrored by an appreciation of the relations between Georgia and the EU. 80% of Georgians describe them as ‘fairly good’ (73%) or ‘very good’ (7%).
“Acknowledgement of the EU’s financial support displays an upward trend since 2017 (up 16%) and currently around three quarters (74%) of citizens know that the EU provides financial support to Georgia. The share of people who consider the EU’s financial support to be effective is consistent with last year’s findings (62%). However, there has been a huge increase in the share of citizens who know about specific EU-funded programmes in Georgia (61%, up 14% since 2018),” reads the report.
Aside from the public’s opinion on EU, the survey also showed citizen’s attitude towards the current situation in Georgia.
The study found that Georgians do not share a great deal of trust in their institutions. “Currently, 46% of individuals trust regional and local public authorities, 41% the Government, 37% the Parliament, and only 25% trust the political parties. The only institution trusted by nearly 70% of the population is the country’s religious authority,” reads the report.
The most commonly cited pressing problems of the polled citizens are ‘unemployment’ (79%), ‘economic crisis’ (38%), ‘low living standards and poverty’ (34%), ‘low salaries and pensions’ (27%) and ‘high prices and taxes’ (26%).
The report states that there were some interesting differences in opinion between the genders and locations of the respondents.
“Highly-educated individuals, eastern residents and inhabitants of large cities, females and younger citizens tend to be more confident in the EU than other socio-demographic groups (all between 74% and 81%). With the only exception of females, these group also display a higher level of information – less than one in ten individuals in these groups answered ‘don’t know’. Despite a low level of ‘don’t know’ responses average (10%), males seem to be particularly critical: 24% of them openly distrust the Union,” says the report.
The EU NEIGHBOURS east project aims to increase the understanding of EU support in the Eastern Partner (EaP) countries through improved communication. The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the improvement of public perception of the EU, as well as to a better understanding of European policies and their impact through the regional and bilateral EU support and cooperation programmes in the EaP countries.
The annual survey is now into its fourth year, with the first wave having been carried out in 2016. Similar surveys were also carried out five other Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The article is prepared after the official ‘Annual Survey Report: Georgia’. Full report can be found on euneighbours.eu