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National Democratic Institute publishes new poll results

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, April 12
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) of the United States and CRRC Georgia presented the results of a new survey on April 11.

The survey is based on public opinion between February 23 and March 14 and shows Georgian respondents’ attitudes towards a broad range of issues, among them economics and foreign policy. A total of 3,900 respondents were interviewed face-to-face during the given period.

The NDI poll results revealed a growing dissatisfaction among Georgians about the direction of their country. The economy remains Georgians’ top concern, with 2 percent assessing the economic situation as good.

According to the poll, Georgians are concerned about the impact of a weakened economy on their lives: 42 percent of the respondents stated their lives got worse compared to 2012; 47 percent believe their economic situation is the same, and 10 percent said they are now better than in 2012.

Jobs (57 percent), rising prices and inflation (35 percent), and poverty (30 percent) are ranked as the most important national issues.

The majority of respondents (81 percent) blame the current government for the economic problems in the country; 59 percent also blame the previous government and 53% blames the global economy.

According to Laura Thornton, the NDI’s senior director, there is concern and frustration among Georgians about the direction of their country and the economy and they do not see adequate responsiveness from the government or political leaders.

”Particularly in an election year, it is essential that officials and politicians from all sides improve their communication with citizens on the economy and present their plans for growth and employment,” Thornton stated.

However, healthcare and freedom of speech were identified among the areas of improvement. A total of 51 percent of respondents assess healthcare as better since 2012, and 38 percent describe freedom of speech as improved.

On foreign affairs, Georgians’ support for the country’s European Union (EU) and Euro-Atlantic aspirations is strong, with NATO support at 68 percent and EU support up to 77 percent from 61 percent in NDI’s August 2015 poll.

Most citizens (54 percent) believe the country will benefit from EU-Euro-Atlantic integration, as opposed to only 27% who favour abandoning this goal for closer ties with Russia, although the latter sentiment is higher in ethnic minority settlements.

However, the majority of respondents (52 percent) suggested the country should be “pro-Western” but with good relations with Russia and only 14 percent suggesting simply a “pro-Western” policy.

Georgians (86 percent) are well aware of the positive EU assessment report on visa liberalization issued in December and the vast majority approve (84 percent) and believe (72 percent) this will have a beneficial impact on the country and their lives.

According to the NDI, they survey public opinion to help Georgian stakeholders diagnose and address issues of public concern by providing accurate, unbiased and statistically-sound data.

“The poll was developed in consultation with party, government and civil society leaders, and aims to capture the most relevant information to foster the development of responsive policies and governance,” the NDI survey reads.

The opposition commented on the poll results, saying Georgia is in an economic crisis.

The former majority United National movement (UNM) says that the survey clarifies that the economic situation has worsened since 2012, when the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition won the parliamentary elections.

According to the majority, the problems listed in the survey had been known to the government before the poll.

Majority member Gia Volski says the economic situation became worse due to the recent developments in the region and world.

“The economic situation is hard not only in Georgia, but also in the world. There is some growth in employment but not enough. Difficult economic conditions in the region and the world created such a difficult social background,” said Volski.

Political expert Gia Khukhashvili shares the results of the survey. However, he believes that economic problems in the country are not only the government’s fault and they were affected by external factors as well.

NDI’s survey work is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and carried out by CRRC Georgia.