CRRC Georgia study: what determines attitudes on Georgia regaining territorial integrity
By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, December 26
Regaining Georgia’s territorial integrity has been the country’s top goal for the past decade. It guided much of the foreign and domestic policies and it is no surprise that the issue is cited by the public in various polls as one of the most important national issues.
The data from the 2013 Caucasus Barometer shows that there is a high level of uncertainty on when or if the conflicts will be resolved. It also reveals that there is little public support for any form of resolution that requires less than full restoration of the territorial integrity of Georgia (high levels of autonomy for Abkhazia or a confederation state, for example).
Georgians tend to be torn in their expectations as to whether the territorial integrity of the country will be restored. When questioned in the March 2018 CRRC-Georgia / NDI poll if they agree or disagree that the territorial integrity of Georgia will be restored in the next 15 years, 35 % agreed and 38 % disagreed, while the rest did not know or declined to answer.
To find out what might explain this variation in attitudes towards the future of Georgia’s territorial integrity, CRRC published a study, which uses multinomial logistic regression analyses and data from the March 2018 CRRC-Georgia/NDI survey.
The study has found that there’s a strong correlation between the attitudes towards the country’s general direction and expectations for territorial integrity.
Evidence from the analysis shows that a person who believes that Georgia is going in the right direction is more likely to agree that territorial integrity will be restored compared to someone who believes that Georgia is not changing at all, and a person who believes that Georgia is going in the wrong direction or not changing at all is more likely to disagree that territorial integrity will be restored.
Perhaps even more interestingly, the study also shows that support for joining the European Union and NATO and a belief that US military assistance to Georgia has increased are good predictors of a belief that territorial integrity will be restored.
Even controlling for a general attitude about the direction in which Georgia is going, respondents who approve of the government’s aim to join NATO and the EU and who believe that US military assistance has increased are more likely to say they agree that territorial integrity will be restored, according to the study.
Because the support for joining the EU and NATO are highly correlated, CRRC ran two separate models– one using a question on approval of NATO membership, and one using a question on approval of the EU membership.
The support of joining NATO was found to be strongly related to an expectation that territorial integrity will be restored. Additionally, those who agree that U.S. military assistance has improved are also more likely to hold this belief.
The analysis found a similar trend in a different model which involves the question of EU membership rather than NATO membership. Support for EU membership and a perception that the U.S. military assistance has expanded are both positively associated with an expectation that the territorial integrity of Georgia will be restored. The effect of NATO support on believing territorial integrity will be restored is stronger than the effect of EU support on this belief, according to the study.
The CRRC study notes that the absolute number of respondents who believe that US military assistance has increased is quite small at only 19% and 50% of this group believe that Georgia’s territorial integrity will be restored.
The study has also found a relationship between the perception of Georgia’s defence capabilities and the expectation for future territorial integrity. In both models, a view that the defense capabilities of Georgia have degraded is correlated with being less likely to agree that territorial integrity will be restored relative to those who claim that those capabilities have remained the same. Furthermore, acknowledging that the defense capabilities of Georgia have strengthened is not related to the hope that territorial integrity will be regained.
CRRC study concludes that these findings can be interpreted in multiple ways, including that the attitudes about the prospects for territorial integrity are not about military capabilities per se. Nor it is about international alliances and Euro-Atlantic integration alone, but more specifically about external military support.
The association between support for EU membership and believing that territorial integrity will be restored might weaken this interpretation. However, the study showed that the poll reveals people are supporting EU membership not only because of potential economic gains, but also because of the possibility of better security and, to a much lesser degree, as a means of helping to restore territorial integrity.
However, respondents were not asked how they thought territorial integrity would be restored (or what would prevent it from being restored). Further research is needed to understand such attitudes entirely.
CRRC-Georgia is a non-governmental, non-profit research organization that collects, analyzes and publishes policy-relevant data on social, economic and political trends in Georgia. CRRC-Georgia, together with CRRC-Armenia and CRRC-Azerbaijan, constitutes a network with the common goal of strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus.