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NDI Taking Georgians’ Pulse

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, April 22, 2022
The study, published on April 21 by National Democratic Institute (NDI) surveyed public sentiment amidst Russia conducting large-scale military operations against Ukraine since February 24, which has shown an increase in supporting closer ties with the Euro-atlantic organizations and concerns over threats coming from Russia.

The organization conducted 2 public opinion polls - before and after the war in Ukraine. Both studies were conducted through random sampling, telephone surveys. The first survey fieldwork was conducted on February 3-15 (2036 interviews), the error was 1.8%, and the second survey was March 9-20 (2024 interviews), the error was 1.6%. They were fielded by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) Georgia.

According to the results, after the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia relinquished its position in the list of Georgia's main economic and political partners.

The majority of respondents still consider the EU to be one of the most desirable political and economic partners for Georgia. However, goodwill towards Russia has declined.

Before the war, 24% of respondents thought that Georgia should have the closest political cooperation with Russia, but now only 13% think so. If Russia was followed by the United States and the EU back in the past, now it comes after Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Following the launch of the brutal invasion, 85% of the public believes that Russia is a ‘major threat’ to neighbors, as opposed to 73% recorded ahead of the war. 67% of Georgians blame the war on Russia, 11% on President Vladimir Putin, 9% on the U.S. and 5% on Ukraine.

On the contrary, support for the EU has grown in terms of closer political cooperation. If before the war 29% of respondents thought so, now the support has increased to 42%.

A similar trend was observed in terms of economic cooperation. Support for the EU has risen from 30% to 40%. The US position is almost unchanged, with support of 28% (before - 29%).

Meanwhile the number of those who believe that Georgia should have closer economic cooperation with Russia has shrunk, from 29% to 16%. It is preceded by the EU, the United States, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Against this backdrop, 39% of Georgians argue the country should limit economic ties with Russia, up from 23% ahead of the war, while 25% advocate for deeper relations, down from 53%. 27% of the public believe Georgia should leave its economic links with Russia as they are, an 11% increase from 16% recorded in February.

The question of whether Georgia will benefit more if it rejects Euro-Atlantic integration in exchange for relations with Russia, the population has been asked since 2014. And now only 10% of respondents agree. In 2015, this number was 30%.

In return, support for the EU increased in this case as well. 69% of respondents believe that Georgia will benefit more from Euro-Atlantic integration. Georgians continue to actively support EU membership, the share of supporters is 82 %. The lowest rate in this regard was in 2015, when only 45% of respondents thought so. The poll also found that support for NATO remains solid among the public, despite seeing a 3% decline from 74% before the invasion.

Also, half of the population agrees with the government's decision not to join the economic sanctions against Russia - 49% answer it is ‘acceptable, 37% say ‘unacceptable’.

Supporters of the Georgian Dream and senior citizens are increasingly supporting the government's decision not to allow Georgia to join the sanctions.

The majority of the population supports the introduction of a visa regime with Russia.

Currently, Russian citizens do not need a visa to enter Georgia. When asked whether the Georgian government should introduce a visa regime for Russian citizens, 66% answered in favoe, 23% said - ‘should not introduce’.

According to NDI, the population evaluates the influence of Russia negatively, while the influence of the European Union, NATO and the United States positively.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more people think that Georgia has distanced itself from the EU in the last 5 years. The number has increased from 27% to 36%.

The majority of those polled after the war in Ukraine expect a worsening of the economy in Georgia, the intensification of pro-Russian forces and Russian military aggression.

In particular, 80% of respondents expect the economic situation to deteriorate; activation of pro-Russian political forces - 57%; Russian military aggression against Georgia - 52%.

“Young people are the most pessimistic. Tbilisi residents are most worried about the activation of pro-Russian political forces,” the study said.

The majority of the population, 64%, do not support / have no answer / refuse to answer any of the existing parties. 22% - Georgian Dream; 7% - National Movement; 6% - Other parties. The majority of the population does not know or does not name the party that stands closest to their views. Only 35% named a particular party.

“Individual support rates for parties are so low that they cannot be used to predict election results,” the NDI said.

The study found that 98% of Georgians are overwhelmingly favorable toward the Ukrainian people and 87% also hold positive views of the Ukrainian Government. Meanwhile, the Russian Government enjoys favorable attitudes from only 9% of the respondents. 85% of the interviewees hold an unfavorable view of the Kremlin, while 5% do not know. The picture is different when it concerns the public, as 59% of the respondents hold a favorable view of the Russian people, and 36% - an unfavorable one.

The average margin of error in the February survey is +/- 1.8%, while in the March survey it is +/- 1.6%. Respondents were selected by simple random sampling - random dialing.