U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) released on Monday part of its commissioned public opinion survey, conducted in second half of March, which shows respondents’ attitudes towards broad range of policy and current issues.
The poll also includes ratings of political parties and this segment of the survey will be released by NDI on April 22.
The survey was fielded by the Caucasus Resource Research Centers (CRRC) for NDI on March 13-27 and was funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The survey was conducted through nationwide face-to-face interview with 3,103 respondents and has a margin of error plus, minus 2.5%.
81% of respondents said that taking everything into account in general they and their household remained the same since October, 2012; 10% responded that they were better off and 8% - worse.
58% of respondents view Georgia as moving in the right direction, while 8% said the country is going in the wrong direction. 43% believe that Georgia is a democracy now, against 38% who think it is not. Attitudes towards the direction Georgia is heading and Georgia’s democracy have remained statistically the same since NDI’s November 2012 poll.
71% of respondents think that the current government is making the changes that matter to them. Asked to what extent do they agree or disagree that if UNM was in charge it would make the changes that matter to you, 4% responded that they completely agreed and 18% - somewhat agree.
The survey shows that jobs remain the number one priority issue for most of the respondents (61%); territorial integrity and affordable healthcare are the second and third priority issues at 34% and 32%, respectively.
46% of respondents approved release of thousands of prisoners in a mass amnesty and 37% - disapproved it.
24% said the release would have positive effect on the society and 37% said the effect would be negative; 23% believe that it will have no effect at all.
According to the survey those respondents who think that it will have positive effect, cite following arguments: restoration of justice; prisoners were innocent; they were victims of torture; they were unfairly judged. Absolute majority of them who think that release of large number of inmates will have negative effect, fear that it will lead to increase in crime.
The poll shows that GD parliamentary majority's decision to postpone President Saakashvili’s annual state of the nation address was not well received by respondents; the same attitude was showed towards the President’s decision to make his annual address from the National Library, which eventually was thwarted by a protest rally and incident outside the library building on February 8 when some UNM lawmakers were attacked by the protesters.
Of those 71% of respondents, who were aware of Parliament’s decision to postpone President’s annual address in the legislative body, 37% disapproved this decision; 29% - approved it; and 32% could not respond. Of those 77% of respondents, who were aware of President's decision to make his address from the National Library, 42% disapproved this decision; 26% - approved; and 30% could not answer. Majority of respondents (56%) had negative stance over protesters actions, involving blocking the entrance to the National Library on February 8 and 76% disapproved violence against UNM representatives.
An idea has been floated by some of the Georgian Dream (GD) lawmakers in late January to launch discussions whether to keep president’s post directly elected or to make it elected by the Parliament. In early March PM Ivanishvili said that he was in favor of President to be elected directly.
NDI survey shows that there is a strong public support for President to be elected directly by citizens (88%) and only 8% are in favor of President to be elected by the Parliament.
Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, announced in January about plans to abandon conscription system and gradually move to fully professional army in a course of next four years. Of those 43% who are aware of this plan, 63% say they approve it 26% - disapprove.
In a marked change over the previous similar NDI surveys, the March poll shows that 49% of respondents are “dissatisfied with Georgia’s current relationship with Russia”, a decline from 79% in NDI’s November, 2012 poll; 38% are satisfied, compared to 12% in November.
Like in November, 26% of respondents believe that Russia is “a real and existing threat to Georgia”, which is a decline from 48% in August, 2012. Number of those who say that Russia “is no threat to Georgia at all” remains almost the same as in November – 23%, up from 9% in August, 2012. 42% of respondents say that although Russia is a threat, they also believe this threat is “exaggerated” – this figure remained statistically the same since NDI’s November 2012 poll, but it is increased from 30% in August, 2012.
33% of respondent say they approve UNM's proposal for a constitutional amendment to enshrine Georgia's pro-western aspirations; 22% - disapprove and 42% said they did not know.
84% of respondents approve negotiations about bringing Georgian wine back to the Russian market and 63% approve restoration of a railway link with Russia via breakaway Abkhazia.
Support for Georgia’s EU and NATO integration remains strong at 76% and 73%, respectively.
Television remains the main source of information for 90% of respondents, followed by internet – 4%.
According to the survey Imedi TV and Rustavi 2 TV are the most watched channels for coverage of politics and current events.
45% of respondents think that Imedi TV's coverage of politics and current events reflects interests of neither UNM nor GD; 15% believes that Imedi TV’s news coverage reflects the interest of GD and 5% - interests of the UNM.
48% of respondents think that Rustavi 2 TV's news coverage reflects the interests of the UNM and only 2% thinks that its coverage is more in favor of GD; 20% believes that Rustavi 2 TV's coverage of politics and current affairs is in the interest of neither GD nor UNM.
27% of respondents say news coverage of Georgian Public Broadcaster's (GPB) First Channel reflects the interests of UNM against 2% who think it’s in favor of GD; 20% believes that GPB’s news coverage reflects interests of neither party.
News coverage of Channel 9 TV, funded by PM Ivanishvili, and of Maestro TV is perceived to be more in favor of GD.
35% of respondents say they trust Imedi TV’s news coverage, 51% responded that their stance is “neutral” and 4% say they do not trust it. In case of Rustavi 2 TV, these figures are 22%; 50% and 19%, respectively.
13% of respondents trust GPB’s news coverage; 47% say their stance is “neutral”; 13% - distrust it and 25% responded could not answer.