|Georgian Political Engagement|
20/08/2012 01:09 (304 Day 04:21 minutes ago)
The FINANCIAL -- With a president nearing the end of his second term and a new political party in play, the coming months promise to be full of politics.
Georgians across the country will be surely be discussing parliament, parties, and presidents. Some may even attend demonstrations, sign petitions, or otherwise participate in the process. But just how engaged will Georgians be, and who among them will be the most interested?
Every ten years, the European Values Survey is conducted in countries across Europe to gauge people’s attitudes toward a variety of topics. The Georgian portion of the last wave of this survey was conducted by Georgian Opinion Research Business International. GORBI asked respondents, among other things, just how interested they were in politics and in what ways they may participate in the political process. We also asked their opinions on how to best govern.
Only around one quarter of Georgians said that they were “very interested” in politics, but another 42% said they were “somewhat interested.” However, this does not necessarily mean that only these people have information on the political situation; 90% of those polled said that they followed political stories from the media at least several times a week. It also does not mean that only the “very interested” are willing to become involved. It turns out that Georgians are willing to become politically engaged beyond voting, even if they don’t count politics as a chief interest.
Georgian Democracy -- There are a multitude of freedom indices that rank a country’s adherence to democratic and political freedom, none of which rank Georgia as being fully free and democratic. Freedom House, for instance, rated Georgia as “partly free” in each of the last three years. Despite the situation, Georgians express very pro-democratic attitudes when surveyed.
GORBI asked respondents their opinion of the statement “Democracy may have problems but it’s better than any other form of government,” 83% of respondents agreed. When asked if “having a democratic political system,” was a good or bad way of governing this country [Georgia], 82% felt it was good governance. It is not a perfect bastion of democracy, however; 44% did feel that “having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections” was a good way to govern Georgia.
While you may be wondering who these 26% are that feel a despotic democracy is ideal, we can comfortably say that the Georgian people are more inclined toward democracy than to one-man rule.
Political Action -- Respondents were also asked about their willingness to participate in the political process by means other than voting. The various political activities that respondents were asked about reveal many Georgians that are willing to get out and demonstrate, or to sign petitions, but far fewer are willing to participate outside of the law.
Nearly half of those asked would attend a lawful demonstration or have in the past, though only a quarter would if it were not legally sanctioned. Petitions and boycotts were also an option for around a third of Georgians each, but only one in ten said they would consider occupying buildings. As we’ve discussed in previous columns, Georgians prefer their society to progress slowly and steadily, without violence or revolution.
So who protests? -- As you might expect, men are more willing to demonstrate than women and the youngest respondents are more willing than the eldest. Surprisingly, though, this willingness to protest does not substantially decrease until respondents reach old age, especially in men.
Along with a significant difference between the sexes, there is an even greater difference in the ideologies of the engaged and unengaged. These are fairly logically consistent: those who said they have or would demonstrate or strike were more likely than average to say that democracy was a good way to govern, and less likely to say that a strong man was best.
While the political activity of this fall is far from predictable, we can see from this data that the Georgian people prefer demonstrations to be peaceful and hope that progress toward democracy will not involve revolution.
Analyses of polls like this have a margin of error that is normally between 3% and 5% with a 95% confidence interval.