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Immigration Attitudes in Georgia

Written by Frank Klobucar, GORBI

26/08/2013 11:21 (238 Day 00:44 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- Georgia’s visa and naturalization processes are among the most liberal in the world.  There are reasons why this is a generally good thing: open borders can help bring new labor when it’s needed, encourage investment, make the workforce generally younger, and can even stabilize or encourage relationships with home countries of immigrants.  On the other hand, it’s often the case that people’s inherent fear of foreigners is exploited by crafty officials to spur support. 

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This move has been used by every generation of post-Soviet Georgian leadership, from early speeches pitting Georgians against those deemed “less Georgian,” to the continuing fear of Russian spies hiding under every sewer grate.  Now the focus has fallen on Indian farmers and Iranian investors.  


So the “Georgia for Georgians” call is being heeded by the new government, or at least acknowledged; how well do Georgians respond to such tactics?  Do Georgians fear becoming strangers in their own country, or losing their jobs to Armenians or Americans?


Our most recent wave of the European Values Survey holds a few variables that can help us answer these questions.   It seems that Georgians do feel that there are “too many immigrants” on Georgian soil, as just over half of respondents agreed with the statement and less than a third disagreed, but it hasn’t made most feel ill at ease: only 14% said that they feel like strangers in Georgia because of the number of immigrants.  


We also gave respondents a series of statements and asked them to place themselves on a scale from one to ten, where one represents total agreement and ten represents total disagreement.  All means in this article are structured in this way: low numbers imply anti-immigration attitudes and higher numbers imply pro-immigration tendencies.

 

 

Agree

Disagree

Neither

I feel like a stranger

14%

65%

20%

Too many immigrants

51%

28%

18%

 

When asked whether immigrants will become a threat to society in the future, Georgians generally agreed. The mean response was 3.88, which is lower by far than the European average. However, this feeling of general threat doesn’t seem to be composed of specific perceived threats.  For example, when asked whether immigrants increase crime, the mean response was a relative “no” (6.16).  Georgians also did not really agree that immigrants were a threat to their cultural heritage; “immigrants undermine Georgia’s cultural life” was also met with general, if more slight, disagreement (5.7).


As questions become more related to economics, the mean responses start to fall back toward anti-immigrant attitudes - the universal “they took our jobs” problem.  5.67 was the mean response to the statement, “immigrants are a strain on welfare system,” and the only statement with a specific threat that received a mean below the “magic middle,” 5, was “immigrants take jobs away from Georgians”: 4.57.


Looking at these attitudes, it seems that the political rhetoric in Georgia works about the same as anywhere else: as long as arguments against immigration are made generally, and focus on unemployment, they’ll always have at least some traction.  Visit our website at gorbi.com for more articles.

 

Immigrants…  1 Agree <---> 10 Disagree

 

take jobs away from Georgians

4.57

undermine Georgia's cultural life

5.7

increase crime problems

6.16

are a strain on welfare

5.67

will be a threat to society

3.88

 

 

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