This was one of the very first questions we asked a representative sample of the Georgian public in 1990: Q. In your opinion is (COUNTRY) going in the right direction or is it moving in the wrong direction? We have been repeating this question several times a year for more than two decades now.
Of course, we are not the only country in which polls are asking this question to assess public opinion. But who invented this question? I have asked this to several worldwide, recognized top pollsters including Mr. Gordon Heald, co-founder of GORBI and managing director of Gallup UK for 25 years. There is no consensus among experts about the author of this question, but it remains the most popular way (with some variations) to gauge public mood and predict “smooth” times or political turbulence.
A Levada/GORBI survey conducted among 1600 Russian and 800 Georgian respondents revealed interesting results. We asked Russian citizens to assess whether or not Georgia was in good shape, and the same question about Russia was asked to the Georgian respondents.
Around a quarter of surveyed respondents in both countries think that Russia and Georgia are heading in the right direction. However, almost half (47%) of surveyed Georgians were unhappy and thought that the Russia was on the wrong track, while only 19% of Russians assumed that Georgia was moving in the wrong direction.
This survey asked several questions regarding knowledge of and attitude towards the other country, and Russians showed significantly more uncertainty about things that were happening in Georgia across many different questions. In what may be a related series of questions, despite Russians’ interest in Georgian matters Russian respondents seem far less informed about their neighbor than the respondents in Sakartvelo. Based on this survey, the majority of Russian respondents (56%) could not comment on which direction Georgia was headed. Conversely, only about one third (31%) of Georgians responded the same when asked about Russia.
Of course judging the direction of a country is a subjective endeavour, and it has a much stronger indication when it comes to assessing one’s own country direction where you are an eye witness to all that’s happening. This self-indicator for Georgia had its ups and downs after liberalization from the Soviet Empire, a time when survey research became possible. In September 2003, for example, Georgians seemed mad as hell about the Shevardnadze regime and only 5% of respondents approved of their country’s trajectory – the lowest number of satisfied citizens that GORBI ever recorded. As most of us know, these sentiments led up to that government’s ousting in November of that same year.
Several polls indicate that people in Russia generally think that their country is going in the right direction, but they are comparatively more pessimistic when it comes to the economy. In Georgia, there is a smaller gap between those optimistic about the economy and the country in general. Still, these Georgian optimists are in the minority compared to those who think that both the economy and the country are moving down a shaky path.