Caucasus Elections Watch

NDI poll indicates two way race in October Elections in Georgia

From June 4-22, the Caucasus Resource research Centre (CRRC), conducted nation-wide poll in Georgia for the US based non-profit think tank National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NDI and CRRC conducted 6229 face-to-face interviews over the most recent and fourth phase of this study.
The figures indicate that the October Parliamentary Elections in Georgia will be a two way race between the ruling United National Movement and the Georgian Dream Coalition.Whilst the UNM maintained a considerable lead in the polls, as compared to an earlier NDI poll conducted in February the gap between the two parties has closed considerably. A third party, the Christian Democrats trailed far behind.

                                                                        June 2012                   February 2012

United National Movement                                      36%                            47%

Georgian Dream Coalition                                       18%                            10%

Christian Democrats                                                      3%                             3%

The poll has a margin of error plus, minus 2%.

According to the same poll 22% were undecided, almost the same number as it was in February and 16% refused to answer, up from 10% in February and 4% said they would vote for none of the parties.

The study found that jobs (58%), territorial integrity (33%) and access to affordable healthcare (33%) were the top three issues for Georgian voters. Between June 2012 and the previous poll conducted in February 2012, Georgians became less concerned about rising prices and inflation which dropped significantly over this period (from 42% to 19%).

The central concern over jobs in Georgia would appear natural as only 30% of those surveyed identified themselves as employed. Of the 69% who consider themselves unemployed, 47% responded that they were actively seeking employment opportunities.

Thus, while in general Georgians view the situation in the country as either improved or the same in comparison with January 2008 on a range of issues from education to combating corruption; with regard to the job market, poverty, territorial integrity and rising prices and inflation, the situation was generally perceived as worse. These same issues, with the notable exception of territorial integrity, were also perceived as not receiving sufficient attention from politicians.

While 44% of respondents perceived Russia as a real and existing threat to Georgia, 87% disapproved of Georgia’s current relationship with its giant neighbour to the north.

Overall, only 23% of Georgians viewed their household situation has being better off since January 2008. While 46% perceived no change in their overall situation, and 28% of respondents felt they were generally worse off than before.

On a positive note, 49% of respondents agreed with the statement that “Georgia is going mainly in the right direction.”

However, when it came to Georgia’s democratic scorecard, respondents were less inclined to consider Georgia a democracy in June 2012 with only 38% agreeing that it was, compared with 49% just four months earlier in February.

That said, 75% said they were likely to vote in Georgia’s upcoming elections, compared with only 64% in February.

When asked what democracy meant to them, the top three responses included freedom of speech, media, hearing different views (59%), equality before the law and protection of the justice (36%) and protection and defence of human rights (30%).

The Voter’s List Verification Commission (VLVC) received very positive responses from poll participants. Out of the 78% of respondents who were aware of the existence of the VLVC, 69% of respondents had been visited by the VLVC and of these 86% positively assessed the work being done. A majority of respondents who knew of the VLVC, 78%, expected this body will result in an improvement to the voter’s list.

However, reactions were mixed with regards to how participants felt about the conduct of the upcoming elections. Only 13% believed they will be “totally well conducted”. While 42% thought they will be somewhat well conducted, and 17% expected some degree of falsification.

For Georgians the three biggest barriers to free and fair elections are vote buying or bribing of voters, inaccuracies of the voter lists (although it should be noted that in the February poll this was at the top of the list, it has moved down to second place, perhaps as a result of the activities of the VLVC), and ballot stuffing and carousel voting.

Most respondents disagreed with the statement that government or public employees should be fired if they attend an opposition event (61%) and 12% responded that they knew someone who had been fired from the civil service for their political beliefs.

Another concern raised by the polls was the overwhelming disapproval by respondents regarding the revocation of the citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition coalition, Georgian Dream. Although there is widespread disapproval over the Civil Registry Agency’s refusal to reinstate Ivanishvili’s citizenship, respondents were less unified in whether the constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for office is appropriate.

Interestingly, 67% of respondents disapproved of the constitutional amendment that lowers the minimum age to run for Member of Parliament from 25 to 21. Furthermore, 89% said they would approve of a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage raised by the Christian Democratic Movement (CDM) in parliament.

When it comes to making decisions in daily life, 36% responded that religion was very important and another 48% said religion was important.

Regarding gender Georgians presented a positive picture. Almost 70% of respondents answered that they would vote for a woman and the majority believes that men and women perform equally in office and that nine female MPs is too few and support initiatives such as financial incentives to increase the number of women on party lists.

Finally, the survey revealed that the majority of Georgians, 78% in fact, receive their news from television. Of that, 86% identified Rustavi 2 and Imedi networks as their primary sources of information.

According to a report by Democracy and Freedom Watch, NDI will conduct one more survey before the elections are held this fall.


Report prepared for CEW by Karina Gould.