TBILISI – Poll results released today by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC Georgia indicate that 69 percent of Georgians support NATO membership, citing primarily security, followed by economic benefits, as reasons for their support. Most Georgians, 56 percent, agree that Georgia will benefit from closer ties with the United States, while only 19 percent disagree. When choosing between the European Union (EU) and Eurasian Union, support for the EU has increased from 47 percent to 58 percent since the August 2015 poll.
“Georgians support the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic direction, including NATO and EU membership, and EU support has risen vis a vis the Eurasian Union since our August poll,” said Laura Thornton, NDI’s senior country director in Georgia. “Citizens also see the benefits of close ties with the United States, all of which demonstrate clearly the country’s pro-Western aspirations.”
This poll evaluated specific political party supporters’ views on foreign relations as well as Georgians’ trust in parties’ foreign policy credentials. Supporters of United National Movement (UNM) and Irakli Alasania-Free Democrats (FD) voiced greater levels of support for NATO and EU membership and closer ties with the US, when compared to Georgian Dream (GD) party supporters. Across the spectrum, Georgians do not know which party they trust most to handle foreign relations. Those with an opinion, trust UNM and FD to handle relations with the U.S., EU, and NATO whereas they place greater trust in the Georgian Dream party and United Democratic Movement to handle relations with Russia.
Compared to NDI’s August poll, more Georgians express an interest in voting, with likely voters having risen to 64 percent from 49 percent. However, most still do not have a preferred political party. 60 percent of citizens are undecided about how they would vote if elections were held tomorrow, including 50 percent of likely voters. Of likely voters, 18 percent would vote for the Georgian Dream coalition, 12 percent for United National Movement, and 7 percent for Free Democrats.
Economic conditions are still leading on Georgians’ minds, with jobs (57 percent), poverty (29 percent), and pensions (28 percent) selected as most important issues, as is territorial integrity with 29 percent of Georgians ranking it as important. Georgians are twice as likely to feel the country is moving in the wrong direction rather than right direction, with 44 percent saying the wrong direction and only 18 percent saying right. Georgians identify many factors – human rights, fair elections, rule of law, freedom of speech, citizen participation -- as key ingredients for democratic development, but consistently rank Georgia as falling short on those indicators. However, this perception of Georgia’s democratic performance differs significantly between ruling party and opposition supporters, with Georgian Dream party supporters evaluating these issues far more favorably than opposition FD and UNM supporters.
"As shown in our previous poll, the electoral playing field remains wide open. While a third party, the Free Democrats, has gained in support, no party is significantly ahead and most Georgians are undecided about their political preferences," - said Thornton. - “This presents an important opportunity for all parties to spend this campaign year earning citizens’ backing through responsive platforms and policies, particularly, as revealed in this poll, with an emphasis on economic conditions and a demonstration of past performance and policy record.”
NDI surveys public opinion to help Georgian stakeholders diagnose and address issues of public concern by providing accurate, unbiased and statistically-sound data. The poll was developed in consultation with party, government and civil society leaders, and aims to capture the most relevant information to foster the development of responsive policies and governance. A wide range of leaders from across the political spectrum have reported that the polls are important to their work and encourage continued polling. The results reflect data collected from November 17 to December 7, 2015 through face-to-face interviews with a nationwide representative sample of Georgian speakers that included 1881 completed interviews. The average margin of error is +/- 1.8 percent.
NDI’s survey work is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and carried out by CRRC-Georgia.
NDI is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. More information is available at www.ndi.org.
CRRC-Georgia is a non-governmental, non-profit research organization with a mission to promote evidence based debates on policy issues by providing reliable, up-to-date and accessible data and analysis. More information is available at http://www.crrc.ge