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Survey shows divide between UNM, Ivanishvili supporters

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, February 15
The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), with the support of Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), has released Electorate Profile: report of the survey. IPS created demographic profiles of the potential electorate, their values, beliefs, and estimations to reveal “who is voting for whom?” by studying individual’s attitudes towards politicians, and their opinions about the current situation in Georgia.

As the part of the wider study Generations and Values, which will be published this spring, IPS interviewed 1058 people across the country from November 21 and December 19, 2011. The ages of the interviewees were divided into three groups: 18-24, 40-50, and 60-70.

Twenty-five percent of respondents chose particular candidates from Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team as their choice for President, if the elections were held today, while 19.8% said they would vote for the ruling United National Movement (UNM) candidate. Among those, 8.7% still wished to vote for President Mikheil Saakashvili, despite the expiry of his second term. Other opposition candidates received 3.2% total support.

According to the results, most of Ivanishvili’s supporters live in urban areas, while the ruling party has more potential voters in rural areas. Using a self-rating mechanism, the majority of respondents considered their families to be economically of “middle affluence". Fifty-one percent said the economic conditions of their families have not changed since last year. Approximately 37% of UNM’s supporters said they saw positive changes, while 18.7% saw negative changes to their economic situation. Ivanishvili voters, in contrast, saw more negative and less positive economic changes. But health, family, home, and education are among the values which all groups had in common.

UNM supporters felt optimistic about Georgia's development; 89% of them believe that Georgia is on the right path, compared to 22.9% of Ivanishvili supporters.

An evaluation of democracy had “paradoxical results," according to researchers. As Nana Sumbadze, co-director of IPS, said, 80.9% of UNM supporters considered democracy to be the best form of governance, but most of them were unaware of the main features of the system.

The Georgian Orthodox Church was named the most trusted institution in Georgia. The majority of UNM supporters also named the police, the Public Defender, the President, and the courts as other trusted institutions, while few Ivanishvili voters felt the same way.

Both groups named unemployment, poverty, relations with Russia, and access to quality health care as the most acute problems in Georgia. Ivanishvili’s supporters also named human rights, while UNM supporters cited the presence of Russian armed forces in the country. Although the majority of respondents believe that Georgia’s future depends on Georgia itself, the two groups had different priorities about the country’s foreign orientation. Almost 70% of Ivanishvili’s supporters gave priority to improving relations with Russia, while UNM supporters chose cooperation with the U.S. as “Russia cannot do much anymore".

A large number of respondents either hid their political sympathies, or had not decided for whom to vote. As Sumbadze said, this provides a good opportunity for political parties to design their election campaigns around attracting those people. She noted that there are still several months between now and the Parliamentary elections, so the electorate is still in an early decision-making stage, giving politicians more time to court undecided voters.