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Public opinion: Tea for two or three

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 21
As the elections approach, public opinion polls have become more important, even as Georgians claim they do not trust poll results.

While the Georgian public generally believes that polling companies are biased – as they are usually sponsored by a political party – the few neutral organizations involved in polling are more or less welcomed.

The most recent poll released by a neutral, non-governmental organization comes from Open Society Foundations Georgia, which sponsored a survey conducted between November 21 - December 19, 2011. The results showed three major positions among the public. One group supports the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party, the second is in favour of Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream, and the third group has no affiliation.

While Ivanishvili’s entry into politics is credited with stoking public interest in the elections, there remains a segment of the population that is indifferent, and who do not intend to participate in the elections. Approximately 30% of all those polled have not yet decided for whom to vote.

What unites all Georgians, however, is that few potential voters have a clear understanding of democracy; the word is primarily a slogan, rather than a reflection of people's fundamental values.

The poll also revealed some fundamental differences between voting blocs. Urban voters are more inclined to vote for Ivanishvili, while rural voters lean towards the UNM.

Foreign relations also divide the country. UNM supporters are very pro-America, while Georgian Dream voters believe that Georgia should work on repairing its relations with Russia. This position gives ground to the administration's accusation that Ivanishvili and his team have pro-Russian sentiments.

While parliamentary elections are eight months away, it is unlikely that a third political force will emerge and offer a credible threat to UNM or the Georgian Dream. The two camps we see today are most likely going to be what undecided voters will have to choose between. This may be advantageous to the UNM, as their supporters are more committed, and Georgian Dream has to work to convince disparate opposition forces to come together under Ivanishvili's banner. While Georgian Dream has many supporters, they must compete not only with UNM, but with those voters who will vote for other opposition parties, or not vote at all.