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Most Georgians don’t know whom to vote for, NDI survey says

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, October 19
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC Georgia have just released the political segment of their survey conducted from August 8 to September 10 this year, indicating that 61 percent of Georgians support the country’s goal to join the European Union (EU). At the same time, 31 percent citizens are considering alternatives such as the Eurasian Union.

Those Georgians who support membership in the Eurasian Union primarily cite the perceived economic benefits (71 percent), not political or governance improvements, while 68 percent of European Union supporters say the same about joining the EU.

In comparison, only 7 percent of Eurasian Union supporters think that Eurasian Union membership would strengthen democratic development. A total of 21 percent of EU supporters believe that EU membership would strengthen democratic development.

“When you probe more deeply into the reasons for Georgian opinion vis-a-vis the EU and the Eurasian Union, you can see that the drivers are largely the same – Georgians are motivated by economic, not political, considerations and express increased willingness to explore any possibilities for improving economic development,” said Laura Thornton, NDI’s senior country director in Georgia. “Thus, to address the increasing support for alternatives to the EU, one must look carefully at the factors that drive it and not mistake this support as simply political approval of a pro-Russian direction.”

While the majority of Georgians support joining the EU, when reflecting on benefits and offered a choice between European and Euro-Atlantic (EU and NATO) integration and abandoning this direction in favour of better relations with Russia, 45 percent of citizens said Georgia would benefit more from European and Euro-Atlantic integration, while 30 percent would abandon these aspirations for better ties with Russia.

Again, citizens give an economic, not political, rationale for closer relations with Russia, and only 6 percent of Georgians believe that Russia should have political influence on Georgia.

The poll also found that 14 percent of all citizens identified Georgian Dream as the party closest to them, and 13 percent identified United National Movement (UNM). Irakli Alasania-Free Democrats and the Alliance of Patriots both have 4 percent support, although the Irakli Alasania-Free Democrats is the most popular second choice, with 6 percent.

Responding to the question of 'If parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, would you say you are decided or undecided?', 59 percent of citizens said they are undecided, including 41 percent of likely voters. Of likely voters, 15 percent would vote for the United National Movement (UNM) and 14 percent would vote for Georgian Dream Coalition.

The poll also revealed that most Georgians still do not have a preferred political party. Responding to the question 'If parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, who would you vote for?', 35% claimed not to know, 14% did not name a party, and 13% refused to answer.

"As shown in our last poll, the electoral playing field is still wide open and no party is ahead in Georgia," said Thornton. “Georgians are completely undecided about their political preferences, presenting an opportunity for all parties to spend the next year leading up to the parliamentary elections earning citizens’ backing through responsive platforms and policies.”

The nationwide NDI survey questioned 4,448 individuals face-to-face.

The average margin of error is +/- 3.01 percent, according to the NDI.

The NDI’s survey work was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Responding to the survey, Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili posted on his Facebook page, saying “his party was winning the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2016.”

Part of the majority stated that they were sceptical to the survey, as in 2012 the NDI survey was “totally different from the real outcome” while the second part said that each poll was noteworthy as they showed a general tendency.

“A lot of time is left until the elections and tendencies change very quickly,” the Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality Paata Zakareishvili said.