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Analysis | Trust in institutions continues its steady decline in Georgia

16 March 2020
The Parliament of Georgia. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

CRRC Georgia examines the declining levels of public trust in Georgia’s institutions.

Trust in institutions has been on the decline in Georgia for a decade now. For instance, the level of trust in religious institutions declined from 86% of the public reporting trust in 2008 to 71% in 2019, with the decline being particularly prominent among Orthodox Christians, the main religious group in the country. 

Although there has been a decline in trust in most institutions, the decline has been starkest when it comes to political institutions. Newly released data from the Caucasus Barometer 2019 suggests this decline has continued, with the largest decline surrounding trust in the President, Salome Zurabishvili. 

Between 2017 and 2019, there were no major increases in trust in institutions. Concomitantly, there were five declines in trust beyond the margin of error. The largest decline in trust was in the president — a 21 percentage point drop. 

This likely reflects the change over from Giorgi Margvelashvili to Salome Zurabishvili as president in 2018. Zurabishvili gained office in a heated presidential election, the quality of which was problematic according to some observers. Moreover, few approve of her performance: only 12% reported they viewed her performance positively in a July 2019 NDI and CRRC survey. Hence, the decline is in some senses unsurprising.

Note: Trust in institutions was measured using the question, ‘I will read out a list of social institutions and political unions. Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where code “1” means “Fully distrust”, and “5” means “Fully trust”. First, please tell me how much do you trust or distrust Georgia’s [Institution]?’ Responses of ‘fully trust’ and ‘trust’ are combined into trust for the purposes of this writing.

Aside from the president, there were also declines in trust in parliament and the courts of seven percentage points. There were also declines in trust in the healthcare system and executive government of six and five points, respectively. 

While this shows that in the short term, there has been a decline in trust in institutions, there are also notable mid-term trends when it comes to trust in political institutions.

There was a high point in trust in the parliament and executive government in 2012, when the Caucasus Barometer survey took place shortly after the parliamentary elections which unseated the United National Movement. 

Similarly, there was an increase in trust in the presidency after the first wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey after Giorgi Margvelashvili was elected (The 2013 wave took place during the presidential election). However, these trends have since reversed, reflecting the growing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the country.

While there have been several mid-term trends in the data, taking the long view suggests that the drop in trust is a longer-term phenomenon that is larger than the administration of one political party or another. 

Trust in all the domestic institutions asked about on the Caucasus Barometer survey have declined since the question was first asked, with the exception of the Army. 

Not only has trust declined for all institutions aside from the Army, it has generally done so by large amounts. Compared with 2008, trust in the President has declined by 35 percentage points, in the media by 30 points, and in the Public Defender’s Office and banks by 29 and 28 points respectively. Even the highly trusted police force has experienced a five-point decline in the share of the population reporting they trust them since 2008. The average decline in trust was 17 percentage points between 2008 and 2019.

Note: Trust in political parties was first measured in 2012. Trust in local government was first measured in 2009. All other institutions were first measured in 2008.

The drops in trust in institutions in Georgia are not the only sign that all is not well. Data from other sources suggest that people increasingly think Georgia is heading in the wrong direction.  Fewer people are optimistic about the state of Georgia. Fewer people are satisfied with life. There have been large drops in the belief that most people can be trusted in Georgia. Taken together, the above points to stagnation in Georgia.

The data used in this blog post is available here

This article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, Deputy Research Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.

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