Early in September 2011 NDI publicized the results of the seventh wave of the survey Public Attitude inGeorgia. The survey was nationwide including representative samples inTbilisi,Kutaisi,Batumi, Poti,Rustaviand Telavi making up 2,425 respondents in total. Media as an object was included in this survey too but its activities, problems related to its activities and the issues of the kind are better and interestingly portrayed in the sections of the survey who do not appear directly related to media at a glance.
According to the survey 62 percent of respondents named unemployment as the most importamt national and local issue. Out of 18 options provided in response to the question are of social nature including jobs, rising prices, poverty, affordable healthcare, pensions and wages.
Territorial integrity, as the most significant issue at national and local level, ranks three. The rest of issues (according to chart) include: relation with Russia, fair elections, education, NATO membership, human rights, court system, freedom of speech, corruption, property rights, EU membership, media independence.
Media ranks last in the list with 1 percent, just like in the sixth wave survey of March, but in the survey of July 2011, according to the diagram, there was no mention of media at all. Taking into account that media is one of the essential characteristics of democracy Georgian media independence has been dedicated numerous reports of critical nature by Georgian and as well as foreign experts, and even non-diplomatic statements by influential NGOs, the representatives of diplomatic corps, one cannot say that media is an unimportant issue in Georgia. What’s up then?
What values is the Georgian population guided by or its 2,425 citizens having taken part in the given survey? Who is introducing these values?
Let’s look at top important issues according to the survey: Jobs – 40 percent of respondents think the situation is the same since January 2008, 33 percent thinks it’s worse and 19 percent thinks it’s better, and 7 percent of respondents has no answer to the issue. Rising prices/Inflation – 88 percent of respondents think it’s worse, 8 percent thinks it’s same, for two percent it looks better and 4 percent has no answer to the question. Poverty - 50 percent of respondents say its worse, 33 percent thinks it’s the same, according to 10 percent it’s better and 6 percent has got nothing to say.
Let’s follow diagrams. 44 percent of respondents think that politicians talk too little about the most important issue such a jobs, 62 and 54 percent of respondents have the same opinion about rising prices/inflation, and poverty respectively. The aforementioned issues are being discussed in right amount to 42, 25 and 33 percent of respondents respectively. Taking into account that 67 of respondents do not consider themselves employed the solution to the aforementioned issues, as well as policy makers’ consideration to find the way out of the given situation must be of highest importance to them. Any civil society would have provided a relevant response to politicians’ lack of interest into similar important issues, at the elections first of all.
Let’s see our populations’ attitude to the elections and related issues. Fair elections is the most important national issue to 9 percent of respondents only; the election reform – the most important one for 20 percent; only 22 percent is aware that in June 2011 an agreement was reached between the authorities and come opposition parties on the amendments to be made to the Election Code, 58 percent has heard nothing of it and 19 percent has no idea about the issue.
The picture looks totally different in regard to the legal status of religious entities. 48 percent of respondents are aware of it, while 47 percent said no. 24 percent supports the amendment, 69 percent does not. 81 percent believes that public should have been consulted prior to the decision, 5 percent thinks there had been no need to 78 percent thinks the decision was taken too quickly, 6percent thinks otherwise. 86 percent of respondents think the Georgia Orthodox Church should have been consulted prior to the passage of the legislation, 2 percent thinks there had been no need to.
Public awareness is rather high in regard to the May 26 events too. 77 percent of respondents are aware, (19 percent are unaware), the same amount of respondents say the protest leaders demanded Saakashvili’s resignation. 60 percent of respondents believe the protestors should have left of their own accord, 41 percent thinks the authorities have a right to use force to disperse the protestors, 33 percent disagrees to that, 25 percent has no idée in this regard. 88 percent have seen the video of the dispersal (11 percent have not), 91 of them on TV. The total of 30 percent of respondents think government used adequate force, a total of 39 percent thinks government used excessive force.
In the scope of the current issues the intensity of the discussion of issues such as Robert Sturua’s dismissal from the theatre and parliament’s movement toKutaisiis similar. Even though all of the aforementioned issues are important and they should have attracted keen public interest, elections – to say the least are not being seriously taken, that’s evident. Incorrect accents prevail. According to the results key and secondary issues are mixed up and media is one of the reasons of it for that simple reason that a person can’t be everywhere and conclusions are being made according to the information offered by media.
According to the present survey the society receives information mainly from television. 88 percent of respondents learn news about Georgian politics and current issues fromRustavi2 and Imedi. 44 percent never reads print media, newspapers and magazines, 26 percent – once or twice per month, 13 percent – once per week, 10 percent – few times per week, 3 percent – on a daily basis. Accordingly the society is being mainly charged by the aforementioned two TV companies who broadcast nationwide. Evidently this is not the charge to lead the society to the development of democracy.
Reasoning from the accents being on the surface according to the survey the society instead of democratic, civilized way of elections is thinking of confrontation, rallies. The society, facing hardship, need for jobs, suffering from rising prices and inflation, unemployment and numerous everyday issues and witnessing the lack of policy makers’ interest to the issues of importance is full of protest, the example (and the result) of its revelation is the May 26 rally being most frequently, most dramatically and genuinely reported about.
“What is democracy to you?” questions one the sections of the survey. Free and fair elections is the indicator of democracy to 16 percent of respondents only. This is to say media finds it hard to perform its function and in case it furthers on the same way even 1 percent of respondents will lose interest to its importance.