By Julia Hon and Tamuna Khoshtaria
Politicians and pundits are happy to tell us what they think is going on in the Caucasus. We may try to draw our own conclusions as well, based on our own observations, what we read, or anecdotes we hear from friends or coworkers. These personal insights are valuable, but they don’t allow us to generalize in any reliable fashion. In more extreme cases, people in discussions can end up talking at cross-purposes, unable to agree on any of the facts. How, then, can we really find out who people in the Caucasus are, what they do, and how they think? Survey data from the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) offer a window into the lives of people in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. CRRC’s yearly Data Initiative (DI) is the largest annual coordinated data-gathering effort in the Caucasus – and one of the few surveys providing quality data on a wide range of political, economic, social and cultural issues.For the DI 2008, nearly 6000 face-to-face interviews were conducted using nationally representative samples from the three countries to collect data; the Politics and Protest survey was carried out across Georgia with a total of over 1800 respondents. This article presents some snapshots from the 2008 DI, as well as the CRRC’s May 2009 survey on politics and protests in Georgia. Both, however, are broader instruments than is reflected here.
Despite these sobering numbers, Georgians have hope in the future of their country. When respondents were asked whether they thought their children would be better or worse off than they are, many respondents were uncertain, but only 2% thought that their children would be worse off, and 50% saw a brighter economic future for their children. Although the data cannot predict exactly what the future will hold, it can tell us that, when it comes to the long term, many Georgians have a positive outlook.
The future of the region also depends on the attitudes and behaviors of its citizens; CRRC’s data-gathering efforts endeavor to gauge them accurately. The data presented in this article is just the tip of the iceberg. Our respondents have told us about everything from what they think about the media, to whether they pray, to how often they smoke cigarettes, to what they think about their country’s foreign policy. Much of our data is publicly available at http://www.crrccenters.org/ – and we offer trainings on how to analyze data. Moreover, CRRC will soon have a web interface that allows you to check data online. You have a question about social, political, or economic developments? Explore the dataset (if you already know how), or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the data and how to use it.
Julia Hon and Tamuna Khoshtaria are Research Fellows at the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC). CRRC is a joint program of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and has worked with many major international organizations on various research projects, ranging from surveys and focus groups to complex mapping projects. CRRC data is regularly presented to members of AmCham at luncheons and other events. More information online at www.crrccenters.org.
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