World

Georgian, Russian Relations Sour Before Conflict

by Ian T. Brown

Georgians positive about state of relations with U.S., Ukraine

This article is the first in a series about what Gallup has learned through its public opinion research in Georgia over the past several years. Gallup will be publishing new data and analysis based on polling this year in the coming weeks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Well before the conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted last week, Gallup Polls in Georgia and Russia in 2007 showed substantial majorities of residents perceived that relations between the two countries were deteriorating.

When Gallup asked Georgians in April/May 2007 for their perceptions of relations with Russia, 81% of residents said relations had declined. Sixty-eight percent of Russians, polled in August 2007, said relations had become worse.

In contrast, large majorities of Georgians (75%) said relations with the United States and Ukraine had improved. The recent and broadening conflict in South Ossetia and the international response would appear to reaffirm Georgians' perceptions.

Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili has turned to the United States and the international community to discourage Russia from further military escalation. On Aug. 10, Vice President Dick Cheney expressed the Bush administration's solidarity with the Georgian people and their democratically elected government. Bush spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during the Olympic opening ceremonies, condemning any bombings outside South Ossetia.

Ukraine has also demonstrated solidarity with Georgia. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has warned Russia it could bar Russian navy ships, which were recently deployed to the Georgian coast, from returning to their bases in Crimea.

Figures from 2007 also show Georgians' disapproval of Russian leadership. The responses are particularly marked when compared with Georgians' approval ratings of the United States and regional neighbors.

Future Relations

Gallup data reflect a perceived deterioration of relations between Georgia and Russia dating back to at least 2007. Not surprisingly, Georgia has now reached out to the countries that it has deliberately fostered relations with over that time period for support. It's unclear to what extent the warmer relations between Georgia and non-Russian actors will translate into deeper commitments to Georgia's security beyond the already displayed rhetoric.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 602 Georgians, aged 15 and older, conducted April-May 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,479 adults, aged 15 and older, in August 2007 in Russia. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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