World

Amid Rallies, Tbilisi Residents Express Desire for Change

by Neli Esipova and Gocha Tskitishvili (IPM)

Forty-two percent favor a new presidential election

WASHINGTON D.C. -- About 20,000 people rallied outside the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on Monday in the fifth consecutive day of protests, demanding the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili. On the second and third days of the protest, April 10 and 11, Gallup and IPM conducted a phone survey among residents of the capital and found 42% of respondents in favor of calling a new presidential election, 25% opposed, and 33% who say they don't know or refused to answer the question.

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Since the start of the protests, government loyalists have been quoted as saying Saakashvili continues to enjoy widespread support in Georgia, but the new Gallup/IPM data reveal that only 26% of Tbilisians approve of the current job performance of Saakashvili -- down from 42% in Gallup's June 2008 survey.

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Of those respondents who disapprove of the job performance of Saakashvili, 76% favor calling a new presidential election, suggesting that those on the streets do not necessarily support the opposition, but rather that they do not support Saakashvili.

Georgia protests
Supporters of the Georgian opposition rally in front of the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's residence during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, Monday, April 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

According to Gallup World Poll data collected since 2006, residents of Tbilisi, who represent 25% of Georgia's population, consistently rate Georgia's leadership and national government more negatively than people in other regions of the country.

The opposition has promised to continue protests until Saakashvili resigns. However, Saakashvili refuses to step down and says he is ready for dialogue with the opposition. Gallup data support the idea that it will not be easy to resolve this conflict. A majority of Tbilisians (56%) do not believe that Saakashvili will step down voluntarily and call a new election, while only 10% believe that he will step down.

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The findings indicate respondents' perceive that either Saakashvili is likely unwilling to resign or they lack faith in the power of the opposition. But at the same time, residents of Tbilisi understand the importance of having active opposition in the country. In the April 10-11 poll, 70% of respondents say it is "very important" for Georgia to have an active opposition -- up from 61% in June 2008. Only about 1 in 10 do not think it is "not too important" or "not at all important," though 2 in 10 say they don't know or refused.

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Bottom Line

Residents of Tbilisi are more likely to disapprove than approve of Saakashvili and tend to favor a new presidential election. At the same time, a majority do not believe Saakashvili will voluntarily resign. Understanding the importance of having an active opposition suggests a thirst for true democratic principles in Georgia, where many already have doubts about the honesty of elections and the quality and integrity of the press.

Survey Methods

Results are based on phone interviews with 410 adults in Tbilisi, Georgia, aged 15 and older, conducted on April 10-11, 2009, and 300 face-to-face interviews with adults in Tbilisi, Georgia, aged 15 and older, conducted in June 2008. For results based on the total sample of city adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points for percentages between 45% and 55%.

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/117517/Amid-Rallies-Tbilisi-Residents-Express-Desire-Change.aspx
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