09TBILISI1058, GEORGIA: POLL SHOWS PROTESTS AND PROTEST LEADERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1058 2009-06-08 15:07 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3264
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1058/01 1591507
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081507Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1690
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001058 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/08/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: POLL SHOWS PROTESTS AND PROTEST LEADERS 
UNPOPULAR 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  The Caucasus Research Resource 
Center (CRRC), in partnership with the Eurasia Foundation, 
polled over 1,800 Georgians in May 2009 to gauge public 
opinion in regard to ongoing protests.  The data indicated a 
significant negative outlook towards both the protest leaders 
and their aims.  Among the non-parliamentary opposition, only 
Irakli Alasania (Alliance) and to a lesser extent Shalva 
Natelashvili (Labor), polled well.  The overwhelming majority 
of the country support dialogue and reject calls for 
Saakashvili's resignation.  Likewise, while generally 
supportive of the right to protest, more radical actions like 
blocking highways, railway stations, or streets with cells 
are viewed very negatively.  The data indicate that any 
further radicalization of tactics will only serve to damage 
already low approval ratings among the non-parliamentary 
opposition.  President Saakashvili and other GoG officials 
have not benefited from their handling of the protests 
meaning that the public does not view current events as a 
zero-sum game.  GoG ratings have dropped slightly, but remain 
solid, although their numbers are much higher when viewed 
countrywide since they are less popular in Tbilisi.  The data 
indicate that the drop is likely a result of current economic 
and geo-political problems rather than as an acute result of 
non-parliamentary criticism.  The most striking figure is 
that 70 percent of Georgians simply want the protesters to go 
home, while only 5 percent of the respondents wanted the 
government to take forcible action to send them home.  The 
results track with focus group data, informal public 
feedback, and GoG polls.  CRRC has shared results with 
non-parliamentary leaders and GoG officials.  End 
Summary/Comment. 
 
Little Public Support for Non-Parliamentary Opposition 
Tactics: 
 
2.  (C)  The polling from the CRRC shows that despite the 
continued protests within Tbilisi and beyond, the 
non-parliamentary opposition's message and tactics are not 
resonating with the public. Of those polled, 85 percent said 
that the government was justified in calling for dialogue and 
86 percent said that the opposition was justified in calling 
for dialogue  (Embassy Comment:  Although the question was 
strangely worded, the data indicate that the public 
overwhelmingly supports dialogue.  End Comment.)  The polling 
shows that peaceful marches are also acceptable, with 82 
percent saying the opposition's peaceful marches are 
justified. The overall trend of the polls supports les 
radical and peaceful options for resolution.  More radical 
actions drew dramatically less approval. Only 20 percent said 
that the opposition picketing the Presidential Administration 
was justified, while 17 percent said creating "corridors of 
shame" was justified.  Only 15 percent said that the 
opposition putting up cells and blocking streets was 
justified. The most radical actions, such as the planned 
picketing of cross-country highways and attempting to break 
into the Ministry of Internal Affairs building, were only 
viewed as justified by 8 percent and 7 percent respectively. 
Rather than rally the public, the numbers seem to indicate 
that plans by some non-parliamentary leaders to engage in 
more radical action would likely only serve to drive away 
support.  As with other focus groups and polling data, the 
public generally does not approve of the protests but accepts 
them.  Dialogue is the preferred outcome and pursuing more 
radical aims and tactics are deeply unpopular. 
Qradical aims and tactics are deeply unpopular. 
 
Resolution of the Protests - Just Go Home 
 
3.  (C)  Interestingly, 46 percent of those polled expected 
the protests to end peacefully with protesters returning home 
without a negotiated settlement, while 70 percent named this 
scenario as their desired outcome.  Only 12 percent expected 
the protests to end with a negotiated settlement, and 13 
percent named this as their desired outcome.  Only 9 percent 
of those polled expected the government to assert itself and 
eventually disperse the protesters, while just 5 percent 
actually named government intervention as their preferred 
outcome.  Least popular among the options was the 
non-parliamentary opposition's current strategy.  Only 6 
percent expected the protests to continue and force the 
government into to major concessions, while only 3 percent 
actually wanted that to happen.  (Embassy Comment:  The 
pollsters did not define "major concessions" allowing 
respondents to draw their own conclusions.  Even assuming 
major concessions means Saakashvili's resignation, only 3 
percent actually support the non-parliamentary opposition's 
single shared goal.  End Comment.)  The data clearly showed 
that the public neither supports nor believes that the 
non-parliamentary opposition will be able to force the 
government into major concessions, overwhelmingly preferring 
that the protests simply end. 
 
TBILISI 00001058  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
4.  (C)  Equally noteworthy is the attitud
e towards snap 
parliamentary elections.  Of those polled, 51 percent wanted 
the elections to occur in 2012, as scheduled. Only 17 percent 
said they wanted elections to occur now and 10 percent said 
they want elections in the fall of 2009.  Five percent said 
they wanted elections sometime between the fall of 2009 and 
January 2012. The data show that a majority of the public 
does not support the non-parliamentary opposition's potential 
fall-back position of immediate snap parliamentary elections. 
 Despite the fact that the majority of those polled wanted 
the protests to end on their own, the polls showed that the 
public places the majority of the burden of ending the 
protests on the government (46 percent).  The polls said 21 
percent of the responsibility in ending the protests belongs 
to the church, and that 25 percent belonged to the 
protesters.  (Embassy Comment:  This was another strangely 
worded question but highlights that although the public 
clearly does not support the non-parliamentary opposition's 
agenda; citizens still place a significant responsibility on 
the government to handle the protests effectively and appear 
to want the government to work towards a constructive and 
peaceful resolution.  End Comment.) 
 
Who Is Handling the Protests Well? 
 
5.  (C)  Not surprisingly, Patriarch Ilia II tops the list as 
those performing well during the protests (75 percent rate 
his performance very well, 12 percent well, 4 percent 
neutral, 0 percent badly, 0 percent very badly).  Following 
in decreasing order are Ombudsman Sozar Subari (19 very well, 
28 well, 25 neutral, 7 badly, 3 very badly); Georgian Army 
(19,26,22,7,4); Georgian police (15,22,25,12,7); President 
Saakashvili (13,20,30,17,10); Giorgi Targamadze (CDM) 
(10,26,31,11,6); Irakli Alasania (Alliance) (9,24,38,11,3); 
Gigi Ugalava (8,19,31,15,8); Levan Gachechiladze 
(5,11,24,31,15); Giorgi Gachechiladze ("Utsnobi") 
(5,9,21,29,21); David Usupashvili (Alliance - Republicans) 
(4,13,34,17,9); Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way) 
(3,9,27,25,19) and Nino Burjanadze (Democratic Movement - 
United Georgia) (2,7,24,37,16).  The data indicate that the 
public is generally satisfied with how the GoG has handled 
the protests but not overwhelmingly so.  On the other hand, 
non-parliamentary leaders with the exception of Irakli 
Alasania were viewed negatively as a result of the ongoing 
protests. 
 
Non-Parliamentary Leaders, Ratings Plummet - Alasania Strong 
 
5.  (C)  There is a significant correlation between type of 
participation in the protests and leaders, ratings. The 
polls showed that those who have abstained from the protests 
benefit, and conversely, with increased degrees of 
involvement in the protests, ratings fall dramatically. 
Labor Party Leader, Shalva Natelashvili who has largely 
remained away from the protests, saw his rating increase 
dramatically to 41 liking him (versus 24 in the latest 
pre-protest poll) and a drop in negatives from 47 to 39 
percent.  Participants in the protests have seen their 
negative numbers increase significantly.  Comparing protest 
versus pre-protest polls reveals an obvious negative trend. 
In descending order, David Gamkrelidze (38 like, 41 dislike 
(protest - May 2009) - 39 like, 31 dislike (pre-protest - 
December 2008)); Davit Usupashvili (32 like, 44 dislike (May 
2009) - 31 like, 30 dislike (December 2008)); and Levan 
Gachechiladze (26 like, 55 dislike (May 2009) - 27 like, 41 
dislike (December 2008)).  More radical ctors have seen 
their ratings fall even further.  Salome Zourabichvili (16 
Qtheir ratings fall even further.  Salome Zourabichvili (16 
like, 64 dislike (May 2009) - 22 like, 44 dislike  (December 
2008)), and Nino Burjanadze (13 like, 70 dislike (May 2009) - 
30 like, 42 dislike (December 2008)) have seen their ratings 
plummet indicating that the more radical the leader, the 
worse the rating. 
 
6.  (C)  Irakli Alasania's numbers are still strong (55 
percent like, 25 dislike (May 2009) - 51 like, 15 dislike 
(December 2008)).  Nonetheless, Alasania's negatives rose 10 
percentage points while his positives only 4 points which 
indicates that on balance, Alasania has not benefited from 
being involved in the protests but likewise has not damaged 
his ratings.  Alasania, who is widely viewed to be the most 
moderate of the non-parliamentary opposition, is likely 
benefiting from being perceived as pursuing a more moderate 
course.  The data indicate that if Alasania does indeed 
pursue dialogue, he stands to gain stature; if he pursues 
more radical aims, he is similarly likely to see his rating 
drop. 
 
GOG Numbers Holding Relatively Firm - Targamadze's Numbers 
Strong 
 
6.  (C)  Throughout the protests, the Georgian government's 
 
TBILISI 00001058  003 OF 003 
 
 
popularity numbers have been holding steady.  Saakashvili (46 
like, 35 dislike (May 2009) - 49 like, 24 dislike (December 
2008)), Bakradze (43 like, 36 dislike (May 2009) - 46 like, 
23 dislike (December 2008)), and Ugulava (41 like, 42 dislike 
(May 2009) - 39 like, 30 dislike (December 2008) have seen 
their negatives rise indicating that the protests have not 
benefited the GoG either.  However, when looking at the rise 
in negatives with how each individual has been assessed as 
handling the protests, the higher negatives are likely to do 
with being office holders during an economic downturn rather 
than as a direct result of the protests.  The UNM is still 
the party that those polled felt most positive about, with 16 
percent feeling very positively, and 21 percent feeling 
somewhat positively.  National Forum (12 very positive, 14 
positive), Labor (10 very positive, 17 positive), Alliance 
for Georgia (9 very positive, 21 positive), and Christian 
Democrats (7 very positive, 23 positive) round out the other 
parties with significant public support.  Christian 
Democratic leader Giorgi Targamadze is still strong, 
indicating that the protests have marginally affected his 
numbers (55 like, 27 dislike (May 2009) - 52 like, 21 dislike 
(December 2008)). 
 
If Parliamentary Elections Were Held Tomorrow...: 
 
6.  (C)  Those polled where asked who they would vote for if 
parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, and the party 
with the greatest percentage of votes by a significant margin 
was UNM, at 30%. The Christian Democrats received 9%, 
Alliance for Georgia 9%, the Labor Party 7%, and National 
Forum 6%. Again, the numbers are roughly consistent with the 
others that show significant support Saakashvili and the 
government, as well as those parties perceived to be less 
involved in the radical aspects of the protests. 
TEFFT

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