09TBILISI1291, GEORGIA: IRI POLL SHOWS SAAKASHVILI MORE POPULAR,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1291 2009-07-10 14:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4355
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1291/01 1911404
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101404Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1895
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001291 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: IRI POLL SHOWS SAAKASHVILI MORE POPULAR, 
PROTESTS INEFFECTIVE 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 0522 
     B. TBILISI 1058 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
1. (C) Summary/Comment:  An International Republican 
Institute (IRI) poll was carried out from June 16th to June 
25th, 2009 and polled 1500 Georgians aged 18 years and older 
in face-to-face interviews.  The International Republican 
Institute found few surprises in its June polling data.  The 
statistics track with other polling done during the last six 
months, including the NDI/Caucasian Research Resource Center 
poll (ref B).  President Saakashvili and the UNM's numbers 
remain strong, with Saakashvili still polling well on 
economic concerns - the main focus on the minds of the 
Georgian public.  Territorial integrity remains important. 
The numbers show that Georgians are not supportive of the 
protest rallies or the non-parliamentary opposition's recent 
actions.  Apart from Irakli Alasania, the non-parliamentary 
opposition who participated in protests have seen their 
favorability rankings and popularity plummet.  As in other 
polls, Alasania's strong numbers seem to be due to a public 
perception that he represents a moderate alternative to the 
UNM.  The data clearly show that the decision to protest 
continually, using tactics like blocking roads and corridors 
of shame was and is likely to continue to be deeply 
unpopular.  End Summary/Comment. 
 
President,s Popularity Up From February, Opposition (Mostly) 
Down 
 
2.  (C)  President Saakashvili's favorability rating (59 
favorable, 36 unfavorable) has increased from IRI's February 
2009 poll (54 favorable, 38 unfavorable).  Ombudsman Sozar 
Subari continues to have a strong approval rating (68 
favorable, 18 unfavorable), as does Refugee Minister Koba 
Subeliani (61 favorable, 24 unfavorable).  The majority of 
Georgians (52 percent) said the President should not resign, 
compared to 31 percent who said he should.  If presidential 
elections were held tomorrow, 33 percent of Georgians said 
they would vote for Saakashvili (compared to 34 in February) 
who is followed by Irakli Alasania (10), Shalva Natelashvili 
(10), and Giorgi Targamadze (6).  When the President is 
evaluated on his performance during the financial crisis, 47 
percent ranked his performance as very or somewhat positive 
against 42 percent who ranked it as negative or somewhat 
negative (from 42 positive/somewhat positive, 46 
negative/somewhat negative in February).  Saakashvili 
continues to out-poll his possible presidential rivals when 
voters are asked who is best to fix unemployment (39 
percent), and 38 percent said he is best to lead Georgia 
during the World Financial Crisis (34 in February).  The 
numbers do not indicate widespread public dissatisfaction 
with the president's handling of the economy.  Similarly, 35 
percent agree he is best able to fix the issue of territorial 
integrity.  When respondents were asked how they rank 
political parties, UNM ranks at 28 percent support as a first 
choice and 3 percent as a second, a slight drop from February 
(31, 4).  Other results in descending order respectively 
showing first choice, second choice numbers:  Labor 
(Natelashvili) 9,6 - CDM (Targamadze) 9,8 - Party of Alasania 
7,8 - National Forum 5,3 - New Rights/Republicans 4,5 - For 
United Georgia (Okruashvili) 2,4, Democratic Movement/United 
Georgia (Burjanadze) 2,2. 
 
3.  (C)  Popularity ratings for opposition leaders dropped, 
with the noticable exception of Alasania and Natelashvili. 
Alasania is the most popular (55 favorable, 30 unfavorable 
(June 2009) - 45, 30 (February 2009)); followed by Giorgi 
Q(June 2009) - 45, 30 (February 2009)); followed by Giorgi 
Targamadze (55, 33 - 64, 22); Irakli Okruashvili (44, 43 - 
50, 34); David Gamkrelidze (44, 43 - 48, 38); Shalva 
Natelashvili (43, 46 - 37, 50); Kakha Shartava (42, 33 - not 
polled); Gubaz Sanikidze (42, 35 - not polled); David 
Usupashvili (41, 40 - 46, 35); Levan Gachechiladze 38, 50 - 
39, 45); Salome Zurabichvili (26, 61 - 32, 52); Nino 
Burjanadze (21, 71 - 36, 55).  In the hypothetical 
presidential election respondents were less likely to vote 
for non-parliamentary leaders with the exception of Alasania, 
who maintains relative popularity (10 percent said they would 
vote for him tomorrow, compared to 8 percent in February). 
Shalva Natelashvili's popularity has increased, and 10 
percent said they would vote for him, up 4 points from 
February (Embassy Comment.  Natelashvili's recent bump may 
well indicate that Natelashvili's alternative message of an 
expansive government role in the economy has resonated with 
people in difficult economic times.  End note.) 
 
Economy and Territorial Integrity Continue to Predominate - 
Internal Crisis More Pressing than Fear of War 
 
4.  (C)  Currently only 26 percent of Georgians think the 
country is moving in the right direction versus 63 percent 
 
TBILISI 00001291  002 OF 003 
 
 
who think things are moving in the wrong direction (27 right, 
59 wrong in February 2009 poll).  Economic discontent 
continues to be the governmen
t's biggest test, with 71 
percent of Georgians saying the economy has worsened in the 
last two months.  Georgians continue to feel (57 percent) 
that their personal financial situation has worsened in this 
time frame, with 38 percent saying it has stayed the same. 
The numbers are slightly more positive than Februarys poll 
(62 percent worsened, 33 percent same).  Respondents indicate 
that unemployment is still the most important issue Georgia 
is facing (26 percent first mention, 48 percent all 
mentions), though this is a slight decrease from the February 
2009 Poll (27, 52).  Territorial integrity ranks next (19 
first, 37 all) followed by the economic situation (12 first, 
29 all), which has dropped since February (17, 37).  While 
February,s poll indicated that the threat of war was the 
fourth most important issue (9 first, 15 all), this number 
has dropped significantly to (2 first mention, 5 all 
mentions) in the latest poll. Instead, the Political 
crisis/internal political situation has become the fourth 
most important issue (11 first, 23 all).  In spite of the 
negative economic numbers, 47 percent of Georgians rate 
Saakashvili's performance during the financial crisis as very 
or somewhat positive versus 42 percent who rate his 
performance as somewhat or very negative up from 42 positive 
versus 48 negative in the February 2009 poll. 
 
Protests Have Accomplished Nothing - Simply About Power 
 
5.  (C)  Respondents showed a significant backlash against 
the protests and the non-parliamentary opposition's tactics. 
Only "collecting signatures for a petition" was deemed more 
acceptable than not (49 percent acceptable, 42 unacceptable 
versus 74 percent acceptable, 18 not acceptable in February 
2009).  All other forms of protests have become more 
unpopular.  In descending order:  legal demonstrations (46 
acceptable, 47 unacceptable versus 65 acceptable, 28 
unacceptable in February 2009); legal strike (41, 51 versus 
54, 37); boycott (28, 65 versus 48, 46); corridor of shame 
(17, 74 versus 27, 67), demonstrations without permission 
(14, 79 versus 21, 72); blocking of roads (7, 86 versus 10, 
85); occupation of buildings (5, 88 versus 10, 85); blocking 
of railway lines (5, 88 versus 8, 87); and blocking of 
airports (7, 88 versus 4, 88).  The polling data reflect the 
overwhelming majority opinion (92 percent) who believe that 
politicians should do everything possible to avoid internal 
political confrontation versus a small fraction (5 percent) 
who accept internal political confrontation. 
 
6.  (C)  The vast majority of respondents (75percent) said 
that the protests have accomplished "nothing" with only a 
small fraction (16 percent) believing that some of the 
non-parliamentary opposition's goals were accomplished.  A 
majority (53 percent) said that the protests were about a 
desire to gain power versus only about a quarter of Georgians 
who thought the protests were about democratic values (24 
percent - 22 percent did not know or did not answer).  Polls 
report that 37 percent feel their opinion of the 
non-parliamentary opposition has worsened as a result of the 
protests (44 percent stayed the same - 9 percent improved). 
The parliamentary opposition has also seen its numbers suffer 
as a result of the protest with 25 percent saying their 
opinion of the parliamentary opposition worsened as a result 
of the protests (52 percent stayed the same - 9 percent 
improved).  The government also did not gain from the 
Qimproved).  The government also did not gain from the 
protests with 26 percent saying their opinion of government 
has worsened (53 percent stayed the same, 14 percent 
improved).  Despite the widespread displeasure with the 
opposition and its tactics, 91 percent of Georgians think it 
is important to have a political opposition up from 85 
percent in February.  (Embassy Note:  The 91 percent mark 
represents a high for the history of the poll.  Generally the 
numbers going back to 2006 were in the low to mid 80s.  End 
Note.) 
 
USA and EU popularity up, NATO down slightly 
 
7.  (C)  Positive feelings about the U.S. remain strong, 92 
percent of those polled said relations with the U.S. were 
good (89 percent in February) while 53 percent said the U.S. 
was the most important partner for Georgia, up from 48 
percent in February.  On the other hand, 68 percent supported 
Georgia joining NATO (down from 72 percent in February). 
When given a choice of priorities, 28 percent support joining 
NATO over the EU (32 in February), 33 percent support joining 
the EU over NATO (32 in February), while 20 percent support 
joining both (19 in February).  Only 16 percent of Georgians 
said Georgia will never be a member of NATO which is up 
significantly from the 5 percent who believed the same in 
February 2009.  When asked what hinders Georgia's ability to 
join NATO, 39 percent cited the main reason was Russia, while 
34 percent chalked it up to the existence of internal 
 
TBILISI 00001291  003 OF 003 
 
 
conflicts. 
TEFFT

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