The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) recently published the results of their Caucasus Barometer survey in Armenia, carried out between February 21 and March 15, 2020, notably before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact people’s daily lives and a State of Emergency was introduced on March 16. It includes a wide array of questions ranging from domestic and foreign politics to the environment and women’s life choices. The sample size is 1,491 (complete responses) and the interviews were conducted in Armenian.
The overall mood of the Armenian public seems highly optimistic. According to the 2017 survey by the CRRC, 46% of respondents said the situation in Armenia will never improve, while 47% said that “eventually, everything will be fine” in Armenia. In 2020, only 15% are pessimistic and say the situation in Armenia will never improve, while an overwhelming majority, 80%, say everything will be fine in Armenia, eventually.
Two years after the revolution, the Pashinyan government continues to enjoy high popularity. His government’s approval stands at 71% (with 11% disapproval). For comparison, in 2017, the government of Karen Karapetyan was trusted by 20% and distrusted by 59% and President Serzh Sargsyan’s approval rating stood at 17%, with 65% distrusting him.
Trust toward Parliament has also improved significantly, but less so than the executive branch. In 2017, Parliament was trusted by only 12% of respondents and distrusted by 66%. Its trust has increased to 39% and distrust decreased to 30%.
Trust in the latest national election has increased greatly. The 2017 parliamentary election was rated as “completely fair” by 10% and “not at all fair” by 41%, while the December 2018 election is described as completely fair by 63% and not at all fair by only 3% of respondents.
Pashinyan’s party remains the most popular; 35% of respondents say the Civil Contract Party is the party closest to them, followed by Gagik Tsarukyan’s Prosperous Armenia Party, at 10%, Bright Armenia Party at 4%, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Republican Party of Armenia and Sasna Tsrer at 1% each. A plurality of 42% said there is no party they feel closest to.
A large majority of 78% approve of “persecution/prosecution of the representatives and leaders of the former government,” while 13% do not. This approval is most prominent among self-identified supporters of Sasna Tsrer (100%), Civil Contract (85%), Bright Armenia (73%), Prosperous Armenia (69%) and least supported by the supporters of the ARF (51%) and Republican Party (17%).
Revolution and Democracy
A large majority of respondents (84%) said they had positive expectations from the Velvet Revolution of April 2018. Only 12% said they did not have any expectations. Some 40% of Republican Party supporters said that they had negative expectations from the revolution.
Overall, 59% said some of their expectations have been met in regards to the revolution, 20% “a bit”, 14% “completely” and 6% “not at all”.
The public’s belief in democracy has increased from 48% believing that democracy is “preferable to any other kind of government” in 2017 to 63% believing so in 2020. Far more people now believe Armenia is now democratic. In 2017, 3% said Armenia is a “full democracy”, while 33% said Armenia is “not a democracy”. In 2020, the numbers have somewhat reversed. Now, 18% believe Armenia is a democracy, while only 6% say Armenia is “not a democracy”. Most people say Armenia is a democracy with either “major” (37%) or “minor” problems (30%).
Main Issues Facing Armenia
42% of respondents indicated either unemployment (29%) or poverty (13%) as the main issue facing Armenia. Other common answers included unsolved territorial conflicts (11%), lack of peace in the country (8%), unaffordability of healthcare (5%), low wages (4%) and low pensions (3%).
While unemployment was indicated as the main problem by 20% of respondents in Yerevan, it stood at 35% in regional cities and 32% in rural areas. There are also partisan differences: 41% of Bright Armenia supporters indicated unemployment as the main problem, while supporters of the ARF (31%) and the Republican Party (25%) indicated “lack of peace in the country” as Armenia’s main issue.
Trust in the healthcare system has increased slightly from 42% to 49%. The education system has the same amount of trust: 50% vs 51%. The media is perceived as trustworthy by 29%, a slight increase from 22% in 2017.
Trust in the court system remains low. Only 22% said they trust the courts, while 48% said they do not. In another question, 61% of respondents said the court system in Armenia favors some citizens over others and only 21% said it treats all equally.
Most people (66%) support vetting judges, while only 6% disapprove of the idea. It is supported across party lines with the only exception being supporters of the Republican Party, among whom 60% oppose it and 31% approve of it.
As for resolving the crisis in the Constitutional Court, some 66% supported the constitutional referendum, while 13% opposed it. 40% approved of early retirement for the Constitutional Court members, while 25% did not.
Armenia’s Friends and Enemies
A majority of respondents see Russia as Armenia’s main friend. However, the percentage has dropped significantly since 2013. In 2020, 57% of respondents said Russia is Armenia’s main friend, while in 2013 it stood at 83%, and in 2017 at 63%. The percentage of those who say Armenia has no friends has increased from 4% in 2013 to 17% in 2020. Those viewing France as Armenia’s main friend have more than doubled, from 5% to 12%.
Main friend of the country
Respondents’ views of Russia as the country’s main friend differs based on their party affiliation and place of residence. In Yerevan, 47% see Russia as the main friend and 24% say Armenia has no friends; in rural areas, Russia’s perception as the main friend is significantly higher, at 66%, while only 11% say Armenia has no friends. Among major parties, self-identified supporters of Pashinyan’s Civil Contract are least likely to say Russia is Armenia’s main friend (55%), while larger majorities of Prosperous Armenia (71%) and ARF (89%) supporters say the same.
Azerbaijan and Turkey continue to be perceived as Armenian’s main enemies. 75% says Azerbaijan is Armenia’s main enemy, while 22% chose Turkey. The percentages have drifted apart a bit since 2013, when 66% of respondents said Azerbaijan is Armenia’s main enemy and 28% indicated Turkey.
47% of respondents support Armenia’s membership in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), while 9% do not. 43% of respondents say Armenia’s membership in the EAEU has been positive, while 7% say it has had a negative impact. Armenia’s membership in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance is perceived positively by 29% of respondents and negatively by 6%.
Perceptions of the European Union (EU) are improving. Trust in the EU has increased to 37% from 29% in 2017 and 28% in 2013, while distrust has decreased from 28-29% in 2013-17 to 19%. Support for Armenia’s possible future membership in the EU has also increased from 30% in 2017 to 40%. 42% of respondents say cooperation with the EU has been positive for Armenia, while 6% say it has been negative for the country.
Reasons indicated why respondents would not support Armenia’s membership in the EU include the following: it would harm Armenia’s culture and traditions (29%), it would hinder Armenia’s relations with Russia (18%), the economic conditions in Armenia would worsen (11%), it would restrict Armenia’s independence (8%). Reasons for support include: economic conditions in Armenia would improve (33%), ability to travel to the European Union countries without a visa (15%), it would strengthen Armenia’s relations with the Western countries (11%), Armenia would be better protected from foreign threats (10%).
Armenia’s cooperation with NATO is perceived positively by 28% and negatively by 10% of respondents. 25% of respondents say they would support Armenia’s membership to NATO, while 18% say they would not.
Respondents are divided on the likelihood of finding a solution to the Karabakh conflict within the next five years; 43% say it is likely to find a solution through peaceful negotiations, while 44% say it’s unlikely; 47% say it unlikely to find a solution through force, while 37% say it is likely.
A large majority of respondents favor Artsakh becoming a formal part of Armenia. 70% say they “definitely favor” it, 16% say they would accept it under certain circumstances, while 9% say they would never accept it. 52% say they would “definitely favor” Artsakh becoming independent, while 23% said they would never accept it. 21% said they would accept such a scenario under certain circumstances. Sasna Tsrer supporters are most likely to favor unification with Armenia (90%) and oppose Artsakh’s independence (68%).
Over 90% of respondents rejected allowing Artsakh to be governed jointly by Azerbaijan and Armenia as a special administrative region, making it an autonomous region of Azerbaijan or just a regular part of Azerbaijan without autonomy.
The most urgent environmental issue facing Armenia is certainly the proposed gold mine at Amulsar, which was approved under the previous government and has become a major headache for the Pashinyan administration. It has come under significant pressure from local activists and foreign governments. According to the survey, the proposed mine at Amulsar is widely disapproved by the Armenian public: 53% of respondents disapprove of it, while only 19% support it and 28% do not know/are not sure.
In another question directly linked to the Amulsar case, 79% say preservation of nature should be of higher importance than economic interests, while 19% say investments are necessary for economic growth, regardless how much it will damage the environment.
Regarding other issues, 74% of respondents believe global warming has an impact on Armenia, while 17% do not think so. Survey participants were also asked to name the three main environmental issues in Armenia. The most-mentioned problems were: air pollution, 55%; poor trash and waste management (misuse of landfills), 40%; pollution and misuse of Lake Sevan and other water resources, 39%; misuse of plastic, 24%; heavy traffic, 15%; genetically modified food, 12%; climate change, 12%. While three out of four respondents believe global warming has an impact on Armenia, only one in ten mentioned it as one of the main environmental issues facing Armenia.
Specific Issues, Policies and Proposals
A large majority of respondents, 72%, approve of the reduction in the income tax rate, while only 8% disapprove.
50% of respondents approve of the proposal for mandatory health insurance (with a 6% surtax on salaries), while 25% disapprove of the idea.
Regarding the Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), 22% would approve its adoption, while 38% would disapprove. Interestingly, only 2% of respondents claim to have read the convention completely, while 9% said they’ve read it partially, while 89% have not read it. Approval of the convention is slightly higher-than-average among younger people (26%), Yerevan residents (25%), and women (25%).
Most respondents disapprove of two proposed education reforms: making the teaching of university courses on Armenian language and history optional (68% disapprove vs 20% approve) and removal of the history of the Armenian church course from the curriculum of public schools (66% disapprove vs 17% approve).
Women vs Traditionalism
The survey included several questions about women’s lifestyle and behavior. The answers largely reflect the traditionalism and conservatism of Armenian society. Most believe it is unacceptable for women to smoke tobacco (91%), have sex before marriage (82%), cohabit with a man without marriage (75%), drink strong alcohol (69%) and live separately from her parents before marriage (66%).
34% of respondents said they would prefer to have a boy child, while 9% said a girl. 55% said the gender of their child does not matter.
Collapse of the Soviet Union
Respondents are divided on whether the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good (45%) or bad (40%) thing for Armenia. Only 28% of young people (18-35), said it was a bad thing, while 55% of those older than 56 believed it was bad for Armenia. Among party affiliates, supporters of the ARF (62%) and the Republican Party (59%) were most likely to view the collapse of the USSR negatively. Among those who see the dissolution of the Soviet Union positively, 84% say it is because Armenia became independent as a result. Among those who regard it as a negative event, 80% say it resulted in worse economic conditions, 24% said it resulted in more unemployment and 16% mentioned the Karabakh war as a reason why they view the Soviet collapse negatively.
Homophobia remains widespread in Armenia. 92% of respondents say they disapprove of doing business with a homosexual, while only 6% approve of it. When asked who they would not wish to have as neighbors, the most common answer was homosexuals, at 24%. Drug addicts (22%) and criminals (19%) came in second and third, while 29% said they would not wish to have any of the mentioned as neighbors.
Survey participants were asked two questions about their attitude towards a number of nationalities. The first question asked if they approve or disapprove of doing business with several nationalities and the second asked whether they approve of women marrying men of those nationalities.
Most respondents approve of doing business with Russians (85%), Americans (77%), Georgians (73%), Iranians (62%), Indians (61%), Kurds and Yazidis (60%), Jews (59%), and Arabs (57%), and disapprove of doing business with Turks (26%) and Azerbaijanis (14%). Most people also disapprove of doing business with Jehovah’s Witnesses (only 17% approve).
On the other hand, most respondents disapprove of women marrying foreigners, including Azerbaijanis (96% disapprove), Turks (94%), Arabs (86%), Iranians (85%), Kurds and Yazidis (84%), Indians (81%), Jews (76%), Georgians (65%), Americans (59%), and Russians (54%). Most people also disapprove of women marrying Jehovah’s Witnesses (87%).