Ukrainians Pessimistic about Country’s Future; Confidence in Political Leaders Falling

September 13, 2011 - IFES

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IFES' 2011 Public Opinion Survey in Ukraine found citizens more pessimistic about their country's future than one year ago. Andriy Mykhailov

WASHINGTON/KYIV — Ukrainians have a more pessimistic view of their country’s future now than a year ago, with more than half saying they believe Ukraine is on a path toward instability, according to a survey conducted by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

The findings represent a sharp departure from 2010, when views of Ukraine’s future appeared to trend in a positive direction. Last year, following the election of President Viktor Yanukovych in February, 21 percent of Ukrainians surveyed said they thought the country was headed for stability, up significantly from 7 percent in 2009. In 2011 that number fell again to 12 percent.

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The results come from IFES’ 19th public opinion survey in Ukraine, which asked respondents throughout the country their thoughts on politics, economic issues and current events. IFES has conducted regular public opinion surveys in Ukraine since 1994.

As in 2010, economic concerns continue to define Ukrainians’ opinions on the most important issues facing the nation, with inflation, poverty and unemployment topping the list. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with Ukraine’s economic situation.

The survey also found that confidence in Yanukovych has fallen since 2010, with 29 percent of respondents expressing confidence in the president. Fifty-eight percent said they were concerned or alarmed about the administration’s respect for rights and freedoms.

Ukrainians also expressed greater dissatisfaction with Yanukovych’s handling of key policy areas as compared to 2010. Nine in 10 are dissatisfied with the president’s handling of job creation and keeping prices low, and half are dissatisfied with his ability to create political stability. Forty-four percent said they are satisfied with Yanukovych’s handling of relations with Russia, down from 66 percent in 2010.

Local government leaders and city mayors were more trusted than any other political figures included in the survey. Half of respondents said they had confidence in local leaders, who were elected for the first time in nationwide local elections in October 2010.

The survey also gauged Ukrainians’ thoughts on a new draft election law that would change the way parliamentarians are elected. Under Ukraine’s current electoral system, all seats are filled through proportional representation. A vast majority of respondents (88 percent) said they had heard little or nothing about the new draft law, which would allow them to vote directly for individual candidates for half the parliamentary seats. When offered a choice of various elections systems, 51 percent prefer a system of direct voting for deputies, 24 percent prefer a mixed system, and 6 percent prefer the current party-list system.

Other key findings from the 2011 survey include:

  • More than nine in 10 Ukrainians believe corruption is common in Ukraine, and most have had experience with corruption within the past year. Seventy-three percent said they believe corruption is considered “a fact of life” in Ukraine.
  • The media are among the most trusted institutions in Ukraine, with 54 percent of respondents saying they have confidence in the media. Confidence in other institutions has fallen since 2010, including the military (37 percent), the Central Election Commission (23 percent), Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada (18 percent), and the Ministry of Justice (17 percent).
  • Close to half of Ukrainians (46 percent) said economic development should be prioritized even at the expense of some democratic rights. Thirty-one percent said democratic rights should be prioritized.
  • As in the 2010 survey, a majority of Ukrainians do not consider democracy as definitely preferable to any other form of government. Thirty-four percent said democracy was preferable, while 33 percent said the type of government does not matter and 18 percent said a non-democratic government could be preferable. Just 21 percent said they viewed Ukraine as a democracy.
  • When asked their thoughts on the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office, 42 percent of respondents said they thought the charges against her were politically motivated. Thirty-two percent said they believed the charges were legitimate, and 16 percent said the charges were both politically motivated and legitimate.

The 2011 survey was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and includes responses from 1,515 voting-age Ukrainians polled in July 2011.

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