National Survey Reveals Trepidation in Ukraine Towards Current Political Affairs
IFES poll finds concerns on rights situation as well as economic conditions in Ukraine
KYIV — Public opinion regarding Ukraine’s political situation is tepid at best, finds a survey by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
This 18th survey conducted in Ukraine by the world’s premiere election-assistance and democracy promotion NGO reveals that six months after President Yankovych’s election, 44 percent of Ukrainians feel the country is on the path toward instability while 21 percent say that it is on the path toward stability, and 18 percent say neither. While this represents a net negative sentiment on the future direction of the country, it represents an improvement since the 2009 IFES survey when 74 percent said the country was on the path toward instability and only 7 percent said stability.
The survey finds that a majority of Ukrainians have concerns about some reversals in respect for rights and freedoms under Yanukovych. Thirty-six percent say that they are concerned about these reversals of right and think Ukrainians should monitor them closely, while 16 percent are alarmed by these reversals and think Ukrainians should be ready to take actions to protest the removal of rights and freedoms.
More Ukrainians than not also believe that there has been a decline in respect for freedom of the press and in respect for citizens’ rights by the authorities in Ukraine. Given the concerns expressed on the media environment in Ukraine by international media rights organizations since Yanukovych took office, it is notable that 63 percent of Ukrainians believe that placing limits on media freedom cannot be justified as a means to ensure order in the country. Sixty-three percent also hold the same opinion regarding limiting of citizens’ rights.
This year’s survey also shows continuing concerns about economic issues. Seventy-five percent cite inflation as a serious problem facing the country, followed by unemployment (56 percent), poverty (51 percent), corruption (37 percent), and general economic problems (36 percent).
The Yanukovych administration receives low marks for its efforts in the economic sphere. Ninety-one percent strongly or somewhat disapprove of the government’s decision to increase gas tariffs by 50 percent, and on a related question, 94 percent say they are dissatisfied with the Yanukovych administration’s policies to keep prices low. Ninety percent of Ukrainians also express dissatisfaction with the Yanukovych administration’s actions to create jobs.
Addressing corruption is another area in which the administration receives low marks. Seventy-seven percent are dissatisfied with the administration’s efforts to address official corruption, and 63 percent are dissatisfied with efforts to limit the influence of oligarchs.
The one area in which the administration does receive relatively high marks is in foreign policy. Sixty-six percent are satisfied with the Yanukovych administration’s handling of relations with Russia. When asked for their level of confidence in Yanukovych, 43 percent say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in him while 50 percent say they have little or no confidence in him. Confidence in Yanukovych has risen from 36 percent in the 2009 IFES survey but is significantly lower than confidence or approval reported in other public surveys in Ukraine at the 100-day mark of his administration.
Other politicians also suffer from low confidence ratings: Viktor Yuschenko (8 percent ); Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk (20 percent ); Yulia Tymoshenko (24 percent ); and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (37 percent ). Only 29 percent have confidence in the Verkhovna Rada. Forty-one percent cite confidence in Vice Premier Sergei Tygypko.
As far as political participation is concerned, 56 percent say that they are very likely to vote in the upcoming October 31 local elections, and 26 percent say they are somewhat likely to vote. This is despite the fact that only 25 percent think that Ukraine is a democracy and 41 percent do not think it is a democracy.
“IFES’ surveys have provided a very crisp snapshot of political attitudes in Ukraine since they were first conducted in 1994. The fact that we have so many years of data now allows us to form good trend lines of public opinion through Ukraine’s transition from a post-Soviet state,” says Bill Sweeney, IFES president and CEO.
The IFES 2010 survey was fielded between September 8 and 20, 2010 with a total of 1,519 respondents throughout Ukraine. The margin of error for the national sample is plus/minus 2.6%.
IFES promotes democratic stability by providing technical assistance and applying field-based research to the electoral cycle worldwide to enhance citizen participation and strengthen civil societies, governance and transparency.