Transition and Trepidation: Public Opinion in Ukraine

Publication Date: 
13 Oct 2010

This report details the findings from the latest IFES survey in Ukraine. This is the 18th public opinion poll conducted in Ukraine by IFES, and some of the findings from earlier surveys will be referenced in this briefing paper. The fieldwork for this most recent survey was conducted from September 8 to 20, 2010, with 1,519 respondents throughout Ukraine. This sample comprised a national sample of 1,269 respondents, and an over-sample of 125 respondents in Kyiv and 125 respondents in Crimea. The data has been weighted by region, age, and gender to be nationally representative for the adult (18+) population of Ukraine. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus/minus 2.6 percent. The fieldwork and data processing for the survey were conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), based in Kyiv. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the survey.

General Perceptions of the Political Situation and Economy

Ukrainians are slightly less pessimistic this year about the direction of the country, yet 44 percent of Ukrainians still believe Ukraine is on a path toward instability and chaos while only 21 percent believe Ukraine is on the path toward stability and prosperity. The percentage citing instability is down from 74 percent in 2009 and 76percent in 2008, while the percentage citing stability increased from 7 percent in 2009.

As Ukraine nears its 20 Year Anniversary of Independence, 41 percent of Ukrainians feel the country is worse off than at the time of independence, compared to 21 percent who believe it is better off, 14 percent who view the country as being in the same condition, and one quarter who say they do not know (24 percent). Among the reasons given for the country being worse off are the economic decline since independence, corruption, unemployment, ineffective leadership, and unstable relations with Russia.

A majority of Ukrainians remain dissatisfied with the economic situation this year (83 percent), though slightly less so than 2009 (96 percent). Sixty percent are dissatisfied with the political situation, but this has decreased from the 92 percent who were dissatisfied in 2009. Foreign policy is one area where more Ukrainians say they are satisfied (41 percent) than dissatisfied (37 percent). Twenty-two percent say they don’t know. Dissatisfaction with foreign policy has declined significantly since 2009 when 71 percent were dissatisfied with the foreign policy situation.

Inflation is now an even bigger concern for Ukrainians as it is mentioned by 75 percent, in contrast to 58 percent in 2009, as one of the most serious issues facing Ukraine. Other economic issues are also cited as major concerns: unemployment is mentioned by 56 percent, poverty by 51 percent, corruption by 37 percent, and general economic problems by 36 percent. This year, political issues are less of a concern, with political bickering only being mentioned by 11 percent, general political instability by 7 percent, and problems with Russia by 3 percent.

As evidenced through opinions on other questions related to the economy, half of Ukrainians (53 percent) view the country’s economic situation as worse than one year ago, 30 percent see it as the same, only 10 percent believe it is better, and 7 percent do not know.

Ninety-one percent of Ukrainians believe that corruption is very or somewhat common in Ukraine. When asked about personal experiences with corruption, the two most common experiences involve being asked for unofficial payments at public hospitals to receive better treatment and requests for payments by traffic officers to avoid penalties. Forty-six percent of respondents say they have been asked for unofficial payments at hospitals more than once and 12 percent once. With traffic officers, 22 percent have been asked more than once for payments to avoid penalties and 4 percent only one time.

Respondents were also asked to assess whether there has been an improvement or decline in various issues over the past year. Consistent with other data, 55 percent of Ukrainians believe there has been a decline in the economic situation of the country. Over half of Ukrainians see no change, however, in other issues, such as the unity of Ukrainian citizens (57 percent), respect for citizens’ rights (54 percent), the fight against corruption (51 percent), and respect for freedom of the press (49 percent). Over one-third of Ukrainians feel there has been an improvement in relations with Western countries (34 percent) and the political stability of the country (29 percent). The largest perceived improvement is in relations with Russia, with 65 percent saying they see an improvement in these relations.

Confidence in most institutions remains under 50 percent for all institutions except the media, in which 54 percent of Ukrainians have confidence. Forty-three percent of Ukrainians have confidence in President Yanukovych (50 percent have little or none), 35 percent have confidence in the Central Election Commission, 29 percent have confidence in the Verhovna Rada, 24 percent have confidence in former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, and only 8 percent have confidence in former President Yushchenko. For Tymoshenko and Yushchenko, confidence has steadily been declining since 2008, while confidence in Yanukovych has increased since 2008. It should be noted that several public surveys in Ukraine at the 100-day mark of the Yanukovych administration showed that a solid majority of Ukrainians had confidence in the President but confidence in him has since decreased significantly according to this survey.

Respondents have mixed assessments of certain policies and decisions that the Yanukovych administration has made since it took office. The vast majority of Ukrainians (91 percent) disapprove of the administration increasing gas tariffs by 50 percent, and 55 percent disapprove of the administration denying broadcasting frequencies to some private TV channels (55 percent). Ukrainians approve of the Yanukovych administration’s granting Russian language official status for legal proceedings (61 percent) and declaring Ukraine’s maintaining of non-bloc status (52 percent), yet they are split on other issues. Forty percent of Ukrainians disapprove of the agreement with Russia to extend the lease of the Russian fleet in Crimea, but 45 percent approve. Forty percent disapprove of the administration’s stopping the movement to recognize Holodomor as genocide, while 20 percent approve, and 40 percent do not give a response.

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