Key Findings: IFES September 2014 Survey in Ukraine

Publication Date: 
26 Sep 2014

Ahead of parliamentary elections on October 26, Ukrainians expressed confidence in the country’s political leadership, as well as that of certain institutions. Ukrainians also have more optimistic views on the direction of the country and the state of Ukrainian democracy compared to IFES surveys in recent years. However, they remain dissatisfied with the government’s handling of a number of key issues, according to a survey conducted by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

The results come from IFES’ 23rd public opinion survey in Ukraine, which polled respondents throughout the country (excluding Crimea) on their thoughts on politics, economic issues and current events. IFES has conducted regular public opinion surveys in Ukraine since 1994. Due to complications with sampling in the conflict stricken regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, this survey combines illustrative data and findings from these two regions with a representative sample from the rest of Ukraine.

Ukrainians (excluding Donetsk and Luhansk, or Donbas) express a great or fair amount of confidence in both President Petro Poroshenko (68%) and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (60%) – the highest levels of all political leaders polled and highest levels of confidence seen in political leaders in many years of IFES surveys. The survey also finds that 36 percent of Ukrainians outside Donbas believe the country is headed in the right direction and 39 percent say it is headed in the wrong direction. This is the highest percentage of Ukrainians saying the country is headed in the right direction since the 2005 IFES surveys in Ukraine. When compared to recent IFES surveys in Ukraine, Ukrainians also have more positive views on democracy as a system of governance and on Ukrainian democracy in particular, with a large majority (64%) indicating that democracy is preferable to any other form of government. Preference for democracy is significantly higher than in the November 2013 IFES survey (37%). Ukrainians are also much more likely to consider Ukraine a democracy than in IFES surveys in recent years. In this year’s survey, 39 percent (the highest since 2005) consider Ukraine to be a democracy and 28 percent not a democracy, while 18 percent consider it to have elements of both a democracy and a non-democracy.

A majority of Ukrainians are satisfied with Poroshenko’s handling of relations between Ukraine and the EU (52%) and media rights and freedoms (51%); however, few expressed satisfaction with his handling of a number of key issues, such as the conflict in the East (15%), corruption (11%), inflation (6%) and job creation (6%). These perceptions are reflected in the widely held belief that the overall situation in the country has gotten worse in the past six months. Outside Donbas, 69 percent believe that that the overall situation is somewhat or definitely worse, while 15 percent believe the situation is better and 9 percent believe the situation has not changed in the past six months. In Donetsk, 94 percent believe the situation is definitely or somewhat worse. These numbers are largely driven by a perceived decline in economic conditions (55%) or political stability (36%). Over the same period, a number of Ukrainians see improvement concerning the unity of citizens (45%), respect for citizens’ rights by authorities (31%) and maintenance of law and order (25%).

Ukrainians express confidence in the country’s military (76%), media (67%) and the pro-Ukrainian volunteer battalions (66%), while a majority has confidence in their local mayor (54%) and council (52%). Of all the institutions polled, Ukrainians expressed the lowest levels of confidence in the police (29%), the Verkhovna Rada(Parliament) (19%), and Russian media (4%).

Most Ukrainians outside Donetsk and Luhansk expect the October 26 parliamentary elections to be completely free and fair (19%) or reasonably free and fair (40%), while 82 percent outside of Donbas said that they are either very (56%) or somewhat (26%) likely to vote. In Donbas, this figure was estimated at 40 percent, with 17 percent saying they are very likely to vote and 23 percent saying they are somewhat likely to vote. About a quarter (24%) of all likely voters expressed a preference for the President’s party (Poroshenko bloc), easily the highest of any political preference, although 39 percent were still undecided.

In terms of their views of the conflict in the East, 50 percent of Ukrainians outside Donbas think that too little force is being used by the Poroshenko administration, while 11 percent think the appropriate level of force is being used, and 8 percent say too much force is being used. In Donbas, perceptions are mixed, with 30 percent believing too much force is being used, 10 percent the appropriate amount, and 19 percent too little. Notably, Ukrainians both inside (42%) and outside Donbas (57%) think that separatists in Donbas only represent a minority of the population in the region. Only 16 percent of Ukrainians in Donbas think the separatists represent a majority.

Divisions between Ukrainians outside of Donbas and those in the region were evident in their views on foreign relations. The majority of Ukrainians outside Donbas continue to prefer closer relations with Europe (59%) than with Russia (8%). Attitudes differed in Donbas, where 19 percent of Ukrainians said the country would be better off with closer ties to Europe compared to 31 percent who believe Ukraine would be better off with ties to Russia. Thirty-five percent believed they would be better off with both. Despite these differences in opinion, the vast majority of Ukrainians (75%) believe that the current divisions in the country will be overcome.

The 2014 survey was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and includes responses from 1,974 Ukrainians polled between September 5 and 13, 2014. The opinions expressed in this survey do not necessarily reflect the opinions of USAID or U.S. Government.

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As the global leader in democracy promotion, IFES advances good governance and democratic rights by providing technical assistance to election officials; empowering the underrepresented to participate in the political process; and applying field-based research to improve the electoral cycle. Since 1987, IFES has worked in over 135 countries, from developing democracies, to mature democracies. For more information, visit www.IFES.org.