Who needs reforms in Ukraine: Opinion poll

Author : Volodymyr Kulyk

20:02, 11 April 2017
Who needs reforms in Ukraine: Opinion poll

Author : Volodymyr Kulyk

People, who support Ukrainization and decommunization, have positive attitude to the development of the armed forces, lustration of Yanukovych's associates, and integration into European structures

20:02, 11 April 2017

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When supporters of certain reforms label politicians and members of the government for blocking them, they explicitly or implicitly confirm that these reforms are needed not only by the activists themselves, but also by the people, at least the greater and better part of it. At the same time, hundreds of people appear at the protests against anti-reform actions, and the bulk of voters support empty and often corrupt populists rather than principled fighters for decisive changes.

So who needs reforms in Ukraine, what is their mass base? And how different is it for different directions of reforms, in other words, is there a solid reformatory core in society, does each reform support a particular group, indifferent or even hostile to other proposed changes?

Related: Who cares about Russians’ opinion?

These questions were in the focus of the research that we, together with my American colleague Henry Hale, studied using a sociological survey, which we commissioned in February this year with Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. The respondents were asked to express their attitude to a number of statements, one part of which outlined certain areas of political, economic, military and cultural reforms, and the other part - more general ideological attitudes, the position of which, we assumed, influenced the attitude to reforms. Of course, we were also interested in how the socio-demographic characteristics of respondents, their ethno-cultural identities and language practices, sources of information and the region in which they live are affected by the degree of reform support. We were primarily interested in the attitude to the rather radical and contradictory orientations advocated by certain groups of activists and politicians, and to a greater or lesser extent the legislative and executive power that has emerged after the Maidan.

Formulating the statements about which the respondents were to determine their position, we tried to avoid, on the one hand, abstract-positive postulates that would be acceptable to almost everyone, and on the other hand, detailed proposals, the essence of which most respondents might simply not understand.

In any case, not only the difference in the answers to the same questions indicates a difference in the views of social groups, but also the different responses of the same groups to different questions allow one to judge the extent of support for the current or proposed aspects of the post-Maidan transformation of the Ukrainian state and society.

Do you agree that…

strongly disagree











Most of decisions on lives of people should be taken on local level, not by the capital






People serve in government offices during Yanukovych’s rule should be prohibited from working in these offices for some time






People should have right to freely use his property, including selling his agricultural lands






Ukrainian state should do everything possible to join the European structures






Ukraine should protect itself from Russia by active improvement of its own armed forces






Returning of the occupied territories should be the prior task of Ukrainian authorities






Ukraine should get rid of the symbols of Soviet past






During the war, Ukraine should refuse from broadcasting Russian films and Ukraine should not let Russian artists do tours






The state should integrate Ukrainian language in all spheres of life







There were nine areas of change concerning which interviewers asked respondents to outline their position, two concerned democratization (decentralization and lustration), one - economic liberalization (private property, in particular land), three others - foreign policy and defense (integration into European structures, strengthening the armed forces, the return of the occupied territories), and three more - the historical and cultural sphere (removing the Soviet symbols, restrictions on the Russian cultural product, Ukrainization of various spheres). Not all these aspects could be called reforms in the short meaning of the word, because some of them have already become a significant part of state policy. But, in comparison with the situation before the Euromaidan and the war, it is still something really new and quite radically different from the old policy, which has not yet become generally acceptable by the people. I will not give here either full wordings of questions or % of different answers: they can be seen in the table. Instead, I would focus on the most interesting results, which are reflected in the percentage distribution of answers, and in more complex types of statistical analysis, indicating less marked differences between certain groups and the relationship between positions relative to different directions of change.

Related: Poroshenko, Tymoshenko lead polls in Ukraine, - survey

As could be seen from the table, only two of the nine aspects of the researched policies (decentralization of decision-making and strengthening of the armed forces) have support, which can be called almost unanimous. It is noteworthy that the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens want the state to prepare for war and at the same time democratize for a peaceful life, the development of which they do not want to postpone until the war is over. Actually, so they are willing to various reforms, though not so unanimous. As for most other aspects, about a third of respondents fully support the outlined political course, another third support it with indecisiveness and cautions, the third does not support it, does not have a definite opinion or does not want to voice it to an unfamiliar interviewer.

However, the two aspects differ in the opposite direction: less than half of the respondents supports removing the Soviet symbols (with or without caution), and only a third supports the ban on the Russian cultural products. As we see, understanding the need to defend themselves against Russia's military aggression, Ukrainians at the same time do not very willingly abandon the ideological and cultural influence of the former metropolis. It should be noted that for the introduction of the Ukrainian language in different social spheres there were many more respondents than for clearing Ukraine from the symbols of the Soviet past. This means that the population does not share the priorities of the post-Maidan government, which quite decisively undertook decommunization, but more often avoided real Ukrainization, limiting itself to declarative support of the state language.

Related: Contradictions in Ukraine’s decommunization reform

Having ascertained the approximate number of "support groups" for various reforms, let us turn to the question of their socio-demographic and ideological-cultural profile. Since the reforms considered here generally reflect the requirements of Euromaidan, it is logical to assume that they are primarily supported by people supporting this massive protest movement, which led to the renewal of the structures of state power and a significant change in its policy. Indeed, among the respondents who defined their attitude towards Euromaidan as "positive" or "rather positive", the share of supporters of the majority of reforms turned out to be three, four and even five times bigger than among those who regard it completely or mostly negatively. The only exception is decentralization and private property, about which the difference between the supporters and opponents of the Maidan turned out to be significant, but not radical, about 20%. The same applies to the difference between nationalists and Communists, Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speakers, residents of the West and East of Ukraine: with respect to decentralization and privatization, their support differ by percentages, and for other reforms - several times. In addition to attitudes toward the Maidan, political beliefs, language and the region, a number of other demographic and ideological characteristics of respondents influence the attitude towards reforms.

It could be expected that young and well-educated people tend to more actively support reforms than older generations and not very educated, but the differences between age groups turned out to be significant only in relation to privatization and decommunization, and between educational ones - to European integration and the Russian cultural product. More important is the financial situation: people who barely make ends meet support reforms less than the richer citizens.

Related: Nationalism of Soviet methods: How does total Ukrainization look like?

Those who learn news from the Internet are generally more reformative than those for whom television remains the main source. Supporters of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Greek Catholic Church (more precisely, respondents who declared their affiliation to these denominations, which does not necessarily mean real participation in the church life) claimed support for reforms more often than believers of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Finally, almost all the reforms under consideration are primarily supported by people who positively perceive the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), are proud of their Ukrainian citizenship, tolerate different views and ways of life, believe that the pressure of society on power will force it to implement reforms, and that over the past year the economy at least did not deteriorate.

 However, it should be borne in mind that the differences between age, education, confessional or any other peculiarities do not necessarily mean that it is these characteristics that predetermine the unequal treatment of reforms. For example, the position of Greek Catholics can be influenced not so much by faith itself, but by prevailing habitation in Galicia and the use of the Ukrainian language. And the views of Internet users can be determined not by the source of news, but by relative youth, education, and prosperity. Even different positions of Ukrainian and Russian speakers are not necessarily a consequence of language tastes or habits, because these tastes and habits themselves depend on other factors, primarily the region and the size of the locality. Therefore, a sociological study should not only give percentages for different groups, but also with the help of a special analysis (known in statistics as regression) to find out which factors influence these indicators.

Related: Polish Senate refused to remove Ukrainian nationalism from bill

So, we found out that among all the socio-demographic characteristics, the attitude to the reforms is most affected by the region of habitation with its specific political culture: the positive attitude is most favored by the West, and the negative is favored by the East and South of Ukraine. At the same time, in addition, although the language significantly less affects the situation: it is not so much the language that respondents primarily communicate, as well as what they consider native, reflecting in this choice their attitude not only to language, but, to a certain extent, to the nation, and the state. Russian-speaking people show less favor not only to Ukrainization and limiting Russian cultural influence, but also to cleansing of Soviet symbols, integration into Europe, and even lustration of officials of the Yanukovych regime.

Another important characteristic is the financial situation of the respondents: for almost all the aspects considered, richer people are more reformative than the poorer ones. At the same time, education and age only affect the attitude towards several reforms, in particular European integration and decommunization. As one might suppose, belonging to the Greek Catholic Church does not in itself affect the position regarding reforms, but among the Orthodox believers, the Moscow Patriarchate contributes to a negative attitude towards the spread of the Ukrainian language, and the Kyiv Patriarchate is positive for the removal of Soviet symbols and Russian cultural influences.

Related: The history of Ukraine's language legislation

News from the Internet does not really make a person more disposed to reforms, i.e. the difference between the audience of the Internet and television is due to their demographic and ideological characteristics, not the source of information.

Finally, the above-mentioned ideological orientation of the respondents also influences the position regarding the reforms: those who are positive towards Euromaidan and UPA, are more disposed towards them, are more proud of Ukrainian citizenship, consider it possible to achieve changes through public pressure on the authorities, see the Ukrainian nation as the community of all its citizens (regardless of nationality, language and religion).

This somewhat contradictory combination of ideological orientations reflects the specifics of the current Ukrainian civic nationalism or, as it is more often called, patriotism: it is not only a respectful attitude towards the UPA, hatred of Putin and the opinion that a strong army is the best means of counteracting its aggressive intentions, but also a desire for Europe and the support of decentralization within the country. This specificity is caused by the unification in the same minds of the desire for different reforms, in particular those that are not very well combined in other societies.

Related: Ukrainization of TV: What to change in broadcasting if language quotas are approve

As analysis of the interrelations (correlations) between respondents' answers to different questions shows, positions on all reforms are tightly linked, except perhaps decentralization and private property. That is, people who support Ukrainization and decommunization are also likely to support the development of the armed forces, lustration of Yanukovych's associates and integration into European structures. Approximately one in six respondents states that he supports or rather supports all nine of the reforms indicated in the survey. Half of these people live in the western regions, three-fourths speak Ukrainian, more than 80% are more or less positive about Euromaidan, and almost everyone believes that society must press on the authorities to force it to carry out reforms. If we remove from the list the two most problematic aspects-the cleansing of Soviet symbols and the restriction of the Russian cultural product, the proportion of reformers will increase by more than a quarter, and its composition will become slightly less Western and Ukrainian-speaking, remaining also supportive of Maidan's ideas and ready to put pressure on the authorities.

This is the reformatory core, on which the authorities must rely, if they really want to change the country.

Related: Majority of Russians have positive attitude to the fact that their country causes fear, - survey

The sociological survey was conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology at the expense of the University. J. Washington and Yale University (USA). The field stage lasted from 10 to 20 February 2017. 2400 respondents were interviewed in 110 settlements in all regions of Ukraine, except for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In Donetsk and Luhansk regions, surveys were conducted only in the territories under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. The statistical error does not exceed 3.3%.

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