February 24, the Razumkov Center, close to the presidential team think tank, released its data. The survey dates are February 13-17, that is, even before the big scandal with the Chinese coronavirus and Novi Sanzhary incident. "If the presidential election were to take place in the near future, Volodymyr Zelensky would have received the majority of votes (40% of those who will participate in the elections and decide who they will vote for)," the press release reads.
In February 2020, 51.5% trust President Zelensky and 41% do not trust him. Social scientists note that in September 2019 the level of trust in Zelensky was the highest - then 79% of citizens trusted him, and only 13.5% did not trust him. Now the picture has changed.
In February the proportion of those who believe that Zelensky’s actions are primarily aimed at protecting national interests (37% versus 54.5% in September 2019) has significantly decreased, and the number of Ukrainians who consider that the president’s actions are aimed at protecting his own interests and the interests of his political environment (41% against 24.5% in September).
Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released its data on February 25 and conducted the survey from February 8 to February 18. 44.2% of the respondent are ready to support Zelensky in the next election, according to KIIS.
KIIS specialists also studied the respondents' attitudes toward political parties. And they learned that the support of the presidential Servant of the People corresponds to 39.1% (among those who decided on their choice). In the 2019 early elections, we received recall, 43.16% in a multi-member constituency and 21.04% in single-member constituencies. In the next election (assuming that they will be held according to a purely proportional system), the Zelensky party will not gain the majority of the votes and will not form a sole coalition.
The first thing that hit the president was his own irresponsibility. “There are two reasons why the rating of power falls,” says Ruslan Bortnyk, Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Policy Management. “The first is the failure to fulfill promises (peace, fight against corruption, and increased prosperity, but this did not happen). And the second is the president’s weakness. He has repeatedly set deadlines for both law enforcement agencies and the government, gave a lot of instructions that nobody predominantly fulfills. Society is increasingly convinced that the president is ignored by his own people,” he states.
“Despite numerous scandals within the faction, and the law enforcement agencies gave no response to them, also played a role. Starting from the piano voting and ending with frivolous correspondence in the parliament hall. As well as the salary scandal, the land reform... The ratings grow for those forces that have a clear position on the land issue - for the Opposition Platform -For life party and Batkivshchyna,” the expert adds.
The disunity of the presidential team within the walls of parliament or government is superimposed on yet another unpleasant thing for Zelensky: he does not have “his own” voters. And this feature is noted by all experts.
“It is necessary to demonstrate success in peacekeeping and the fight against corruption. If appropriate measures are taken, then around April, the president’s rating may gain a foothold of up to 45%,” suggests Ruslan Bortnyk.
“The situation for Zelensky is far from being tragic, because the president still wins, at least as of today. But there is an alarming signal. Why? Because people don’t see positive changes. And therefore that the power team demonstrates unprofessionalism and incompetence. Over time, everyone will forget what the current prime minister was calling, but they will remember that Zelensky brought him to power,” Andriy Zolotariov, head of the Third Sector Center, states.
What other consequences could the Zelensky rating drop have? As already mentioned, it is likely that in the near future the number of goals will increase. At least in theory. “Zelensky can transfer part of the negative lure to PM Honcharuk, but it seems that this government would not resign. At least because land reform should take place. But in some time, the Cabinet of Ministers will resign,” Bohdan Petrenko, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, comments.
He also calls the second corollary: “For some reason, Zelensky believes that European Solidarity faction puts them most of the sticks in the wheels. The president has accumulated a great deal of negative attitude towards Poroshenko.”
Time will tell whether the former president becomes the “whipping boy” for the current one, on whom one can wreak anger and prove his desire for justice. But, in addition to developments with the hated Poroshenko, Zelensky can demonstrate activity in the further release of Ukrainian prisoners. Once it had already played into his hands.
But “the release of prisoners would give an effect for a short period of time. We need strategic decisions. We need people to see that the professionals are coming back - this would restore the credit of confidence in the government, which is now lost,” Zolotariov is convinced.
Petrenko agrees with him. “Another exchange of prisoners will no longer have the previous effect. This preliminary release raised the president’s rating to 73%, that is, to the level that he had at the time of the election. Any new exchange will contribute to the growth of Zelensky’s popularity, but it’s not strategically saving him from falling. And it’s too late to reduce tariffs, because the heating season is coming to an end, and if gas for the population falls sharply, people will not feel it,” he says.
Winter really passes, and spring, when someone will imprison someone (or maybe not) has not come yet. According to Zolotariov, “if Zelensky destroys the positive image that has been formed among the supporters of the president,” he will slide down to twenty-five percent. But if “there are personnel changes and changes in general, Zelensky’s rating will stay at 35-40% for a long time.”
Nobody remembers the previous triumphal 73%. The honeymoon of the country and the president is over.