August 2016 poll: Electoral Moods in Ukraine

August 2016 poll: Electoral Moods in Ukraine

It’s “Electoral Moods in Ukraine” time.

The usual preamble:

  • Poll by sociological group “Rating”
  • 2,000 Ukrainians, all 18+, representative of age, gender, region and type of settlement. MoE 2.2%.
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Interviews done August 18-23, 2016

Screenshots are all from the original presentation in Ukrainian.

Verkhovna Rada elections

Among Ukrainian voters who a) intend to vote and b) have decided who they’re voting for, Batkivshchyna leads the way with 18% of respondents, followed by the Opposition Bloc at 13%, followed by both Samopomich and the Radical Party at 11%.

2016-08-31 11.19.28

While Batkivshchyna’s support seems to have gone up a bit over the last year from 13% a year ago (see below), I’m not sure how much we can actually read into this; they might be benefiting somewhat from Bloc Petro Poroshenko’s popularity plummeting (9%), but the same could be said for the Opposition Bloc or Lyashko’s Radical Party.

2016-08-31 11.19.53

Regardless, I wouldn’t chalk these figures up to a surge in support for Batkivshchyna and Yulia Tymoshenko. Consider the fact that, of all voters intending to vote (regardless of whether they know which party they’d vote for), more voters selected ‘don’t know’ (18%) than Batkivshchyna (15%) or indeed any party.

One party of course that’s not benefiting from this is Svoboda. Everyone’s favourite far-right bogeyman party still looks barely able to break the 5% threshold, if at all and the even scarier Pravyi Sektor bogeyman is barely on anyone’s radar.

Looking for a far-right populist surge in Europe? You won’t find it in Ukraine.

Presidential elections

The numbers look pretty similar when it comes to presidential elections.  Among Ukrainian voters who a) intend to vote and b) have decided who they’re voting for, Tymoshenko leads with 18% of respondents, followed by the Opposition Bloc’s Yuriy Boyko at 12%, and Poroshenko himself at 10%. Still, almost one in five (19%) of respondents said they’d vote for another candidate not on the list – which to me is a proxy for ‘I don’t know’ – so I don’t think Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna should be patting themselves on the back quite yet for nipping at None of the Above’s heels.

2016-08-31 11.20.23

Looking at the data over time here it’s much the same story as above. Tymoshenko’s doing marginally better as Poroshenko’s popularity nosedives, but so are people like Boyko, Lyashko and, yes, Nadia Savchenko.

2016-08-31 11.20.45

(Also I’m not sure why ‘other candidate’ is 19% in the main table and 17% in the table below. I don’t have the raw data but I assume there’s a weighting/stats reason for it.)

And, of course, look at the numbers for Tyahnybok (4%) and Yarosh (2%). Looking for a far-right president? Not here. Go to Austria.

Trust in politicians?

I’ll just put this here, sans much in the way of editorial comment.

2016-08-31 11.16.43

What’s happened to Nadia Savchenko?

It looks like the post-release honeymoon is over. Alongside being part of Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, some of the comments Savchenko’s made over the last few months (e.g., on holding direct talks with “DNR”/”LNR” leaders) look like they’ve rubbed some Ukrainians the wrong way. Just look at how much trust in her has fallen after just two months.

2016-08-31 11.16.09

Also worth noting:

  • Almost a third of respondents (31%) said their attitude towards her had deteriorated since her release
  • Over a third (34%) think she should go back to being a fighter pilot, compared to 24% just two months ago.
  • Of those who’d heard some of her recent statements, almost half (49%) didn’t agree with them – 55% didn’t agree with her comments on amnesty for “DNR”/”LNR” fighters

If she’s going to live up to the hype and Joan of Arc expectations that were foisted on her she’s got a tough road ahead of her.

Taking issue with the OSCE SMM’s report on IDPs in Ukraine

Taking issue with the OSCE SMM’s report on IDPs in Ukraine

Last Friday the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) released a report on internal displacement in Ukraine and it seems like they want it to be read by as few people as possible.

The OSCE SMM didn’t just release this report on the last Friday in August – they buried it late in the afternoon on the last Friday in August (17.30 Ukraine time – 10.30 am Eastern in Canada/US). OK?

And looking at when the focus groups and interviews were actually done for the report, it’s not like they didn’t have time to release it when people might actually be paying attention:

“Focus group discussions and individual interviews were conducted between August and November 2015 in 19 regions across Ukraine” [emphasis mine]

Listen, I know there were a lot of focus groups and interviews – 161 groups and 39 individual interviews, to be precise, so more than 1,600 people in total. I’ve been that guy having to organize transcriptions and analysis of piles of focus group and interview findings. It takes time. But you mean to tell me it’s taken no less than nine months to do all this?

If they have, the quality of the report is pretty disappointing. This thing rambles on, with barely a signpost for the reader to know what the most important findings are. We don’t get any stand-alone block quotes from IDPs themselves to help contextualize and understand how they’re coping in new communities. We’re treated to vague discussions of IDP-community relations that could leave a reader thinking they’re far worse than they actually are. We get a conclusion (“Concluding Remarks”) that reads like it was pieced together the morning of (I know, cuz I’ve done it), a flimsy set of remarks that summarizes almost nothing of substance. If I ever handed a draft report like this to one of my old bosses I’d have had it handed back to me pretty quickly.

Read this report, then take a look at the UNHCR’s report from a few months ago about IDPs and host communities in Ukraine, and also one of the IOM’s regular reports every few months. I challenge you to reach a different conclusion than mine: that this report’s a watered-down stream of paragraphs that doesn’t really help us understand IDPs any better.

Should we be surprised? Probably not. According to one former OSCE observer:

“According to established OSCE practice, reports should not provoke major controversies. Instead, they should be politically acceptable to all member states, with the emphasis on ‘balance’ rather than ‘objectivity’. In addition to this approach, I also quickly learned that I was only one of several links in the chain of report preparation. Information provided by OSCE monitoring teams had been often already been ‘sterilized’ by the time it reached me. As a result, the reports posted on the OSCE website were often far removed from that what I personally wished to include, and what should have been included.”

I think we can add this report to that list.

A look at some pre-День незалежності surveys

A look at some pre-День незалежності surveys

Data from two big surveys has come out right before Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24.

Both surveys only spoke to residents of territories currently controlled by the Ukrainian government (i.e., no one from Crimea or the “DNR/LNR” took part).

I’ve taken a look at both of them and made some notes and some stunningly mediocre Word charts.

The future of Ukraine

When it comes to what they feel about the future of their country, it’s a mixed bag of emotions for Ukrainians.

While almost half (44%) of Ukrainians in the June/July poll said that felt hope when they think about the future of Ukraine, almost as many (38%) said they felt anxiety while almost one in four (23%) said they felt fear for their country’s future.

These emotions have changed over the last ten years. Not surprisingly, anxiety is higher now than it was before 2013 (though it’s flattened out a bit since then) and fear for the future of Ukraine is higher, though this has been relatively stable since 2013.

future UA
Graph: Michael Colborne

The regional breakdowns are pretty interesting and run a little bit counter to what I was expecting:

  • Hope for the future of Ukraine is highest in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, in government-controlled Ukraine) at 56%, but lowest right next door in eastern oblasts (Dnipro, Zaporizhia and Kharkiv oblasts) at 38%.
    • So the most hopeful Ukrainians are the ones closest to – and living in – a war zone?
  • Optimism about the future of Ukraine is lowest in Donbas (9%) and highest in central Ukraine (26%).
    • People in Donbas, it seems, are hopeful but not too optimistic about the future.
  • Anxiety is highest in eastern oblasts (44%) and Donbas (40%) but lowest in central Ukraine (31%)
  • Fear is also higher in eastern oblasts (30%) and southern Ukraine (25%) but lowest in western Ukraine (19%), central Ukraine (21%) and 22% in Donbas.

The age breakdowns weren’t that noteworthy IMO – have a look for yourself. I’d like to see breakdowns and analysis for other factors, like socio-economic status, rural/urban, level of education, employment status, etc., etc., etc.

The status of Russian in Ukraine?

Support for the Russian language having official status in Ukraine dropped to its lowest level ever in this series of surveys (30%).

RU lang
Graph: Michael Colborne

They didn’t provide any breakdowns for this, but I suspect the regional one would be in part what we’d expect (e.g., higher support in eastern Ukraine/Donbas), as well as with older Ukrainians.

Changing social attitudes (and some that change, then quickly change back)

While Ukrainian attitudes towards introducing the death penalty and isolating people with AIDS (!!) have declined since 1991, the same can’t be said for disapproval of premarital sex, homosexuality and the influence of western culture. While disapproval of premarital sex and the influence of western culture are largely the same as they were in 1991, barely over a quarter (27%) of Ukrainians think homosexuals should be treated equally, compared to 34% at the time of Ukraine’s independence.

social attitudes
Graph: Michael Colborne

There was only one regional breakdown given for these questions: western culture was more likely to be perceived as a negative influence in Donbas (49%), southern Ukraine (43%) and eastern Ukraine (39%) than in central Ukraine (29%) or western Ukraine (14%).

This Stalin guy again

Lastly, some Ukrainians still seem to like this Stalin guy, but the love has dropped off to 1991 levels – less than a third (30%) of Ukrainians think that Stalin was a great leader.

Graph: Michael Colborne

The regional breakdown is what I’d expect based on previous Stalin questions, save for Donbas. Almost half (46%) of people in eastern Ukraine thought Stalin was a great leader, compared to 43% in southern Ukraine, 31% in central Ukraine, 20% in Donbas and 13% in central Ukraine.

Still, I’d want to look deeper into the data, particularly at age, socio-economic status, other attitudes, etc., before painting almost half of eastern Ukraine with a broad fond-of-Stalin brush. It’s obviously beyond the scope of this survey but I’d also like to hear from some of these people themselves about why they think Stalin was a great leader. Soviet nostalgia? The feeling that Ukraine needs a super-strong leader in turbulent times? Propaganda?


In conclusion, Ukraine is a land of contrasts. Thank you.

Seriously though, the overarching conclusion I’d draw is this: whatever direction attitudes in post-Maidan Ukraine are moving, we need to dig deeper into data like this to really understand why. Four or five-way regional breakdowns aren’t going to cut it.

Poll in Donetsk region: what we know, don’t know & should know

Poll in Donetsk region: what we know, don’t know & should know

A few days ago I came across this poll from both the uncontrolled (i.e., “DNR”) and controlled (i.e., Ukrainian-controlled) territory of Donetsk region.  There’s some pretty interesting numbers coming out of it; however, as I’ll prattle on about below, I’m actually more interested in the numbers and breakdowns we’re not (yet) seeing.

Point form background:

  • Ukrainian link here: English link here
  • Conducted for the Donbas Think Tank by IFAK Institut, an international market research firm
  • Surveys done from May 30-June 13, 2016, using face-to-face interviews
  • 605 surveys done in uncontrolled territory (i.e., “DNR”)
  • 805 surveys done in Ukrainian-controlled territory

I won’t harp on the findings too much since they’re pretty clearly laid out in both the Ukrainian and English versions, including with some easy-to-read charts much prettier than any nonsense Microsoft Word bar graphs I could spit out. Still, a few thoughts:

1. The bit most people are picking up on is the fact that only 18% of respondents in the “DNR” identified themselves as “DNR” citizens, compared to a much more common Donbas territorial identity (60% UA-gov’t controlled, 61% “DNR”). This has been pretty extensively discussed so I won’t dive into it here.

2. Some of the emotions people say prevail around them are different between controlled and uncontrolled territories and, well, are pretty worrying.

Screenshot_2016-08-16-17-57-38Anxiety’s common in both controlled territories and the “DNR” and hope, strangely enough, is much more common in the “DNR” than the controlled territories (37% to 12%), as is the feeling of cohesion.

What worries me the most are the figures around disappointment (37% in controlled territories versus 11% in uncontrolled territories) and anger/rage (30% in controlled territories versus 6% in uncontrolled territories). Anger and disappointment is a dangerous combination.

3. Everybody, in controlled or uncontrolled territories, fears resumed/intensified war. But just over a quarter (28%) of people in uncontrolled territories fear a restoration of Ukrainian control over the “DNR” which, given the barrages of Russian propaganda these people have been subject to for two years, actually seems reassuringly low to me.


Findings like these have led the Donbas Think Tank to warn that a prolonged war in the east “has a risk of deepening differences between the inhabitants of the uncontrolled area…and inhabitants of the controlled area.”

They also warn that there’s “a particular risk that the “citizen of DPR” identity might expand and…Ukrainian civic identity might be weakened among the residents of the uncontrolled territory.”

That’s why they’ve made a number of policy and communication-related recommendations, including some around “tactical communication” which I think this data would feed into most:

1. To elaborate and implement communication strategy for the reintegration of Donbas – a policy paper  describing  target groups of  the  Donetsk region residents, a system of narratives and messages, channels and tools of communication with the target audience.

 2: “To elaborate and implement a comprehensive information campaign for the residents of  the  controlled  and  uncontrolled  territories  of  the  Donetsk  region  aiming  at strengthening their Ukrainian civic identity”

The place to start describing these “target groups” and spur on discussion about these “narratives and messages” is right here, with this survey data. But this data, as it’s being publicly presented right now, isn’t giving the rest of us much to go on.

Looking just at the “DNR” data, you’ve got a (presumably?) representative sample of just over 600 residents. This might not be a large enough sample to be crosstabbing and regressing the shit out of, but it’s large enough to do what I’d think are some pretty important breakdowns. Gender. Age. Socio-economic status (assuming of course there was a question in the survey acting as a proxy for SES). Level of education. Whether they’re pensioners or not. Religious affiliation. etc. These are the breakdowns government, the public and civil society in Ukraine need to see to know who’s thinking what in the “DNR” and how to (and not to) communicate with them. Painting everyone in the “DNR” with an overly broad brush isn’t going to do them or the rest of Ukraine any favours.

That being said, a lot of this has definitely already gone on behind the scenes. I’ve been one of those market research noobs behind those scenes running crosstabs into the wee hours of the morning until I feel like my soul has escaped my body. What’s more, the data that’s been presented publicly doesn’t tell us anything about weighting, representativeness of the sample, etc., or any more methodological details. Some of this would help, even if it’s only a few losers like me who look at it.

In short, there’s some pretty helpful information buried in this survey data. Let’s use it.