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.