Seven statistics for Ukraine-watchers

Seven statistics for Ukraine-watchers

As Ukrainians remember the bloodiest days of the revolution three years ago, I’ve gone back into the last few months of poll/survey data and pulled out a few numbers that I think are worth keeping in mind, particularly for westerners and outsiders like me who are desperately trying to understand: what do Ukrainians think?

1. Barely anyone thinks life’s got better since Euromaidan

Some discomfiting numbers from a Sofia poll in November – 82% of Ukrainians think their lives have gotten worse since Euromaidan (29% ‘a little worse’; 53% (!!) ‘much worse’). Only 5% think life has improved.

2. Most Ukrainians think the country’s going in the wrong direction

From the same Sofia poll – 73% of Ukrainians think the country’s going in the wrong direction (30% ‘generally in the wrong direction’; 43% ‘definitely in the wrong direction’.

3. Barely anyone trusts the President, Rada, political parties or any politician at all, for that matter

And it’s gotten worse. As I wrote in December about a Razumkov Centre and the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation year-end poll:

“…trust in the president (49% in 2014 to 24% in 2016) and in the Rada (31% to 12%) has tanked while trust in political parties (11% in 2016) is even lower. I haven’t graphed it out here but there’s obviously also been a corresponding increase in those who say they distrust the President (44% 2014: 69% 2016), the Rada (57% 2014: 81% 2016) and political parties (71% 2014: 78% in 2016). Keep in mind too that not a single individual Ukrainian politician is more trusted than distrusted (pages 5 and 6, question 7), so, ouch.”

4. Barely anyone’s satisfied with the President, Rada, etc.

In the aforementioned Sofia poll in November, 75% of Ukrainians disapproved of the job Poroshenko’s doing, and in a Rating poll from December 82% of Ukrainians surveyed said they were dissatisfied with him. The numbers from Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman and Speaker of the Rada Andriy Parubiy aren’t much better – 78% and 82% dissatisfied, respectively.

5. Some Ukrainians  still say the Euromaidan was ‘an illegal armed coup’, though most disagree 

This was a fascinating survey by KIIS for Detektor Media trying to unpack the influence of Russian propaganda in Ukraine. One of the tropes we’re all familiar with is that Euromaidan was totally some kind of Nazi-fascist-Junta-Banderite-Victoria Nuland’s cookies-Soros-Obama-NATO-CIA-drugged tea-EU coup (take your pick), and a good number of Ukrainians, it seems, buy it…34% of Ukrainians across the country agreed with the statement that ‘the events of 2014 in Kyiv were an illegal armed coup’, with numbers higher in the south (51%) and east (57%).

On the other hand, most Ukrainians (56%) agreed that ‘the events of 2014 in Kyiv were a peoples’ revolution’, with numbers highest in the west (81%) and centre (61%) of the country.

Weirdest, though, are the 9% of people who said ‘the events in Kyiv’ were both an ‘illegal armed coup’ and ‘a peoples’ revolution’. Yeah, I don’t get that.

6. Ukrainians don’t feel all that comfortable with their personal/family financial situations

A more recent poll from Rating showed that “half of…respondents considered their family’s financial status to be unsatisfactory whilst only 15% deemed that they had satisfactory finances for life, and one-third declared themselves to be at poverty level. The highest number of poor people being recorded in the East, among older people and those with a low education level.” [my bold]

7. Are there any silver linings here at all or just a list of depressing statistics?

Here’s an attempt to find a relevant silver lining from the Razumkov Centre and the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation‘s year-end poll – the new patrol police are more trusted than mistrusted (46% trust, 41% mistrust), and the old militsiia are a bit less mistrusted than they used to be (23% trust in 2016, 11% in 2015 and 16% in 2014).

Feel free to look through the polls I’ve linked to here and tell me what you think I’ve missed.



On “First the journalists, then tanks and bombs”

On “First the journalists, then tanks and bombs”

OK, I’d seen this article and graph kicking around Twitter for a day or two before I finally looked at it, and I’m both glad and not glad I did.

This impressive-looking graph. You’ve seen it, right?

For anyone who hasn’t already seen it or (like I had) has given it only a cursory weekend glance,  the graph is based on an analysis done by Semantic Visions, “a risk assessment company based in Prague” who “conduct…big data (meaning non-structured, large data requiring serious calculations) analyses with the aid of open source intelligence, on the foundation of which they try to identify trends or risk factors.” They also use a “private Open Source Intelligence system, which is unique in its category and enables solutions to a new class of tasks to include geo-political analyses based on Big Data from the Internet.”

OK, cool.

The gist in this case: Semantic Visions had algorithms read hundreds of thousands of online sources, including 22,000 Russian ones,  searching for different trends.

OK…though as someone who chose to suffer through a media content analysis as a thesis for some reason I have a number of methodology-related questions I don’t want to harp too much on (e.g., how is the algorithm actually designed to determine positive/negative stories vis-à-vis a human? how were the online sources chosen? etc.). A little transparency here would go a long way, proprietary nature of the algorithms notwithstanding.

What gets me is the conclusion they’ve drawn based on the data they’ve gathered and present here in this article.

The article says “the number of Russian articles with a negative tone on Ukraine [from February 2012] started to show a gradual and trend-like increase – while no similar trend can be found in English-language media.”

Yes, your data does show that. Got no problem there.

But it’s this (my emphasis in bold):

“Therefore, based on hundreds of millions of articles the possibility that the actual events in Ukraine could themselves be the reason for the increasing combativeness of Russian-language articles can be excluded. Moreover, the strongly pro-Russian President Yanukovych was still in government at the time and the similarly Eastern-oriented Party of Regions was in power. The explanation is something else: the Putin administration was consciously preparing for military intervention and the Kremlin’s information war against Ukraine started two years before the annexation of Crimea to turn Russian public opinion against Ukrainians…”

How can someone possibly draw that conclusion based solely on the numbers presented here?? Are you privy to other data or pieces of analyses that aren’t public? Because, based on the data that’s presented here, I see absolutely no justification for the conclusion that the Kremlin “was consciously preparing for military intervention.”


  • A big part of the explanation for any apparent increase in negative coverage would be the EU Association Agreement being initialed in March 2012, right?
  • Why start the analysis at June 2011? I’d want to see the tone of coverage compared to the last bit of Yushchenko’s presidency through the beginning of Yanukovych’s – maybe the increase over 2012-2013 isn’t so much an increase as a return to “normal” negative coverage of Ukraine.
  • (OK, I lied about no more methodology questions) What about positive stories? Were negative stories about Ukraine taking up a greater share of overall coverage, or did the overall number of articles itself increase? Not being transparent on methodological nerdish issues like this really, really doesn’t help, guys.

Please – no more divining of Kremlinological intentions from incomplete, unclear sets of numbers.