What Ukrainians Think About Their Leaders

Held in 24 regions of Ukraine and in Kiev from March 13-20, 2015, the SMC poll involved 2,800 respondents, providing a detailed panorama of Ukrainian attitudes to the current national leaders.

This article uses the latest opinion polls conducted by the Social Monitoring Center (SMC) and the Yaryomenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Studies jointly with the monitoring department of the Economics and Forecasting Institute of the National Academy of Sciences, the Kiev International Sociology Institute (KISI), the Razumkov Center (RC), and the Gorshenin Institute (a July poll in Kharkov).

There was a stormy media reaction in Ukraine to the latest KISI poll (conducted using the random sample personal interview method involving 2,022 respondents in Ukrainian-controlled areas – i.e., without Crimea but with Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions – from June 27 to July 9, 2015).

The main news was the explosive growth of Yulia Tymoshenko’s and her Batkyvshchina Party’s ratings. Table 1 compares KISI polls for March, May and July (the latest), 2015, as well as the October 2014 parliamentary election returns. For convenience, the data represent both all respondents and those who know their own mind and are ready to go to the polls.

The presidential ratings changed along with the party rankings, and did so as dramatically in favor of Tymoshenko:

I am led to believe that the main reason why Tymoshenko and her party improved their ratings so dramatically in a matter of just one month (!?) is largely due to the adjustment of the sample. In July, in fact, 5% fewer respondents opted for “None of the above,” and the number of self-declared election dodgers declined by half, with these shifts being particularly obvious in eastern and southern Ukraine, where the attitudes to Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are highly negative. In the meantime, Tymoshenko, who has joined the majority coalition, reaches out for every opportunity to publicly accuse the prime minister of all mortal sins. Of course, there is also a flight of support votes from Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front to Tymoshenko, whom public opinion does not hold accountable for the disastrous government policy.

Where Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are concerned, the shrinking of their support base has been recorded throughout the last six months. Only 2% rate Poroshenko’s performance as “very positive” and 25% as “rather positive” (27% in total). Negative ratings came from 55% of respondents (22%: “very negative”; 33%: “rather negative).

Yatsenyuk’s showing is even worse. Only 17% gave his performance good marks as against 67%, who think of him unfavorably.

However, these figures are not much different from assessments of any Ukrainian government’s work a year or two after its advent to power. President Kuchma, President Yanukovych, Prime Minister Azarov and others were given approximately the same marks. In this sense, the Revolution of Dignity has even slightly aggravated the situation rather than improved it.

Held in 24 regions of Ukraine and in Kiev from March 13-20, 2015, the SMC poll involved 2,800 respondents, providing a detailed panorama of Ukrainian attitudes to the current national leaders. Almost a third (31.3%) said that they were only concerned with their personal well-being and career; 16.4% characterized them as weak persons incapable of wielding power and ensuring order and a consistent political course; 17.7% regard them as patriotic, albeit incompetent, people who don’t know how to lead the country out of its economic crisis; 13.7% see them as “puppets” fully dependent on outside management; and only 14.5% said that they were a good team of politicians that stayed on the right course. Let me add that the poll was conducted in March, when no one knew that foreigners would be appointed to government posts, that Saakashvili would be Odessa’s governor, that a British company would be invited to run customs on the Western border, and so on.

Table 3 shows the level of trust in the key figures of the current Ukrainian ruling elite and in three former Ukrainian presidents. Since the SMC poll was conducted three-odd months earlier than the KISI poll, we should take into account the above-mentioned negative dynamics and the fresher KISI data. But here let us focus on two things. First, let us compare the levels of trust in Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and in the Right Sector leader, Dmitry Yarosh. At 28.4% and 5.8% for Yatsenyuk (rather and fully trust, respectively) and 28.5% and 5.8% for Yarosh, the levels are pretty close. The only difference is that the number of those who do not trust Yatsenyuk is 3% higher than for Yarosh. One can hardly shed the sensation that these responses were obtained from the same groups of people. Regrettably, I cannot check this hypothesis for lack of access to the authentic data. Another thing is the characteristically close negative estimates of the level of trust in three Ukrainian ex-presidents, who pose as national gurus and support the policy of the current Ukrainian authorities.

The following table demonstrates that the so-called Revolution of Dignity has brought no qualitative changes, if anything, to the top ruling echelons.

It is only natural that the Kharkov polls (conducted by the Gorshenin Institute from July 4-17 using the random sample personal interview method; 1,214 respondents) were due to show more negative attitudes to the authorities than in Ukraine as a whole. Suffice it to say that 54% of respondents in Kharkov still have a positive attitude toward Russia (an aggressor country in the Verkhovna Rada terminology). President Poroshenko’s performance is judged positively by 13% of respondents, twice as little as on the national scale. But the proportion of those who view his work negatively is 56%, the same as in Ukraine as a whole. Predictably, the indicator is heterogeneous internally: 33% gave him extremely negative marks, and 23%, just negative (the proportion is reversed in Ukraine!).

The Kharkov rating of presidential hopefuls is headed by Poroshenko (10% of respondents are ready to vote for him), for Kharkov residents have no candidate of their own. The runner-up is Yury Boiko (9%), leader of the parliamentary group of the Opposition Alliance (OA). The OA lead in the all-party ratings is incontestable (the line-up is approximately the same for local elections), with more than 21% of respondents prepared to vote for them. Following close on its heels is Lvov Mayor Anatoly Sadovy’s Samopomich Party (8%), with Batkyvshchina and Poroshenko Bloc trailing behind with approximately 6% apiece.

Let me present yet another poll conducted by the Razumkov Center’s sociological service from March 6-12, 2015. They polled 2,009 respondents aged 18 years and older in all Ukrainian regions except Crimea and areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions uncontrolled by Kiev, using a sample representing the adult population by the main socio-demographic indicators. The theoretical margin of error is 2.3% with a probability of 0.95. The poll data are not particularly new, and I use them here simply to illustrate the similarity of results obtained by different sociological companies.

The poll indicates that President Poroshenko has the full support of 12.6 % of respondents, with 40.7% supporting only individual measures and 39.9% not supporting him (35.7% in December 2014). Verkhovna Rada Chairman Vladimir Groysman is fully supported by 6.2% of respondents, with 31.9% supporting only individual measures and 48.1% not supporting him (37.0% in December 2014). The Ukrainian government is fully supported by 4.5% of respondents, with 31.4% supporting only individual measures and 56.8% not supporting it (45.0% in December 2104). Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk is fully supported by 7.8% of respondents, with 29.3% supporting only individual measures and 56.7% not supporting him (44.5% in December 2014).

The activities of the National Bank of Ukraine is fully supported by 1.9% of respondents, with 10.5% supporting only individual measures and 77.3% not supporting it (71.0% in December 2014). Enjoying the most confidence among other institutions are the Church (66.2%), the Ukrainian Armed Forces (60.9%), the Ukrainian National Guard (56.7%), the Ukrainian media (50.2%) and public organizations (45.7%). These have more confidence than non-confidence votes.

The Ukrainian president is trusted by 43.6% of respondents and distrusted by 50.0%. National Bank Governor Valeria Gontareva is distrusted by 81.8% of respondents and trusted by a mere 5.0%, which is by far the highest level of distrust in the country.

The fact that a half of those polled trust the Ukrainian media, which have operated for two years under strict censorship performing propaganda functions, can explain the still decent level of trust in the president. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.