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Geopolitical orientations of Ukrainian Citizens: constants and changes of the last years (February 2012 February 2015)

By Julia Sakhno

Between February 14 and February 24, 2015 Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted the nation-wide public opinion poll. The survey was conducted in 108 settlements in all regions of Ukraine, (except the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) according to the random sample, which is representative for adult population of Ukraine (aged 18 and over). Totally 2013 respondents were interviewed face-to-face during the field stage.

In Donetsk and Luhansk regions the poll was conducted both in territories controlled by Ukraine’s government forces, and territories controlled by separatist forces.

Statistical sample error (with probability of 0.95 and design-effect of 1.5) does not exceed 3.3% for indicators close to 50%; 2.8% for indicators close to 25%; 2.0% for indicators close to 10%; 1.4%  for indicators close to 5%.

 

Preferable integration course

As on February 2015, the majority of Ukrainians prefer course towards European integration to joining the Russian-led Customs Union (consisting of Russia, Belarus and. Kazakhstan). Based on results of public opinion survey, conducted by KIIS, in February2015 47.2% say that Ukraine should join EU, while 12.3% prefer Ukraine's membership of the Customs Union.

However, significant part of Ukraine’s citizens (27.3%) is disposed against both unions and holds an opinion that Ukraine should develop on its own, joining neither EU nor Customs Union, or undefined with their preferences (13.1%).


Chart 1



EuroMaidan and Russian aggression against Ukraine have strongly influenced the geopolitical orientations of people in Ukraine: for the past year and a half (since September 2013 till now) the percentage of people supporting EU integration course increased 6 percentage point (from 41% to 47%), while the percentage of those who approve joining the Customs Union decreased almost three times (from 35% to 12%), and the percentage of people who think that Ukraine should not join any of these unions increased from 9% to 27%. As it can be noticed, this shift in public opinion consists of two components: some part of people changed their views in favour of EU integration course, but many people, who were disenchanted with Russia and did not became positively inclined towards EU, now tend to prefer an independent course of Ukraine.

 

Chart 2

By regions, pro-European attitudes prevail in Western and Central oblasts of Ukraine: Ukraine's strategic course towards European integration is supported by 75% in West and 57% in Center. In South and East the prevailing opinion is that Ukraine should keep neutrality, and join neither the EU nor the Customs Union – such opinion was expressed by 37% in South and 32% in East. But if to compare the percentage of people who supports joining EU to those who supports joining the Customs Union, people in Southern oblasts would prefer pro-European course (in South 33% supports EU integration course and 12% supports Customs Union), while in East pro-Russian geopolitical orientations would prevail (in East 20% prefer EU integration course and 30% - Customs Union). So the public opinion on preferable geopolitical course of Ukraine is still not homogenous, however pro-European orientations prevail over pro-Russian choice in all regions of Ukraine except East. 

 

Chart 3


*Western region: Volynska, Zakarpatska, Ivano-Frankivska, Lvivska, Rivnenska, Ternopilska, Khmelnytska, Chernivetska oblast; Central region: Kyiv, Kyivska, Vinnytska, Zhytomyrska, Kirovogradska, Poltavska, Sumska, Cherkaska, Chernigivska oblast; Southern region: Dnipropetrovska, Zaporizka, Mykolaivska, Odeska, Khersonska oblast; Eastern region: Kharkivska, Donetska, Luhanska oblast.

 

If a referendum on Ukraine's accession to the EU were held in February 2015?

Besides a question on preferable geopolitical course of our country, survey respondents were asked what they would do if a referendum on Ukraine's accession to the EU were held at the time of survey. Answers on these two questions slightly differ, since in a case of referendum people have to make a choice “for” or “against”, even if such decision did not fully meet their desires and was made according to “the lesser of two evils” principle.

According to survey results, if a referendum on Ukraine's accession to the EU were held in February 2015 about 50.7% of Ukraine’s residents would vote “for” EU membership – which is nearly 4 percentage points more than the percentage of people who consider EU integration course as desirable for Ukraine, meaning that a part of people are ready to vote for Ukraine’s membership of the EU as for acceptable, but not the best option. About 25.7% were going to vote against Ukraine's accession to the EU. The rest 23.6% would not vote (10.6%) or undecided (13.0%). So if a referendum on Ukraine's accession to the EU were held in February this year, voter turnout would be about 76.4%, and the votes of participants would be distributed as follows: 66.4% - for accession to the EU, 33.6% - against.

Chart 4


KIIS survey findings indicate that pro-European attitudes in Ukraine strengthened after February 2014 – not so much resulting from the Euromaidan protests as in relation to Russian aggression towards Ukraine. The Euromaidan protests had an ambiguous impact on the people’s geopolitical orientations: they did not lead to more support to EU integration (about 43% were ready to vote for accession to the EU in September 2013 - before Euromaidan, and 42% - in February 2014), at the same time these protests lead to strengthening of pro-Russian attitudes, especially in Southern and Eastern oblasts, so during the Euromaidan the part of people who opposed Ukraine’s membership of EU increased from 30% to 37%. But after annexation of Crimea and beginning of the armed conflict in the Donbass region, a large part of people have changed their views: the part of people who opposed Ukraine’s membership of EU decreased from 37% in February 2014 to 26% in February 2015, and the percentage of people who are ready to vote for accession to the EU increased from 42% in February 2014 to 51% in February 2015 (see chart 5).

Chart 5


By regions, public opinions are as follows. If a referendum on Ukraine's accession to the EU were held in February 2015,

  • In West 79% would vote “for”, 7% - “against”, 14% - would not participate or undecided;
  • In Center 60% would vote “for”, 20% - “against”, 20% - would not participate or undecided;
  • In South 39% would vote “for”, 40% - “against”, 21% - would not participate or undecided;
  • In East 22% would vote “for”, 38% - “against”, 41% - would not participate or undecided.

Chart 6



*Western region: Volynska, Zakarpatska, Ivano-Frankivska, Lvivska, Rivnenska, Ternopilska, Khmelnytska, Chernivetska oblast; Central region: Kyiv, Kyivska, Vinnytska, Zhytomyrska, Kirovogradska, Poltavska, Sumska, Cherkaska, Chernigivska oblast; Southern region: Dnipropetrovska, Zaporizka, Mykolaivska, Odeska, Khersonska oblast; Eastern region: Kharkivska, Donetska, Luhanska oblast.

 

APPENDIX. TABLES

Tab.1. What path of integration should Ukraine choose?, %, February 2015

European Union 47.2
Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan 12.3
Neither the EU nor the Customs Union 27.3
Do not know 13.1

 

Tab.2. Changes over time in distribution of answers on question “What path of integration should Ukraine choose?”, %, February 2013 - February 2015

  Feb.2013 Sep.2013 Feb.2015
European Union 36.6 41.3 47.2
Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan 37.5 35.3 12.3
Neither the EU nor the Customs Union 10.7 9.2 27.3
Do not know 15.2 14.1 13.1

 

Tab.3. Distribution of answers on question “What path of integration should Ukraine choose?” by regions, %, February 2015

  West Center South East
European Union 75.3 56.9 33.2 20.1
Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan 1.3 3.2 17.8 29.8
Neither the EU nor the Customs Union 17.1 24.3 36.8 32.4
Do not know 6.4 15.6 12.2 17.6

 

Tab.4. Distribution of answers on question “Please, imagine, that now is a referendum on whether Ukraine should join the European Union. You can vote for, against or abstain –not participate in voting. What would you choose?” %, February 2015

For accession to the EU 50.7
Against 25.7
Would not participate 10.6
Don't know 13.0

 

Tab.5. Changes over time in distribution of answers on question “Please, imagine, that now is a referendum on whether Ukraine should join the European Union. You can vote for, against or abstain –not participate in voting. What would you choose?” %, February 2012-February 2015

  Feb.12 Sep.13 Nov.13 Feb.14 Dec.14 Feb.15
For accession to the EU 39.7 43.2 39.7 41.8 53.3 50.7
Against 33.2 30.1 35.1 37.2 23.9 25.7
Would not participate 6.8 10.3 8.7 8.3 8.6 10.6
Don't know 20.3 16.4 16.5 12.7 14.2 13.0

 

Tab.6. Distribution of answers on question “Please, imagine, that now is a referendum on whether Ukraine should join the European Union. You can vote for, against or abstain –not participate in voting. What would you choose?” by regions, %, February 2015

  West Center South East
For accession to the EU 79.1 60.0 38.7 21.8
Against 6.9 19.8 40.5 37.7
Would not participate 5.1 5.5 9.7 23.7
Don't know 8.9 14.7 11.0 16.9

 

For comments, contact Julia Sahno: j.sakhno@kiis.com.ua

 


18.3.2015
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