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Perception of Russia's safety margin in the war against Ukraine: the results of a telephone survey conducted on February 14-22, 2023
The press release was prepared by the Executive Director of KIIS, Anton Hrushetskyi
During February 14-22, 2023, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion survey "Omnibus". By the method of computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers (with random generation of phone numbers and subsequent statistical weighting), 2,002 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) were interviewed. The survey was conducted with adult (aged 18 and older) citizens of Ukraine who, at the time of the survey, lived on the territory of Ukraine (within the boundaries controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022). The sample did not include residents of territories that were not temporarily controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022 (AR of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), and the survey was not conducted with citizens who left the country after February 24, 2022.
Formally, under normal circumstances, the statistical error of such a sample (with a probability of 0.95 and taking into account the design effect of 1.1) did not exceed 2.4% for indicators close to 50%, 2.1% for indicators close to 25%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.1% - for indicators close to5%.
Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. In particular, if back in May, among all the respondents we interviewed, 2.5-4% lived in the territories occupied after February 24 (and this corresponded to the percentage of those who live there, because the generation of telephone numbers was random), now, due to the occupiers turning off the telephone connection, we managed to interview only 2 respondents (from 2002) who currently live in occupied settlements. It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general tendencies were quite similar. That is, the impossibility of interviewing such respondents does not significantly affect the quality of the results. There are other factors that can affect the quality of results in "wartime" conditions (see Annex 2).
In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative and allow a fairly reliable analysis of public moods of the population.
Prospects of war with resource-rich Russia
One of the important propaganda narratives is that it is futile to go to war with Russia because Russia has "virtually unlimited resources" such as money, people, weapons, etc. The calculation of Russian propaganda is to shake the faith of Ukrainians in the possibility of victory, as well as to sow doubts among our Western partners.
That is why we asked the respondents which point of view they agree with to a greater extent - that Russia really has a significant reserve of resources, can exhaust Ukraine for a long time, and as a result, Ukraine will not be able to end the war on acceptable terms? Or that Russia is really exhausting its resources, and Ukraine, together with the support of the world, will be able to end the war on acceptable terms in the foreseeable future?
The majority of Ukrainians - 67% - believe that Russia is exhausting its resources and that it is realistic for Ukraine to win together with its partners in the not-too-distant future. 22% believe in a significant reserve of resources of the Russians and a long exhausting confrontation with an uncertain end. Another 11% could not decide on this issue.
Graph 1. With which of these statements regarding the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia do you agree to a greater extent?
In the graph below, the data are shown in a regional dimension. In all regions of Ukraine, the vast majority of the population believes that Russia is running out of resources and that ending the war on acceptable terms is realistic for Ukraine. In particular, among residents of the East and the South, 64% think so (against, respectively, 23% and 25% who believe that Russia has a significant reserve of resources).
Graph2. Readiness for territorial concessions in the regional dimension
According to the latest KIIS data (as of February 2023), 9% of Ukrainians are ready for territorial concessions in exchange for peace, 87% are against it. The graph below shows whether Ukrainians who optimistically / pessimistically assess Russia's resource stock are ready to make concessions in exchange for peace. As can be seen, even among those who believe Russia still has enough resources for a protracted war, 75% oppose territorial concessions in exchange for peace.
Graph3. Readiness for territorial concessions depending on the assessment of Russia's strength
A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:
After the Russian large-scale invasion in Ukraine, there is a surge of optimism, which is stably maintained at a high level. According to the latest data of KIIS (as of January 2023), 89% of Ukrainians are optimistic about Ukraine's future, and 86% expect Ukraine to become a member of the EU by 2030. In addition, the absolute majority of Ukrainians (regardless of the wording of the question) categorically reject the possibility of concessions to the aggressor.
The results regarding the perception of Russia's strength show us that optimism still prevails, but is more restrained and more cautious. This is important, because overconfidence will harm the achievement of victory and it is better to be more realistic about the current opportunities and the situation. On the other hand, it is important to maintain an optimistic view, albeit within a restrained and cautious framework, since the scenario of sliding into depression and a pessimistic image of the future will be much more destructive for Ukraine.
In addition, it is fundamentally important that even among conditionally pessimistic citizens, the absolute majority reject the concept of exchanging territories for peace. Some Ukrainians may underestimate the enemy, others may overestimate his forces, but the absolute majority of both the former and the latter strive for struggle and victory.
Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
With which of these statements regarding the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia do you agree to a greater extent? RANDOMIZATION OF READING
(% among all respondents)
Annex 2. Methodological comments on the representativeness of telephone surveys conducted during the war
Even before the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, there were a number of factors that negatively affected the representativeness of the polls (for example, the absence of a census for more than 20 years). A full-scale war, of course, greatly affects representativeness and complicates the work of sociologists, but does not make it impossible. Access to reliable data on the state of public moods remains relevant both for Ukrainians themselves and for our foreign partners (who, as the events of recent months have shown, often underestimated and did not understand Ukraine and Ukrainians).
At the same time, in order to maintain objectivity, it is necessary to understand what limitations the war imposes on the conduct of sociological surveys. First of all, we pay attention to large-scale population movements. As of December, the UN estimates the number of Ukrainian refugees at almost 7.9 million. Obviously, due to various reasons, it is difficult to consider these data unequivocally accurate, but in general, the quite significant scale of departure from the country is understandable. There is no exact data on how many of them are adult citizens, but, most likely, it is about half. Among about 30 million adult citizens (estimated at the time of the full-scale invasion), it can be roughly estimated that about 15-20% have left the country, and it is impossible to reliably survey these citizens using telephone interviews. Even more citizens have become internally displaced persons, but they have a much smaller impact on the quality of telephone surveys, since almost all of these citizens have mobile phones and are reachable to participate in the survey (in fact, 12% of the respondents of this survey are IDPs).
Another important problem is the accessibility for the survey of the population of the territories that were occupied after February 24, 2022, due to the conduct of intensive military operations or due to interruptions in telephone communication. Now there is practically no connection. In May, 2.5-4% of respondents lived in these territories, now in the sample of residents of these territories - only 2 respondents out of 2002 surveyed. According to our estimates, the territory occupied by Russia as of the beginning of September (occupied after February 24, 2022) accounted for about 9% of the entire adult population. Taking into account the mass exodus of the population from these territories (most likely, we are talking about at least half of the population), as well as the fact that significant territories of Kharkiv and Kherson regions were liberated from this period, we estimate that no more than 3-5% of the total adult population of Ukraine were unavailable due to communication problems.
In our opinion, a more significant impact on representativeness can be either a generally lower willingness of citizens with "pro-Russian" attitudes to participate in surveys, or the insincerity of those who did take part in the survey (taking into account the obvious facts and prevailing opinions in the media regarding the Russian invasion , some citizens will not want to say what they really think "in public"). If to talk about the general willingness of respondents to participate in the survey, then in recent surveys we see either the same indicators or somewhat lower (although it should be borne in mind that the lower willingness to participate of "pro-Russian" citizens can be compensated by the higher willingness to participate of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens).
We conducted a methodical experiment in May, which shows that the citizens who are currently participating in the surveys in terms of demographic characteristics and meaningful attitudes are close to those who participated in the surveys until February 24, 2022. Preliminarily, we see some shift in the direction of "pro-Ukrainian"-minded citizens, which is reflected in up to 4-6% deviations for individual questions (in the direction of more frequent selection of answers that correspond to the "pro-Ukrainian" interpretation of events). In our opinion, in the current conditions, this is a rather optimistic indicator.
However, this experiment does not give an answer as to how sincere the respondents are now in their answers. To assess the sincerity of responses to sensitive questions, in July we conducted another experiment using the "imagined acquaintance" method. The results showed that the respondents generally answered the survey questions honestly. That is, we have reason to say that during the interview, the respondents really answer our questions sincerely.
 The region is determined by where the respondent lived until February 24, i.e. IDPs who, for example, lived in the Donetsk oblast until February 24, but now live in another oblast, are considered residents of the East for the analysis.
 The composition of the macroregions is as follows: Western macroregion – Volyn, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Chernivtsi oblasts; Central macroregion – Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Kyiv oblasts, Kyiv city, Southern macroregion – Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Odesa oblasts, Eastern macroregion – Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts.