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Dynamics of the perception of Russia's safety margin in the war against Ukraine: the results of a telephone survey conducted on September 29-October 9, 2023
The press release was prepared by Anton Hrushetskyi, executive director of KIIS
From September 29 to October 9, 2023, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion survey "Omnibus". Bythemethodofcomputer-assistedtelephoneinterviews(CATI) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers (with random generation of phone numbers and subsequent statistical weighting), 1,010 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except AR 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 Ukrainian authorities 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 abroad.
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 3.4% for indicators close to 50%, 3.0% for indicators close to 25%, 2.1% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 5%.
Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. In particular, if in May 2022, 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, not a single respondent who currently lives in occupied settlements was included in the sample (along with this, out of a total of 1,010 respondents, 22 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022). It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general trends 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, which were cited by KIIS earlier.
In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative and allow for a fairly reliable analysis of public moods of the population.
Prospects of war with resource-rich Russia
One of the enemy's important propaganda narratives is that it is futile to fight 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, in February, for the first time, 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?
Now, in September-October 2023, we asked this question again to understand how the thoughts and views of Ukrainians have changed. Compared to February 2023, now from 22% to 49% there are more people who believe that Russia still retains a significant reserve of resources and can wage war against Ukraine for many more years. On the other hand, from 67% to 43%, the share of those who, on the contrary, believe that Russia is exhausting its resources and that the war may end on terms acceptable to Ukraine in the foreseeable future has decreased.
Graph 1. With which of these statements do you agree to a greater extent?
Only in the West of Ukraine, the majority of residents (57%) believe that Russia is exhausting its resources, although even in this region, a significant share (37%) also believes that Russia has a significant reserve of resources for a long-term war against Ukraine. In other regions, the prevailing opinion is that Russia has a significant reserve of resources, especially in the South and East of Ukraine, where the majority of the population thinks so - 58% and 67%, respectively (at the same time, 32% and 26% believe that Russia is exhausting its resources).
In the dynamics in all regions, compared to February 2023, there were more people who believe that Russia has a significant reserve of resources. The most significant increase in the prevalence of such an opinion can be traced in the South and East. Thus, in the South, the share of those who think so increased from February to October 2023 from 25% to 58%, in the East - from 19% to 67%.
Graph2. Dynamics of the perception of Russia's margin of safety in the regional dimension
Readiness for territorial concessions depending on how Russia's margin of safety is assessed
It is also important to understand to what extent the assessment of Russia's margin of safety is related to readiness for territorial concessions. As can be seen below, among those who believe in significant Russian resources, there are more who are ready for territorial concessions - 21% compared to 7% among those who believe that Russia is exhausting its resources.
However, even among those who believe that Russia has significant resources for a protracted war, the vast majority (73%) oppose any territorial compromises.
Separately, we note that among residents of the South/East who believe in Russia's significant resources, 29% are ready for territorial concessions, while 66% are against such concessions (among residents of the West/Center who believe in Russia's significant resources, 15% support concessions, and 78% oppose them).
Graph3. Readiness to make territorial concessions depending on whether Russia is believed to be conserving / depleting its resources
A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:
In this research, KIIS studied the attitude of Ukrainians to 4 pro-Russian narratives (we published the results for 3 of them in a press release on October 16, see Dynamics of prevalence of narratives of "split" among the population), and we are publishing the results of the 4th now. Together with the latest results of the KIIS on a significant increase in the share of those who believe that the West is tired of Ukraine and that there are serious conflicts in the country's leadership (and a small but increase in the share of those who believe that the government is ready for unacceptable compromises), a significant increase in belief Russia's "unlimited" resources is also a dangerous trend. The population of the South and East of Ukraine looks especially vulnerable, where the indicators are worse (which, obviously, is primarily a consequence of being close to the front line).
At the same time, at least at this stage, the level of correlation between the answers to the four narratives under study is quite insignificant, and the level of their crystallization into a single (pessimistic) "worldview" is not high. In addition, the level of transformation of pessimistic attitudes into readiness for territorial concessions, although there is, is also not so significant. Thus, among all respondents, 31% did not agree with any narrative, 34% - agreed with only one, 22% - with two, 13% - with three or all four. If among respondents who did not agree with any narrative, 4% support territorial concessions, then among those who agreed with one narrative - 12%, with two narratives - 22%, with three or all four narratives - 29%. At the same time, accordingly, even among those who agree with three or all four narratives, 60% are against any territorial concessions.
That is, we see disturbing trends, but they (at least now) are not evidence of Ukrainians' readiness for "peace" with the enemy. Ukrainians retain confidence in the need to fight on.
Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
Ukrainian society actively discusses various issues related to the internal situation, as well as relations with Western partners. I will read out a couple of statements to you, and you tell me which statement you agree with the most. AFTER THE RESPONDENT CHOOSES THE STATEMENT: You completely agree or rather agree with it? RANDOMIZATION OF READING PAIRS OF STATEMENTS AND "INSIDE" PAIRS OF INDIVIDUAL STATEMENTS
SCALE OF ANSWERS FOR EACH PAIR