Russian mass media have overlooked the public opinion poll conducted in Ukraine by International Republican Institute (USA)* mentioning it just in brief news. Even in Ukraine, most of mass media have hushed it up.
The survey was conducted by GFK, Ukraine, on November 15 – December 14, 2017. A total of 2,400 respondents were polled on the basis of representative selection. Additional polls were conducted in Mariupol, Nikolayev, Khmelnitsky, and Dnepr (Dnepropetrovsk). Respondents were asked to assess the political and social-and-economic situation in the country.
Although the poll was ordered by an American organization that could hardly be suspected in pro-Russian views, the results of the survey were published mostly by opposition mass media (such as Strana.ua, editor-in-chief of this website has recently asked political asylum in Austria) and by some non-mainstream regional newspapers and websites. It is natural, as the poll revealed total discontent of Ukrainians with their lives and the policy of the country, as well as disastrous decline of the president’s approval rating.
“Unsatisfactory mark” to Kiev government
76% of the polled assessed negatively President Petro Poroshenko’s activity. Only 3% of the polled Ukrainians were fully satisfied with the president’s activity, 12% were partially satisfied, whereas 9% could not give any answer to that question for various reasons.
75% gave a negative assessment of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s work. A similar percentage of people were dissatisfied with former-governor of Odessa region Mikheil Saakashvili. 70% were dissatisfied with the activity of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and leader of Batkivshchyna party. 82% of the polled citizens were discontented at the activity of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and 81% - at the work of Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
For comparison, activity of Opposition Bloc leader Yuri Boyko was negatively assessed by 67% of the interrogated whereas 62% of the polled were discontented at the work of Olexandr Vilkul, another influential member of the Opposition Block.
Life has become totally unbearable
The greatest part of the population is unhappy with the current situation in the country.
71% of the polled said the country moves in the wrong direction.
66% said the economic situation in the country has deteriorated during the last year. Another 24% believe that the situation has not changed, and only 6% see some improvements.
Individual wellbeing of the citizens was assessed almost the same way. 64% of the polled are sure their life has become worse, about 7% see some improvements, while 26% see no changes absolutely.
Only 11% of the polled Ukrainians are optimistic about their future, whereas 42% of the citizens anticipate deterioration of the situation and 26% expect no changes at all.
The major problems for 69% of the polled are price hikes. As to challenges the country is facing, 48% of the polled citizens call corruption a big national problem.
Political verdict for Poroshenko
President Petro Poroshenko was very unhappy with the elections-related part of the poll. According to American political analysts and their Ukrainian assistants, 8% of Ukrainians are ready to vote for Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, 6% - for Opposition Bloc, another 5% - for the opposition political party For Life and another 5% - for Petro Poroshenko Bloc. No other force overcomes the threshold to the parliament. Civil Position right-liberal party has come close to the threshold.
Actually, Yulia Tymoshenko appears to be Petro Poroshenko’s only potential ally in the new hypothetical parliament. These two are waging a cold war now. Even if Tymoshenko agrees to cooperate in exchange for the prime minister’s post, things will not go smoothly anyway.
The point is that a significant part of residents in the southeast of Ukraine, where Opposition Bloc and For Life parties called “separatist” by Ukrainian nationals are more popular, refused to answer the questions of the interviewers, saying they are still not sure about their choice. One does not need to be a professional sociologist to guess who will get most of these votes.
In such situation, the parties popular in the southeast of Ukraine may reach the finish of the election campaign “neck to neck” with the forces representing the northwest.
Foreign policy of Ukraine
Although the support to European integration has decreased dramatically over the last three years, most of Ukrainians still prefer pro-European foreign policy.
50% of the polled came out for integration with EU. This is a record-breaking low indicator since Crimea’s unification with Russia. For comparison, in September 2014, 59% of Ukrainians supported European integration.
As regards the supporters of accession to the Customs Union or other Eurasian union, 16% of the polled supported Eurasian integration in December 2017, though 24% did not answer this question. Therefore, the real indicator may be different due to statistical errors.
Assessing the situation per region, the situation is as follows: 76% of residents in West Ukraine, 43% in the South and 23% in the East are for European integration. Noteworthy that in the East, the number of supporters of the economic union with Russia exceeds the number of pro-European residents and totals 30%. Evidently, we again deal with sociological rule here: in case of an armed conflict or repressions, most of the people have non-mainstream views, but conceal them.
37% of Ukrainians welcome the idea of joining NATO, whereas 26% openly oppose the alliance. The other polled citizens avoided displaying their views for various reasons. In the south and east of Ukraine, there are much more opponents than supporters of NATO.
The percentage of anti-Russian Ukrainians has decreased for the first time. It made up 48% as against 66% in September 24. It was residents of the territories controlled by Kiev.
What to read between lines?
The first and most evident conclusion from the poll results is that in Ukraine “refrigerator is gradually winning TV.” Amid growing poverty and “visa free” travel to Poland to work at meat factories, fewer and fewer Ukrainians believe in the mantra about “aggression,” “assistance of partners,” “economic growth” and “Europe.”
Most of the people who believed in European prospects and Russian “aggression” in 2014 have turned their back to Petro Poroshenko, but have not joined the voters of the parties labeled as “pro-Russian ones” by Kiev government. Here is why 50% of the polled came out for European integration – they no longer trust Poroshenko and Groysman, but they still strive for Europe. How will these disappointed people vote? Politicians representing southeast may try to knock them into sense, but it is most likely that they will not vote at all or will vote for a new liberal party ready to offer European integration without Bandera and vyshyvanka parade.
In southeast, pro-Russian, anti-NATO sentiments and Euroscepticism are growing, but after Crimea and Donbass, the southeast began to yield to northwest almost 1.5-fold demographically. The former Party of the Regions may get a chance to return only in case of mass migration of people from Western Ukraine to Europe. Otherwise, in a couple of years, the issue of political future of the southeast may become relevant again with intensification of protest moods.
There is something that can be told with a 99% confidence - Petro Poroshenko is a political corpse. 5% of electoral support is an absolute anti-record for the incumbent president of Ukraine (since independence of Ukraine). At present, Poroshenko retains power even not through PR-campaigns, but through enforcement. This cannot continue for long.
*International Republican Institute (USA) is an organization deemed undesirable in Russia.