Ukraine: Results of the Revolution of Dignity. How have the country and the people changed

The last 2.5 years are among the toughest in Ukrainian history: the Revolution, the occupation of the territory, war, economic crisis … How has it affected thoughts and feelings of Ukrainians?

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The last 2.5 years are among the toughest in Ukrainian history: the Revolution, the occupation of the territory, war, economic crisis… How has it affected thoughts and feelings of Ukrainians? Inna Volosevych from GfK Ukraine has analyzed dozens of polls and come to an unexpected conclusion: Ukrainians demonstrate a high level of patriotism and mutual trust with more optimistic views on the state; while level of public activity and desire to contribute to the development of the country increased.

Introduction

As of 2014 about 6.5 million of people (or 14% of the Ukrainian population[2]) lived in the territories of Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which are currently occupied. Two years after the military conflict started, 1 788 527 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are officially registered in Ukraine[3]. Generally 22%[4] of Ukrainians residing in the government-controlled areas around the country indicate that tragic events in the East of Ukraine and/or Crimea affected them directly.

Economic crisis followed the military conflict: the inflation index constituted 124.9 in 2014 and 143.3 in 2015[5]. Budget cuts and increase in tariffs for  energy and communal services towards full cost recovery levels affected the living standards of the most vulnerable groups which depend on social transfer payments (particularly, pensioners). As a result 19% of Ukrainians had to save on food as of January-March of 2016 (vs.10% as average for 12 months of 2013), and 32% had enough money for food but had to save on buying clothes and other basic needs (vs. 25% in 2013)[6]. The unemployment rate of economically active population increased from 7.3% in 2013 to 10.3% in the first quarter of 2016[7].

Therefore, the central question of this paper is whether the continuous war and the economic recession of 2014-2016 had led to the deterioration of people’s patriotic enthusiasm that had flourished after the succession of the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014. The broader question is – what changes in the Ukrainian society can be traced two years after the Revolution of Dignity and the beginning of the war?

The comparative analysis of the survey data show that a range of social changes had occurred since March 2014. The main transformations in people’s views and attitudes towards institutions, activities, and vectors of country development are outlined below[8].

A rise in national integrity and responsibility

Ukrainian sociologist Iryna Bekeshkina compared 2013-2015 data of annual monitoring surveys from the Institute of Sociology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences[9] and emphasized the following positive changes in the portrait of Ukrainians: 47% of the adults felt proud to be Ukrainians in 2013 comparing to 67% in 2015; 16% felt themselves responsible for the situation in Ukraine in 2013 comparing to 30% in 2015; 26% felt themselves responsible for the situation in their settlement in 2013, comparing to 41% in 2015.

Only 14% of Ukrainians were optimistic and 32% felt hope about  the future of Ukraine in 2013, while in 2015 these figures increased to 23% and 44% respectively[10]

In March 2016 58% of Ukrainians believed that membership in the EU would be good for Ukraine and 28% disagreed with that comparing to 48% and 43% in December 2013 respectively[4]. These figures remained stable throughout 2014-2016. Therefore, European integration is not a situational changeable choice, but constant value for Ukrainians.

Increasing of civic engagement

In October 2015, 41% of Ukrainians reported rising personal readiness for donation within the last 2 years (vs. 12% who reported decreasing readiness), 33% of Ukrainians reported on increasing readiness to protect their rights, freedom and dignity (vs. 8% of those whose readiness decreased), 22% reported on increasing readiness to volunteer (vs. 12%), 20% reported on increasing readiness to participate in the affairs of local community (vs.12%), 18% reported on increasing readiness to join civil society organizations (vs. 12%)[11].

23% of Ukrainians made donations to charity in 2012, comparing to 41% who did that in 2014, and to 47% in 2015. Such increase is especially significant considering impoverishment of the population as described above in the introduction. At the same time the increase in the share of volunteers during the last 5 years was not such drastic: 10% of Ukrainians volunteered within a year prior to the survey in 2012 and 13% did that in 2015[12].

However, if instead of asking about “volunteering” (which is rather new term for Ukraine and is associated mainly with support to the army) we asked “whether you spend spare time helping others or performing socially useful works”, then 54% of urban citizens confirmed doing so in 2011 comparing to 69% in 2014[13]. According to both abovementioned surveys, the share of volunteers/those who spend spare time helping others or performing socially useful works is the highest among the youth aged below 30 years old.

Unfortunately, civic engagement of Ukrainians is limited mostly to donating money for helping the army and vulnerable groups. Specifically, 65% of those who donated and/or volunteered did that for the Ukrainian army, while others were engaged mainly in helping vulnerable groups of people[12]. The participation in civic activities as tools of citizen interaction with authorities decreased in 2016: 20% of urban citizens participated in at least one of the activities (listed in Graph 1) in 2013 comparing to 14% of such people in 2016[14]However, there is a huge potential for increasing of citizens’ engagement. The interest towards all activities from the list increased significantly from only 26% of those interested in participation in at least one of activities in 2013 to 48% in 2015. Moreover, the share of those who would like to know more about at least one of the tools of interaction with the authorities increased from 26% in 2013 to 31% in 2016.

Graph 1. Participation and interest towards civic activities as tools of citizen interaction with authorities

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Source: Public opinion survey to assess the changes in citizens` awareness of civil society organization and their activities was conducted by GfK Ukraine for UNITER project / Pact Inc. in April 2013 and April 2016, sample was representative to population of cities 100 000 + of Ukraine and constituted N=1200 in 2013 and N = 794 in 2016 (total sample in 2016 was nationally representative and constituted 2000 respondents, subsample of 794 was extracted for comparison with 2013 data).

Rising of trust

The trust to compatriots increased from 45% in 2013 to 52% in 2015. As for the social institutions, the highest trust is observed towards volunteers (59% in 2015), followed by church (50%), Army (22% in 2013 vs 41% in 2015) and civil society organizations (18% in 2013 and 34% in 2015)[10]. “Volunteers” were added in the list of social institutions only in 2015 because of large-scale involvement of people in helping army through volunteers. As of September 2014, 30% of the population of Ukraine supported army through volunteers.[15]

The trust to mass media decreased from 37% in 2013 to 19% in 2015[10], but this can be viewed as a positive trend reflecting increase of understanding that owners of the main TV channels are politically connected and therefore may produce some biased information – TV remains the main source of news and information on current events for the majority of Ukrainians[16].

The trust to authorities is still low in 2016, although it is higher than in 2013, before the start of the Revolution of Dignity. The data is presented in Graph 2: 23% of Ukrainians trusted local authorities in June 2016 (vs. 16% in September 2013), 16% trusted the President (vs. 14% in 2013, however, trust to former President Viktor  Yanukovych constituted 2% in March 2014), 10% trusted each of three branches of power, specifically Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers and the judicial branch (vs. 5%, 8% and 7% in 2013, respectively[17], the latter will hopefully increase due to the adoption of the new law on judicial reform on June 2, 2016 because in March 2016 the level of trust was still 6%).

Graph 2. The share of population which trust the authorities

graph2-1

Source: The data for 2013 and 2014 is based on GfK Ukraine regular “Omnibus” monthly survey data. The data for 2016 is from National public opinion survey for USAID FAIR Justice Project performed by GfK Ukraine.

Although current President Petro Poroshenko elected in May 2014 is the only President in the history of Ukraine elected in one round by the majority of voters (55%), there is a significant decrease of trust to him within two years. It is a standard trend of perception for all five presidents elected during 25 years of Ukraine’s independence. Regardless of economic conditions during the presidency, Ukrainians lost trust to the presidents quite fast: Leonid  Kravchuk, the first President of independent Ukraine, had 16% of trust in 1994 before leaving the office, the second President Leonid Kuchma left with 15% in 2004[10], and Viktor Yushchenko elected after the “Orange Revolution”[18] left with 19% of support[19] in 2010. As mentioned above, only 2% trusted Viktor Yanukovych after the Revolution of Dignity.

A fall in electoral activity

Patriotism and civil activity did not transform into political activity – voter turnout was somewhat lower during all elections held in 2014-2015 (presidential, parliamentary and local) than in 2010-2012. According to the Central Electoral Commission the turnout was 66.7% in the first round of the presidential elections in 2010 compared to 60.2% in 2014; it was 57.9% in the parliamentary elections in 2012 compared to 52.4% in 2014, and it was 48.7% in the local elections in 2010 compared to 46.5% in 2015. The most significant decrease in the voter turnout at parliamentary elections was observed among those aged 18-29 years old (19% of those who voted in 2012 compared to 17% in 2014) and those aged 60+ (27% and 25%, respectively)[20]. A fall in turnover of those aged 60+ can be explained by the elimination of political parties/candidates preferred by this age group before, specifically the Party of Regions led by former President Viktor Yanukovych, and the Communist party. A decrease of voter turnout among youth is the long-lasting trend observed since 2006 when 57% of this age group voted in parliamentary elections, which declined to 47% in 2012, and 35% in 2014[21]. At the same time, youth is the most educated age category: 54% of youth have higher or incomplete higher education compared to 40% of total population, and  tend to use TV as a source of news to a lesser extent than total population (77% vs. 87%, respectively), prefers Internet as a source of news more often than the total population (57% use Internet sites and 34% use social media compared to 35% and 20% among total population, respectively)[22].

Conclusion

Despite the continuous war and economic recession Ukrainians demonstrate higher patriotism, optimism, civic responsibility, and civic activity in 2014-2016 compared to pre-war situation. However, civic activity did not transform into political activity – low voter turnout (especially among people aged 18-29 which constitute the most active and educated category) and voting in line with populist TV ads or receiving “gifts” for proper voting[23] are important factors of slow replacement of political elite and slow pace of progressive reforms. Transforming increased civic responsibility into political responsibility can be achieved through facilitating citizen’s interaction with the authorities. There is immense potential for increasing citizens’ engagement in this sphere: 48% of the population of big cities was interested in different tools of influence on authorities in April 2016 (vs. 26% in 2013) whereas only 14% participated in such activities (see Graph 1).

Ukrainians might learn different tools of influence on the authorities and improving living conditions in local communities after decentralization and housing reforms which are currently implemented through taking the responsibility for managing the local life, particularly in apartment blocks. The application of tools of public control over the local authorities, homeowner associations, housing management companies can drive the voters’ control over the central authorities, particularly through participation in elections. Moreover, increase of Internet penetration might foster the rise of independent media and result in the voting on the basis of the analysis of the information about candidates’ achievements and programs outlined in the independent media.

Notes:

[1] The Revolution of Dignity is the general name of mass protests in Ukraine that took place during November 2013 – February 2014, and resulted in the change of presidential power when the President Viktor Yanukovych, his family and the closest allies escaped from the country.
[2] State Statistics Service of Ukraine data as of 01.01.2014
[3] Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine data as of 29.06.2016
[4] National public opinion survey for USAID FAIR Justice Project performed by GfK Ukraine in June 2016. Nationally representative sample = 2600.
[5] Ministry of Finance of Ukraine data
[6] GfK Ukraine regular survey “Omnibus”, monthly nationally representative sample N=1000 (quarterly sample = 3000, annual sample = 12000).
[7] Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine data
[8] Occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are not included in official statistics of 2014-2016, and were not covered by the surveys of 2014-2016 cited in this article. Conducting the surveys on political topics on occupied territories via face-to-face method is very dangerous both for interviewers and respondents. GfK Ukraine conducted the surveys of the population on occupied territories on political topics via phone interview method, but the results of such surveys should be treated with caution because of political persecutions on these territories. Excluding the data on currently occupied territories from the pre-war surveys in order to have the same geography for comparison is problematic because the names or the villages and small towns are usually not indicated in the databasеs. That’s why the presented trends reflect both the results of public opinion transformation and of changes of the territory where the data is collected.
[9] The interview is available on Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF) web-site
[10] The annual monograph issued by the Institute of Sociology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (IS NANU) is titled “The Ukrainian society: sociological monitoring”, the issue published in 2015 is available via the link, the issue from 2013 is available here
[11] Nationally representative survey conducted by DIF and Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in October 2015, N=2040, the press-release is available here
[12] Nationally representative survey “Charity and volunteering in Ukraine” conducted by DIF and Razumkov Centre Sociological Service for Ukrainian Charity Forum in November 2015, N=2009, the press-release is available via the link
[13] GfK Roper Reports Worldwide survey, sample is representative to urban population of Ukraine, N=1000 in June 2011 and June 2014.
[14] The decrease in participation referred only to public hearings, engaging in commenting police and participation in peaceful assemblies. That might be explained with the fact that the practice of organizing prepaid and pocket “hearings” and “assemblies” was common before 2013, and this practice could pervert the figures on participation in these activities.
[15] The survey was conducted for the UNITER project /Pact Inc. by GfK Ukraine, nationally representative sample = 2000.
[16] According to GfK Ukraine regular “Omnibus” monthly survey data from April 2016, 87% of Ukrainians mentioned TV as the main source of information, 35% – Internet sites except for social media, and 20% – newspapers and social media each. At the same time Internet penetration is increasing – 50% of Ukrainians used Internet in the last quarter of 2013 comparing to 60% in March 2016.
[17] The data for 2013 and 2014 is based on GfK Ukraine regular “Omnibus” monthly survey data. The data for 2016 is from National public opinion survey for USAID FAIR Justice Project performed by GfK Ukraine.
[18] Non-violent protests against the falsification of the presidential elections in November 2004-January 2005 when Viktor Yanukovych was proclaimed the President after two rounds, but then lost to Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition candidate, after the third round which was scheduled after the falsifications of the second round were revealed.
[19] The dynamic of support of Viktor Yushchenko is displayed with the survey data of 2000-2013 collected by Razumkov Center, the data is available online via the link
[20] Balakireva O.M., Bondar T.V., Dmytruk D.A. Electoral orientations and voter’s behavior during the elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine on October 26, 2014” in “Ukrainskyi Sotcium”, issue 4 (51). The paper is available in Ukrainian here
[21] The press-release from DIF conference on parliamentary elections and the role of exit-poll results is available via the link:
[22] GfK Ukraine regular “Omnibus” survey, April 2016 wave, nationally representative sample N=1000.
[23] Only 2 of 84 Members of Parliament who were elected both in 2012 and 2014 in their majoritarian districts did not engage in any “charitable” activity (which actually meant direct or indirect buying of voices). Source: Konieczna-Sałamatin J., Pryshchepa K. The efficiency of patronage mechanisms in post-Maidan Ukraine. Presentation at 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology, July 10-14, 2016, Vienna. Abstract is available via link


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The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations