ESC or click to close
Press releases and reports
Perception index of the Russian-Ukrainian war: results of a telephone survey conducted on May 19-24, 2022
Press release prepared by KIIS Deputy Director Anton Hrushetskyi
During May 19-24, 2022, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion poll "Omnibus". By the method of computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) based on a random sample of mobile telephone numbers (with random generation of telephone numbers and subsequent statistical weighing) were interviewed 2009 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except AR of Crimea). The survey was conducted with adult (aged 18 and older) citizens of Ukraine who at the time of the survey lived in Ukraine (within the limits controlled by the Ukrainian authorities until February 24, 2022). The sample did not include residents of territories that were temporarily not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities until February 24, 2022 (AR of Crimea, Sevastopol, some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions), and the survey was not conducted with citizens who went abroad 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 to 5%. Under the conditions of the war, in addition to this formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added, but the results obtained still remain highly representative and allow a fairly reliable analysis of public moods. Please see below for additional comments on the factors that influence the conduct of opinion polls in the military conditions.
Experience in studying the prevalence of Russian narratives in Ukrainian society
Russia's occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as the outbreak of hostilities in the Donbas against Ukraine in 2014, have shown an important role in the spread of Russian propaganda and disinformation. A large part of the Ukrainian audience (not to mention the population of Western countries), especially against the background of the dramatic events of the Revolution of Dignity, was receptive to the narratives that were aggressively promoted by Russia.
A number of researches suggest that behavior may be influenced not so much by an objective situation as by its subjective perception. To a large extent in Ukraine, the perception of the situation is formed under the influence of the media (with until recently the unconditional dominance of television). In early 2014, in particular, the Russian and pro-Russian media showed a picture with "great" support for separatist movements. In fact, this narrative crashed into the real mood of the population. In April 2014, KIIS commissioned the “Dzerkalo tyzhnia” conducted a survey in each of the regions of the South and East (except Crimea), in particular, covering the full range of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The survey examined both the prevalence of pro-Russian narratives and support for the secession of their regions from Ukraine. Even in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, only 28% and 30%, respectively, supported secession from Ukraine, and 52% did not. In other oblasts, support was even lower - no more than 16%, in particular, in Kherson oblast - only 4%, in Zaporizhia oblast - only 6%. However, Russia's aggressive media activities both in Ukraine and abroad have briskly promoted the narratives it needs, and even in Ukraine many could believe in the "overwhelming" support of separatists in some regions.
In 2015, KIIS conducted a survey to calculate the Index of effectiveness of Russian propaganda, which was based on a chain of judgments actively promoted by Russia. Despite the fact that the war had been going on for about a year, 11% of respondents were in favor of Russian narratives, in particular, in the East - 36% (a few years later we did not see an improvement in the situation). After 2014-2015, in fact, there were a number of positive changes in public moods, which manifested itself, in particular, in a sharp decline in positive attitudes towards Russia. However, at the beginning of February 2022, 34% of Ukrainians still maintained a positive attitude towards Russia. A series of KIIS studies commissioned by “Detektor media” showed that pro-Russian narratives, although became less common after the Revolution of Dignity, but remained prominent in Ukraine (often supported by some politicians and the media). The last of these researches focused on the South and the East, which showed a not very iridescent situation in these regions. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the population of the South and East advocated the unity of Ukraine.
Now, after a full-scale invasion, we consider it important to monitor pro-Russian narratives, the sources of their dissemination, public perception and, of course, opposition to them. At the initial stage, we conducted our own all-Ukrainian survey, which studied the population's interpretations of certain aspects of the perception of war. The results are given below, but it is expedient to consider them as a certain introduction to further activities and we hope that in the future a wider range of stakeholders will allow to go to greater depth and usefulness for Ukrainian society. We call on disinformation and advocacy professionals, media experts, sociologists and other social scientists to act as a united front to thoroughly study and tackle the problem.
Perception of certain aspects of the Russian-Ukrainian war
We have identified 8 pairs of statements that describe various aspects of Russia's war against Ukraine. In each pair, one statement corresponded to the pro-Russian position, the other to the pro-Ukrainian position. The respondent had to choose one of the statements and to what extent he agrees with it (see detailed description in Annex 1). Table 1 below shows the distribution of responses, how many respondents chose a particular statement in each pair.
As can be seen, in 7 out of 8 cases, at least 85% of respondents said they shared a pro-Ukrainian position. In the same pairs, no more than 8-9% adhered to the pro-Russian interpretation. However, although 8-9% may seem small, but in fact in absolute terms it is about 2 million citizens of Ukraine.
In essence, this means that at least 85% of respondents believe that there is no oppression of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine (in particular, 85% of ethnic Russians and 90% of Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine), that Ukraine has its own long history of formation and statehood (and not is an "artificial" creation of Soviet power) that Western powers did not want and did not provoke Ukraine to war against Russia, that the idea of "Nazis" in power in Ukraine is a fabrication that the war began because of Russia's desire to conquer Ukraine (and not because of fair claims) that Russian troops are deliberately attacking civilian infrastructure and civilians, that the Russian military is primarily to blame for the destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties.
Relatively little agreement on the ideas what are the aspirations of the people of Donbas. However, even in this case, 73% believe that the majority of Donbas residents want to remain part of Ukraine (it is noteworthy that as many - 73% - Donbas residents themselves say that the majority wants to stay in Ukraine), and 17% think that the majority wants to join to Russia or be independent.
In Annex 2, the data are presented in terms of regions (West, Center, South, East), as well as in terms of place of residence of respondents - in the occupation or in the territories controlled by Ukraine. Here we can note that the South and the East are also completely pro-Ukrainian. In addition, although pro-Russian narratives are more visible among respondents in the occupied territories, the vast majority of them have a pro-Ukrainian stance.
Perception of various aspects of the Russian-Ukrainian war
Additionally performed factor analysis showed that the answers to these 8 pairs of statements are closely correlated, i.e. behind these answers is one factor that actually corresponds to the pro-Ukrainian-pro-Russian interpretation of events. The answers to these 8 pairs can be reduced to a single index, which will vary from 0 - complete commitment to pro-Russian moods to 100 - complete commitment to pro-Ukrainian moods. According to the obtained score, 5 groups of respondents can also be distinguished - from those who have an unequivocally pro-Russian position, to those who have an unequivocally pro-Ukrainian position.
According to the survey, the average score for Ukraine as a whole is 90. For the West / Center - 99, for the South - 95, for the East - 93. Distribution by groups for Ukraine as a whole: pro-Ukrainian position - 85%, mostly pro-Ukrainian position - 12% ( together 97%), intermediate estimates - 2%, mostly pro-Russian position - 1%, pro-Russian - 0%. In the regional distribution from 93% in the East to 99% in the West, respondents have mostly or entirely pro-Ukrainian position (and 80-90% have a completely pro-Ukrainian position). In the West and in the Center there are almost no respondents with a predominantly or entirely pro-Russian position, in the South - 2%, in the East – 4%.
Such indicators are very optimistic for Ukraine (they will remain high, even given the lower sincerity of respondents - see the methodological comment below), especially since by February 2022 in Ukraine there was a significant predominance of pro-Russian narratives. A number of measures after 2014, such as the suspension of Russian TV channels, the closure of access to Russian social networks, the closure of pro-Russian TV channels in Ukraine, the activities of a number of organizations to counter disinformation and propaganda, could lead to significant positive changes in the long run, but there were no significant changes in the short term. It is worth recalling once again that in early February, 34% of Ukrainians had a good attitude towards Russia. Earlier in 2020, according to one of the indices, 45% of the population could be included in those who had national-patriotic orientations (with a clear regional division). Now, in fact, there has been a significant shift in public sentiment, especially in the South and East, and it is "due" to the treachery and cruelty of Russia and the Russians. Among those who treated Russia well in February, 80% already have a bad attitude. If at the end of 2021 75% of Ukrainians treated ordinary Russians well, now 82% treat them badly. That is, the obvious facts of aggression and cruelty (and for many residents of the South and East - literally with their own eyes) became exactly the argument that convinced a number of Ukrainian citizens in the true essence of modern Russia.
Graph 1. Index of perception of the Russian-Ukrainian war
It is also important to see that among the respondents currently living in the occupied territories, 81% hold mostly or entirely pro-Ukrainian positions (including 68% hold entirely pro-Ukrainian positions). 9% hold pro-Russian positions. At the same time, almost all respondents who left the occupied territories adhere to pro-Ukrainian views.
Graph 2. Index of perception of the Russian-Ukrainian war depending on where the respondent currently lives
A. Hrushetskyi. Methodical 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 lack of a census for more than 20 years). Full-scale war, of course, greatly affects the representativeness and complicates the work of sociologists, but does not make it impossible. Access to reliable data on the state of mood in society remains relevant both for Ukrainians themselves and for our foreign partners (who, as events of the last 3 months have shown, often underestimated and misunderstood Ukraine and Ukrainians).
At the same time, in order to maintain objectivity, it is necessary to understand the limitations of the war on the conduct of opinion polls. First of all, we pay attention to large-scale population movements. Before the start of the field phase, according to the UN, it was estimated that about 6 million Ukrainians - adults and children - left Ukraine. There are no exact figures on how many of them are adults, but it is likely to be about half. Accordingly, among about 30 million adult citizens (estimated at the time of the full-scale invasion), about 10% have gone abroad, and it is not possible to provide a reliable survey of these citizens by telephone interviews. Even more citizens have become internally displaced persons, but they have a much lower impact on the quality of telephone surveys, as almost all of them have mobile phones and are eligible to participate in the survey (in fact, 15% of respondents are IDPs).
Another important issue is the reachability for surveying population of the territories occupied after February 24, 2022, due to the intensification of hostilities or telephone interruptions. Experience of conducting survey shows that most of the occupied territories have the technical ability to contact and interview residents (of course, if they feel safe). In total, 4% of respondents at the time of the interview lived in the occupied territories (and another 3% lived until February 24, 2022 in the settlements that were occupied, but left them for the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities). In the case of territories with active hostilities, they cover a small percentage of the total population of Ukraine (although we can not forget the tragic situation in which these people found themselves). In addition, a significant part of the population of the occupied territories and territories with hostilities, moved to safer places in the territory controlled by the authorities of Ukraine (or abroad). Accordingly, most likely, no more than 1-2% of the adult population of Ukraine are unreachable for the survey due to these factors.
In our opinion, a more significant impact on representativeness may have either a lower willingness to participate in polls of citizens with "pro-Russian" moods, or the insincerity of those who still took part in the poll (given the obvious facts and prevailing views in the media about the Russian invasion , some citizens "publicly" do not want to say what they really think). If we talk about the general willingness of respondents to participate in the survey, in recent surveys we see either the same indicators or slightly lower (although it should be borne in mind that lower willingness to participate in "pro-Russian" set up citizens may be offset by higher willingness to participate in "pro-Ukrainian" set up citizens).
We conducted a small methodological experiment, which shows that the citizens who are currently participating in the polls on demographic characteristics and meaningful moods are close to those who participated in the polls before February 24, 2022. Previously, we see some shift towards "pro-Ukrainian" set up citizens, which affects up to 4-6% deviations for separate questions (towards more frequent selection of answers that correspond to the "pro-Ukrainian" interpretation of events). In our opinion, this is a very optimistic indicator in the current conditions. However, this experiment does not answer how sincere the respondents are in their answers now.
Given our own observations and experience of conducting surveys over the years, we still remain optimistic that most respondents answer questions sincerely. In addition, we assume that the demographic categories of citizens who have gone abroad and are inaccessible for telephone interviews, at least now, do not differ significantly in a number of meaningful moods from similar demographic categories of citizens who remained in Ukraine.
As a result, in our opinion, we should talk about some decrease in representativeness and increase in error (in addition to the previously mentioned formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added due to the above factors), but the results still remain highly representative and allow to analyze public moods of population.
Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
Now in the information space there are many versions and explanations of events. I will read you a couple of statements, and you tell me which statement you agree with to the greatest extent. AFTER THE RESPONDENT CHOOSES A STATEMENT: You completely agree or rather agree with it? RANDOMIZATION OF READING PAIRS OF STATEMENTS AND "INSIDE" PAIRS OF INDIVIDUAL STATEMENTS
Annex 2. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
Which of these statements about possible compromises for peace with Russia do you agree with to a greater extent? RANDOMIZATION OF READING
(% among all respondents)
In terms of where the respondent lives
 The composition of macroregions is as follows: Western macroregion - Volyn, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Chernivtsi regions; Central macroregion - Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Kyiv regions, Kyiv city, Southern macroregion - Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Odesa regions, Eastern macroregion - Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.