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Feasibility of liberating Crimea by military means: results of a telephone survey conducted on February 22-March 6, 2023

The press release was prepared by the Executive Director of KIIS, Anton Hrushetskyi


From February 22 to March 6, 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), 2,007 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 to 5%.

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 communication, we managed to interview only 3 respondents (out of 2007) 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.


Is it worth taking a risk by liberating Crimea by military means 


The absolute majority of Ukrainians consider any territorial concessions to achieve peace unacceptable. According to the latest data of KIIS, only 9% are generally ready for concessions, although 87% of Ukrainians are against any concessions. However, this question was asked in general about "territorial concessions", without specifying the territories and possible "compromise" proposals. At the same time, we often hear opinions in the West that the issue of Crimea is "special". "Between the lines" (and in some places more directly) you can see the opinion that the West can press the levers of influence to stop the Ukrainian liberation of Crimea.

In the context of these discussions, the famous British scientist Timothy Garton Ash offered the KIIS to ask another question about the possible military liberation of Crimea. Respondents were offered two scenarios, one of which included helping the West to liberate and reliably protect all territories, including Donbas, but without Crimea. According to this scenario, Ukraine refrains from military liberation. The second scenario is attempts at the military liberation of Crimea, but with the understanding that the West may reduce aid and the war may drag on.

As can be seen, really, in such an approach, the space for finding "compromises" expands and more people are ready to accept this format of actions. However, along with this the majority of respondents - 64% - believe that Ukraine should try to liberate the entire territory, including Crimea, even if there is a risk of a decrease in support from the West and a risk of a longer war. In contrast, 24% are more inclined to the option that in exchange for the liberation and protection of all territories with Donbas (but not Crimea), Ukraine can refrain from military actions in Crimea.

Graph1. Which do you more agree with?


In the graph below, the data are shown in the regional dimension. In all regions, the vast majority insist on the liberation of all territories, including Crimea. Support for the "compromise" is no more than 27%, depending on the region.


Graph2. Feasibility of the military liberation of Crimea in the regional dimension



A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:


After February 24, 2022, KIIS (like other reputable sociological companies) conducted dozens of all-Ukrainian surveys, in which various customers - Western scientists, analysts, journalists, etc. - often tried to "feel" the limits of acceptable compromises for Ukrainians in various formulations and methods. One still gets the impression that the real goal of some commentators is not a fair end to the war, but to find "just the right" wording in which Ukrainians would "voluntarily" give up at least certain territories.

However, the results of surveys by KIIS and other companies are unanimous: regardless of the wording of the questions, Ukrainians are simply not interested in "peace". Ukrainians realize that without additional serious conditions, a simple ceasefire will only postpone further Russian aggression, therefore the struggle must continue and there can be no concessions.

At the same time, additional conditions in favor of Ukraine may push Ukrainians to discuss certain "compromises". It must be understood that the approval of certain "compromises" by the Ukrainian public largely depends on trust in Western partners in their implementation. Although Ukrainians definitely support the movement towards Europe, many Ukrainians also react emotionally to the way the West (often with difficulty) was (and still is) given decisions regarding the supply of weapons and sanctions against Russia (although many Ukrainians are rationally aware of the complex context, in which the Governments of the Western countries operate). How does the uncertainty remain in the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO or convincing "security guarantees". Ukrainians were taught bitterly by the Budapest Memorandum. Therefore, many Ukrainians simply do not yet see for themselves convincing evidence that the West will be able to provide real security guarantees and guarantees in other areas (for example, reconstruction), which would be worth considering in the context of possible "compromises".

However, we see fundamental changes in the attitudes of our partners in the West in favor of Ukraine. That is why we must "beat this rock", continue and deepen cooperation with Western partners - and move together towards Victory and a just peace.


Annex 1. Formulation of question from the questionnaire


Which do you more agree with? RANDOMIZATION OF READING

 (% among all respondents)

% in column Region is defined by the place where the respondent lived before 24/02/22 Total Ukraine West[1] Center South East
We can refrain from trying to liberate Crimea militarily if Ukraine gets a firm Western commitment to help liberate and defend the rest of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, including Donbas 24 17 25 27 26
We should continue to try to liberate all of Ukraine, including Crimea, even if that means a longer war with Russia and diminishing help from the West 68 78 67 62 64
REFUSE (DO NOT READ) 0 0 0 0 1



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 3 respondents out of 2007 surveyed in the second wave. 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.

[1] 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.

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