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UKRAINIAN SUPPORT FOR NATO AND DEMAND FOR INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY REACH RECORD HIGHS
The survey was conducted by KIIS on the request of NDI. Publication prepared by NDI
The presentation with the results can be downloaded here.
On February 24, 2022, the world watched as Russia launched its full-scale invasion, with the aim of toppling Ukraine’s government and erasing from the map a democratic nation whose very existence Vladimir Putin has denied. More than a year later, Ukraine remains steadfast in the face of unrelenting violence and terror. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted nationwide polling in May 2022, August 2022, January 2023, and most recently in May 2023 to assess Ukrainian public opinion on a range of topics related to the war, the geopolitical climate and Ukrainians’ hopes for the future. The comparison of the polling over the past year reveals a portrait of Ukrainian resilience that is both inspiring and sobering.
The price of war, resilience and the fight for democratic values is at record levels.
The number of Ukrainians reporting that they have lost a friend or family member has more than doubled, from 20 percent in May 2022 to 47 percent in May 2023. And yet despite continuing to pay this enormous price, Ukrainians remain remarkably resilient and optimistic towards their future and an eventual Ukrainian victory. The percentage of people who are either “very optimistic” or “more optimistic than pessimistic” about Ukraine’s future remained almost constant from May 2022 to May 2023 at 87 percent. When asked to choose one word that makes them optimistic, respondents most often said “victory.”
But how long will this eventual victory take? In May 2022, only 18 percent believed that the war would last over six months.1 In May 2023, 47 percent believed that the war would last at least six months or more. And what does “victory” mean to Ukrainians? Ninety-two percent of Ukrainians report “reclaiming the territory it controlled prior to 2014, including all of Donbas and Crimea” as an acceptable price for peace.
Ukrainians trust their president and their army, but desire to go beyond a strong military to build a strong and inclusive democracy.
Ninety five percent of Ukrainians report trusting the Armed Forces of Ukraine and 80 percent report trusting President Zelenskyy. And while much of the international media’s attention has focused on Ukraine’s requests for additional weapons and equipment from its partners, Ukrainians do not just want a strong military – they want a strong and inclusive democracy. In May 2023, 94 percent of Ukrainians reported that it is important that Ukraine becomes a fully functioning democracy, with no statistically significant difference across regions (West, Center/North, South, and East). NDI has been asking this question for a number of years and has never seen a figure this high. By comparison, when asked the same question in December 2021, only 76 percent of Ukrainians said that it was “important” or “very important” that Ukraine become a fully functioning democracy.
Ukrainians desire for democracy is not superficial or convenient but rather rooted in real understanding and commitment. They were able to name widely accepted attributes of a “fully functioning democracy, such as “equal justice for all”, which was chosen by 64 percent. This genuine belief in democratic values is also reflected in the increasing majorities of Ukrainians that believe that LGBTQI+ people should have the same rights as others. Sixty-five percent reported that they agreed with that statement in May 2023 compared with 58 percent in January 2023.
Support for joining NATO and the EU is at an all-time high.
Ukrainians are clear that the country needs its allies’ help to emerge from this horrific war in order to become a stronger, more inclusive and vibrant democracy. In May 2023, 92 percent reported that they want Ukraine to become a member state of the European Union (EU), and 89 percent reported that they want to become a member of NATO – steady increases from one year ago. In addition, seventy-three percent of Ukrainians said that international organizations, Western countries or international businesses should play a major role in overseeing Ukraine’s reconstruction process.
Trust in the government and its efforts to fight corruption remains high.
Trust in the government’s role also remains relatively high with 80 percent agreeing that the government will deploy funding for reconstruction in the regions that need it the most, and a majority saying that the government will involve different political parties, prevent corruption and use funding for reconstruction effectively. In NDI’s poll about 32% said they trust their government, represented by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, to fight corruption. 64 percent report trusting journalists to contribute to the fight against corruption, a level of trust not vested in any other sector. This demonstrates that the spirit of the Revolution of Dignity, along with its demands for reforms, transparency and accountability remain alive and well even during the wartime context.
Ukrainians are paying an unimaginable price to fight for their victory and for their democratic future. International partners should be prepared to do their part to support Ukraine in a manner aligned with public opinion: by supporting not only its military, but its ongoing reform processes, by empowering local civil society and independent media in their roles, and by assisting with an inclusive recovery and reconstruction effort in the post-war environment.
Also below some summary results:
The number of Ukrainians who want to join NATO – as well as the European Union – is growing. NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg has commented that "NATO's door is open" for Ukraine to join the alliance, and recent discussions have centered on lowering the threshold for entry. From May 2022 to May 2023 the percentage of Ukrainians wanting to join NATO increased from 73 to almost 90%. The number ‘expecting’ to join went from approximately 65 to 85 percent. Similarly, Ukrainians remain steadfast in their desire to join the European Union, with both ‘want’ and ‘expect’ numbers close to 90%. Ukraine’s increased commitment to EU-centric values, such as support for LGBTQI+ rights and fighting corruption, demonstrate the country’s dedication to becoming a full member of the union.
After more than a year of war and atrocities, Ukrainians do not believe Russia will negotiate in good faith. Five months into the war in May 2022, 59% of respondents were open to peace negotiations with Russia. By May 2023, those in favor of negotiations had dropped to 33% and those against negotiations had increased to 63%.
Ukrainians are confident in the country’s ability to root out corruption. Ukrainians trust their government, represented by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), to fight corruption. At least since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Ukrainians have called for corruption arrests at the highest levels. Shortly after NDI’s poll was fielded, NABU investigated and detained the President of the Ukrainian Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniazev. He is accused of taking a bribe equivalent to $3 million USD, making it one of the highest profile and highest dollar cases ever. In NDI’s poll about 32% said they trust NABU, slightly less than those trusting muckraking journalists and civil society anti-corruption groups.
Despite the relentless nighttime bombing – especially of Kyiv over the last few months – Ukrainians morale and belief in victory remains unchanged. Ukrainians now expect the war to last longer, but their morale and belief in victory remains unchanged. In May 2023, 47% of respondents expect at least six more months of war, compared to 18% in May 2022. In the latest poll, 44% said they had lost friends and family, up from 20% in May 2022. In the past year, the number of those optimistic about the future has remained virtually unchanged. When asked to name the reason for their optimism, ‘victory’ was mentioned most.
Support for LGBTQI+ rights is rising, especially as members of the community continue to serve in the military. In the May 2023 poll, the numbers supporting equal rights for LGBTQI+ people continued to rise from an all time high documented in NDI’s last survey in January 2023. Overall support is now close to 65%. A civil partnerships bill has also advanced in parliament this year. Russia’s war against Ukraine and western values has dramatically increased the commitment of Ukrainians to democratic principles. This commitment has also slowly expanded to include equal rights for all members of Ukrainian society. As the war has progressed, LGBTQI+ members of the military have become increasingly visible.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.