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How would Ukrainians have voted in the first presidential elections if they found themselves in 1991

The press release was prepared by Anton Hrushetskyi, executive director of KIIS


From November 29 to December 9, 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), 1,031 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except AR 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 Ukrainian authorities 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, city of Sevastopol, certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), and the survey was not conducted with citizens abroad.

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 3.4% for indicators close to 50%, 3.0% for indicators close to 25%, 2.1% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 5%.

Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. KIIS previously cited factors that can affect the quality of results in "wartime" conditions.

In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative for the population of Ukraine living in the territory under the control of the Government, and allow a fairly reliable analysis of the public moods of the population.



Choice between L. Kravchuk and V. Chornovil, if found themselves in 1991


From 2023, the main Christian Churches of Ukraine celebrate Christmas on December 25 (at the same time, 69% of Ukrainians count Christmas among the most important state holidays for them). At the same time, December 25 is also an important date for Ukraine for another reason - on this day, the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist. The all-Ukrainian referendum on December 1, 1991 played a powerful role in ending the collapse of the USSR. And although the vote for Independence is mentioned more often (deservedly) now, the first presidential elections were also held on this day in Ukraine. Among the 6 candidates, L. Kravchuk won almost 62% (the most in all regions, except for three regions of Galicia), and V. Chornovil won a little more than 23%. As many believe, the results of these presidential elections had a significant impact on the further development of already independent Ukraine. Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the directions of thinking about alternative history (for example, "where did we turn wrong?") is to think about how the fate of Ukraine would have turned out in the event of different election results.

In December 2023, we asked respondents which of the two main candidates they would vote for now if they were in 1991 (for simplicity, we asked only about L. Kravchuk and V. Chornovil). Among current Ukrainians, 74% would vote for V. Chornovil, and 13% would vote for L. Kravchuk. Among those who would have voted and decided on their choice, 86% of the votes would have been cast for V. Chornovil, 14% for L. Kravchuk. In particular, among respondents who actually had the right to vote in 1991 (now they are people aged 50 and older), 81% would vote for V. Chornovil and 10% for L. Kravchuk.


Graph1. On December 1, 1991, the first presidential elections were held in Ukraine. And imagine that you are now in 1991 and can vote for Leonid Kravchuk or Viacheslav Chornovil. Who would you vote for?



In all regions, the majority of the population would vote for V. Chornovil. Relatively most - in the West (86% among all respondents) and in the Center (80%). At the same time, in the South, 58% among all respondents would support V. Chornovil (L. Kravchuk – 17%), in the East – 63% (L. Kravchuk – 28%).


Graph2. Choice between L. Kravchuk and V. Chornovil in the regional dimension



A. Hrushetskyi, comments on the survey results:


Ukraine is lucky that since the end of the 1980s, the process of rethinking its history and its place in the world has really intensified. Despite some barriers (in particular, aggressive attempts to influence on the part of our "neighbors"), this process did not stop in all subsequent years. At the same time, many criticize Ukrainians for the inertia of thinking and that the acceptance of a number of truths (for example, the role of Russia in the history of Ukraine) took too long.

However, societies are very complex systems that function in specific contextual historical conditions. It is difficult to say unequivocally how the fate of Ukraine would have changed if V. Chornovil had won the elections in 1991. Maybe then we would really be more like Poland or the Baltic countries. However, on the other hand, the experience of the presidency of democratic leaders who were able to win in some other republics casts some doubt on this. We see how the current generation looks at the choice of their predecessors in 1991, but we do not know what will be the assessment of the next generations of Ukrainians.

In any case, it should be remembered that Ukraine was able to go through a stormy and difficult period since the 1990s, and the self-awareness as a single Ukrainian political nation gradually crystallized among the population. That is why Russia was not able to destroy Ukraine in 2014, because Ukraine has already emerged as a state in the minds of Ukrainians. And that is why Russia will not be able to defeat Ukraine even now.


Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire


On December 1, 1991, the first presidential elections were held in Ukraine. And imagine that you are now in 1991 and can vote for Leonid Kravchuk or Viacheslav Chornovil. Who would you vote for? INTERVIEWER, WE ASK HOW PEOPLE WOULD VOTE NOW. THAT IS, WE ARE NOT ASKING ABOUT THE ACTUAL CHOICE IN 1991, BUT WE ARE ASKING ABOUT THE CHOICE THAT WOULD MAKE NOW IF WERE IN 1991

1 For Leonid Kravchuk
2 For Viacheslav Chornovil


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