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2 February, 2017

"In the moods on foreign policy, European integration dominates"

Compared to 2013, people feel slightly less negative about law enforcement agencies

In July 2013, 19% trusted the militsia and 75% didn’t. As of November 2016, 24% trust the police and 64% don’t. We see changes, but they are not big. Moreover, our questions focused more on the patrol police that has undergone the biggest reform. Based on November survey data, 44% of Ukrainians feel positive about it, and 37% feel negative. Overall, however, attitudes towards law enforcement agencies have changed insignificantly.

Meanwhile, the attitude towards the Army has changed. In July 2013, 41% of Ukrainians trusted it fully or largely, while 43% didn’t. This is within the margin of error, so we can speak here of virtually equal parts of the population. As of 2016, 57% trust the Armed Forces and 31% don’t. However, I wouldn’t say that the attitude has changed towards servicemen. We haven’t conducted specific surveys, but it’s safe to say based on the available data that the level of trust for generals hasn’t grown. Only for the soldiers.

In July 2013, 67% trusted the Church and 23% didn’t. Today, the balance is 59% vs 27%. When people answer this question, they obviously mean the confession or church they go to and feel more sympathy for, including for political reasons. Broken down by different churches, 20% of all those polled in 2013 trusted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and 18% preferred to trust Kyiv Patriarchate. This is also within the margin of error. Based on the survey we published in November, 15% stated loyalty to the UOC Moscow Patriarchate, while 26% preferred Kyiv Patriarchate. This signals a change in the perception of churches. And it started in 2013. Overall, our surveys show that Moscow Patriarchate was most trusted in 2010. That’s when 24% of those polled counted themselves as its parishioners; while 15% preferred Kyiv Patriarchate.

In the moods on foreign policy, European integration dominates. Based on a survey in September 2016, 46% said relations with the EU are a priority. In 2013, it was 43%. A number of those prioritising relations with the US has increased from 1% in 2013 to 5% now. Fewer people state relations with Russia as a priority: 13% in September 2016 compared to 34% in December 2013. But we must remember that we now poll only people on the Kyiv-controlled part of the Donbas and don’t hear Crimea.

RELATED ARTICLE: How social sentiments in Ukraine have changed since the Maidan

When asked about whether the country is moving in the right or wrong direction, most people are unhappy. In November 2016, 17% of those polled said the country is moving in the right direction while 67% didn’t. In October 2013, the balance was 15% vs 65%. One thing to remember here is that people tend to have different interpretations of what is “right” and “wrong”. But it is safe to say that this attitude towards the developments in Ukraine as a state is normal. Most surveys of the past decade show that those who think the country is going in the wrong direction prevail. The only exception was 2005 (following the Orange Revolution - Ed.). Back then, 43% claimed that the country was moving in the right direction and 31% said the opposite. A similar spike in optimism was when Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential race in 2010 (around 35%). So a group of the population was happy about that outcome. It’s easy to guess what group it was. We also saw a spike in March 2014: 32% thought that the country was moving in the right direction, and 41% thought the opposite.

And on mass protests. This is always a possibility. Projecting when they can erupt is a whole different matter. Potential readiness for protest does not always stand for the actual eruption. When we did a “Are you ready to take part in protests” survey, the highest “yes” moods were in 2008 when talk of the beginning of the economic crisis was in the air. When the crisis processes actually started in the economy, the share of those ready to protest decreased. This means that expectations of upsetting developments can be more mobilising in terms of protest moods than the actual crisis. This is true for economic triggers.

Mass protests didn’t happen in 2008 or 2009. But sociologists failed to project the protests in the late 2013 based on their surveys. Because it doesn’t always take readiness of the entire population to spark a protest. An active minority participates in rallies. And their activity is what matters. Plus, you need a group of factors for a protest: the readiness of an active minority to join rallies, a certain trigger effect - an event that would mobilise the development. In 2013, the trigger was Yanukovych Government’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU after a period of telling people that it would do so. When it didn’t, mass frustration took place. Then, the beating of the students was the final shot for Yanukovych under those circumstances.

When talking of the situation today, we must remember the external aggression: it is a restraining factor for the active minority. Even the share of the population that is not happy with the government and the situation will only take it to the street with anti-government demands and slogans under a huge trigger which I struggle to think of. Maybe, if it turns out suddenly that Ukraine’s entire government switched to Putin’s side. The trigger should be extremely powerful.

Translated by Anastasia Asianova

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