Public opinion in Ukraine and Russia, my latest at Lobe Log

The Pew Charitable Trusts regularly does public opinion polling all over the world, but you really have to hand it to them for getting a survey done in Ukraine last month. Bravo to the interviewers who gathered this data for them, which had to be done via face-to-face interviews and especially in the tense eastern part of the country and in Crimea, where residents were oversampled so that the results from those regions were especially rigorous. My newest piece at Lobe Log outlines the findings of Pew’s April surveys in both Ukraine and Russia; there seems to be a chance for Kiev to bring the country back together, barring any more ugly violence like what happened in Odessa last week:

So despite the recent unrest caused by pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukrainian cities like Donetsk, Luhansk, and Slovyansk, only a small minority of Ukrainians in that part of the country want the right to secede — 18% overall, and only 27% of Russian speakers. However, the survey also points to the challenges facing Kiev as it attempts to bring the region back under control. Two-thirds (67%) of Ukrainians in the east say that the government in Kiev has had a “bad influence” on the current situation, compared to only 28% in the west, and 66% in the east say that the Kiev government does not respect “personal freedoms.” Some sign of competent, stable leadership from Kiev could go a long way toward easing the concerns of eastern Ukrainians. Kiev could also take steps to try to ease ethnic tensions, which 73% of Ukrainians (evenly distributed throughout the country) identify as a very or moderately big problem.

Although I’m amazed that Pew was able to conduct a public opinion survey amid the chaos in Ukraine, I actually think the Russian results are more interesting. They put hard numbers behind the idea that Putin’s aggressive moves in Crimea and overall posture toward Ukraine are scoring him major points domestically:

In contrast, Pew’s survey of Russian citizens reveals a populace that is firmly behind President Vladimir Putin’s actions with respect to Ukraine and believes Russian expansion, as in the case of Crimea, is justified. When asked if “there are parts of neighboring countries that really belong to Russia,” 61% of Russians surveyed either completely or mostly agree with that sentiment, compared to only 28% who mostly or completely disagree. The percentage of Russians who are confident in Putin’s ability to handle international affairs is higher (83%) than it has been at any time in the past six years (as far back as the report’s data goes). A plurality of Russians (43%) agree that “Putin’s handling of the situation in Ukraine has led people in other countries to have a more favorable opinion of Russia,” and 55% agree with the statement: “It is a great misfortune that the Soviet Union no longer exists,” though that percentage has been relatively consistent since Pew began asking that question five years ago.


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