Civil Activism and Attitudes to Reform: Public Opinion in Ukraine

The USAID/ENGAGE National Civic Engagement Poll is conducted by Pact in the framework of the Enhance Non-Governmental Actors and Grassroots Engagement activity of USAID, implemented by Pact. This report summarizes key takeaways from the poll, drawing from survey data collected in late 2018.

The survey concentrated on gauging citizen engagement and participation in civic activities, focusing on public awareness of and engagement in activities of civil society organizations, as well as citizens’ participation and perception of reform processes in Ukraine. During this round of the Civic Engagement Poll, we also asked Ukrainian citizens about their civic values and attitudes.

Data collection for the USAID/ENGAGE Civic Engagement Poll was conducted by GfK Ukraine in November-December 2018. Field interviews were conducted with Ukrainian residents aged 18 years and older, face-to-face in the respondents’ homes.

The sample size is 2,073 respondents and its design corresponds to the distribution of the adult population of Ukraine by age, sex, oblast and settlement type (excluding Crimea and non-governmental controlled regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts). The margin of error of the sample is 2.2% (excluding the design effect).

The survey’s data and charts are available can be downloaded by registered website users.

Engagement in Community Life and Civil Society Activities Remain Modest

  • Only 7% of Ukrainians are regularly engaged in their local community life. Another 22% sometimes participate in meetings or activities. The share of those who have experience with at least one type of civic engagement mechanism during the last 12 months constitutes 22%.
  • Only 4% of citizens have participated in CSO activities regularly. Another 15% have answered that they have participated in CSO activities rarely.
  • The highest level of current engagement is reported for the creation of housing committees (10%) and participation in peaceful assembly (8%). The highest interest (37%) is in reporting on damaged roads and other infrastructural issues to local administration. Any kind of anti-corruption reporting, either reporting to state bodies (1%), or anonymous online reports (2%), or reports to the media (1%), are the least engaging types of activities.
  • Helping the Ukrainian army (21%) and helping volunteer battalions with funds, food or equipment (17%) are the most popular individual forms of settling the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. Ukrainians are ready to help IDPs, either with shelter, food or pro-bono services (16%), while 15% are ready to help with funds.

Citizens Feel Negative Effects of Reform and Seek Economic Change

  • Today, Ukrainians’ main concerns are: the economic situation (54%), fighting corruption (50%), and the crisis in the Donbas (46%). Ukrainians are also concerned with health care (37%), pension (22%), the return of Crimea (11%), education (10%), and European integration (10%).
  • In terms of reforms, Ukrainians indicated that the three most successful reforms since 2014 were in decentralization (23%); social areas such as health care, education and pension (17%); and anti-corruption (16%). Reforms in the spheres of energy independence (13%), taxation (9%), state property (9%), banking (8%), and business regulation (6%) are less popular among the citizens.
  • Those who claim to experience only negative consequences of reforms (36%) outnumber those who have not experienced any consequences at all (33%). Only a small minority of Ukrainians (3%) have experienced strictly positive consequences of reforms since 2014.
  • The majority of respondents (51%) indicated that they would perceive an increase in household income as the first main sign of irreversibility of positive changes in Ukraine. Positive growth rates of the country’s economy (42%), ability to receive high quality services from the state (38%) and strengthening of the hryvna’s exchange rate (28%) are also important signs of change.
  • Only 6% of Ukrainians are ready to endure declining living standards on account of reforms, if it leads to the country’s success. Another 12% are ready to do the same but only for one year. Meanwhile, 9% are ready to contribute knowledge and ideas in the reform process, or volunteer to promote change in the country.
  • The National Anti-Corruption Bureau is the best known among anti-corruption institutions, with 74% of Ukrainians having heard about the agency. The National Agency on Corruption Prevention is in the second place, with 60% of citizens recognizing its title. The High Anti-Corruption Court (51%), Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (47%) and National Asset Recovery and Management Agency (37%) are less known by citizens.
  • Some 42% of Ukrainians believe that bribes, unofficial services and gifts are never justified and 29% believe that they are not justified in most cases. At the same time, more than a half of the respondents (54%) see bribery as an integral part of the Ukrainian mentality.

Ukrainians Feel Devalued by the State

  • The percentage of Ukrainians who are ready to support discriminated groups to which they do not belong amounts to 45%, while 29% say they would not support such groups.
  • The highest rate of reported personal experience of the violation of one’s rights is found in health care (45%), followed by consumer rights (43%), social security and social benefits (33%), employment (32%), and administrative services (32%).
  • More than three quarters of citizens agree that wealth inequality is growing (84%), their opinion doesn’t matter to people in power (81%), that people in power do not care about them (85%), and that people in power profit from them (82%).
  • Ukrainian citizens prefer to be careful with everyone (51%) rather than trust most people (28%). There is no clear pattern or statistically significant difference between different age groups.
  • The share of people with paternalistic attitudes (those who agree that the state should be responsible for the well-being of each citizen) constitutes a larger share (47%) than those who assign responsibilities for well-being to citizens themselves (35%).
  • Citizens are the least tolerant towards people with drug addiction (76% of people would not accept them as neighbors) and people who abuse alcohol (61%). 46% of the respondents would not like to have Roma as neighbors, while 40% and 35% would not accept homosexuals and people with HIV, respectively.
  • People consider the most important skills for a good citizen to be: awareness of rights and the ability to defend them (86%), always observing rules and abiding by laws (84%), and having good knowledge of the history of one’s own country (81%). However, active participation in CSO activities and initiatives is considered important by just over half of the population (57%).

This survey summary was prepared by Pact as part of the USAID/ENGAGE activity, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this survey summary are the sole responsibility of Pact and its implementing partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

The purpose of USAID/ENGAGE is to increase citizen awareness of and engagement in civic activities at the national, regional, and local levels.

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