More Aware, Less Active. Why Don’t Kharkiv Residents Take Part in Civic Life?

The Civic Engagement Poll is a survey conducted by the USAID/ENGAGE activity to gauge citizen awareness of and engagement in civil society activities, participation in and perception of reform processes in Ukraine. In 2019 for the first time, USAID/ENGAGE extended it to the four target oblasts – Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Sumy, and Kherson. This recent wave of the poll was held in winter 2021 and is the second time when USAID/ENGAGE draws up regional data. In this wave, in addition to the questions regarding awareness of and engagement in civic activities, we asked Kharkiv residents about their values and beliefs. Comparing these data with national results allows to better understand peculiarities of the regions and whether its citizens perceive civil society activities, reform processes and values differently from the rest of Ukrainians.

In Kharkiv, the poll revealed that the residents are well-aware of the ways they can engage in the lives of their communities, although these indicators are slightly lower than the national ones. Kharkiv respondents put on top of the list participation in a peaceful assembly for a specific cause (69%), creation of a housing, street, or block committee or engagement in their activities (63%), and reporting on infrastructure issues to the local administration (59%). At the national level, those indicators are 75%, 71%, and 69% respectively.

Compared to the findings of our national poll, Kharkiv residents are less involved in public initiatives. Only 22% of Kharkiv respondents mentioned participation in community meetings and other public events, compared to the 33% nationally. The reason for low engagement for 42% is a lack of interest, while 35% name the lack of time.

However, actual participation in civic activities leaves much to be desired. Moreover, the poll revealed that in 2021 Kharkiv respondents were less active than the rest of the population. 6% of respondents participated in the creation of a housing, street, or a block committee, and 14% answered that they are interested in this process, while in the national sample recorded 8% and 21% respectively. Only 3% of respondents reported on infrastructure issues to the local administration, and 17% were interested in doing so compared to 5% and 24% throughout Ukraine.

The poll revealed that most respondents are not engaged in the activities of CSOs. According to the findings, only 13% claim that they participated in CSO activities. On the national level, it was reported by 17% of respondents. The reason of low engagement for 46% of the Kharkiv residents is lack of interest, while for 41% – time.

Talking of main activities to self-organize without top-down direction, respondents name revitalizing of a home territory (28%) or a local park (19%), as well as organizing leisure activities (25%).

Generally, Kharkiv residents believe that the state, the region, and their families are facing similar problems. Poverty is on top of the list among the most painful issues for a state (43%), region (41%), and for their families (40%). Next come corruption (42%, 37%, 29%, respectively); and access to healthcare (31%, 34%, 38%, respectively).

Pessimism prevails when it comes to the perception of reforms. Most respondents indicate that they either did not feel any at all (38%) or only negative (26%) consequences of the reforms. 31% experienced both positive and negative results, and only 2% – positive. At the same time, only 1% of the Ukrainians claimed to have felt positive results of the reforms.

Similarly to the results of the national poll, Kharkiv residents do not expect to see the fruits of reforms any time soon: 19% of respondents believe that the results of reforms will occur within 2-3 years, while another 19% of citizens do not expect any change in the nearest future but believe it would take more than 10 years. Only 9% of respondents are optimistic and anticipate the effects of the reforms within just a year, which is the same share as in the national survey.

The opinion of Kharkiv residents goes in line with the results of a national poll when it comes to the evaluation of the signs of reforms. Respondents believe that the first signs of the irreversibility of reforms are the increase of their families’ income (56%), positive growth of the economy (50%), or ability to receive quality services from the state (41%).

Most of the respondents are convinced that the state is responsible for their well-being (89%). At the same time, 40% recognize that it is also in their own hands, including health (31%), education (31%), education for children (40%), and employment (35%).

Like most respondents of our national poll, Kharkiv residents are underwhelmed by the performance of authorities. Eight out of ten (83%) think that people in power do not care about them. 79% believe that people of power try to profit at their expense, while 78% are convinced that their opinion doesn`t matter for the authorities. Another 78% claim that there is no real political elite in Ukraine, while more than half (56%) are willing to give power to a strong leader who would bring order to the country.

The poll revealed that sometimes Kharkiv residents hold contradicting beliefs. While 73% of respondents claim that Ukrainian laws are so imperfect that sometimes people are forced to break them, half of the citizens (50%) believe that it is necessary to follow the rules and laws even in the most difficult situations. Another 58% answer that they are not ready to sacrifice freedom for greater security and well-being.

Kharkiv residents have a clear vision of who can be called a good citizen. According to the poll`s findings, this person always observes rules and abides laws (90%), is fully aware of rights and able to defend them (89%), and has good knowledge of Ukrainian history (86%). Active participation in CSOs and initiatives is considered important by almost half (46%) of respondents.


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 do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

About the CEP

The Civic Engagement Poll is conducted under the framework of the Enhance Non-Governmental Actors and Grassroots Engagement activity (USAID/ENGAGE), implemented by Pact. This report summarizes key takeaways from the poll, drawing from survey data collected in the winter of 2021.

The survey gauges citizen awareness of and engagement in civil society activities, and citizens’ participation in and perception of reform processes in Ukraine. During the most recent survey, respondents were also asked questions that measure their values, convictions, and attitudes to life.

The data collection for the USAID/ENGAGE Civic Engagement Poll was conducted by the research agency Info Sapiens, during December of 2020 and January of 2021. Field interviews were conducted with Ukrainian residents aged 18 years and older, face-to-face, in the respondents’ homes. The survey sampled 310 respondents and was designed in accordance with the distribution of the adult population of the Kharkiv oblast by age, sex, and settlement type according to the data of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine as of January 1, 2019. The margin of error of the sample is 5.6% (excluding the design effect).

Find more results from the Civic Engagement Poll:

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You can download survey data and charts here.

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