In August 2022, the National Democratic Institute’s research team in Ukraine designed and deployed a national telephone survey to gauge the impact of the full-scale war on the lives of everyday Ukrainians and identify opportunities and challenges on the road to Ukraine’s democratic transition. The fieldwork was conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology during August 2-9, 2022, utilizing computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) methodology, and included 2,510 completed interviews with respondents across Ukraine. NDI’s research shows that, despite the Russian invasion, optimism is at an all-time high in Ukraine. Ukraine, a young democracy, is facing the challenge posed by Russian autocracy head-on and rallying behind the Ukrainian democratic system. While the situation on the ground is highly fluid, there are good reasons to hope for the future of Ukraine and the future of the Ukrainian democratic system.
Although Ukraine is dealing with the devastating impact of Russia’s brutal six-month war, the country remains steadfast in its commitment to its democratic development, as an overwhelming 95% percent of respondents indicated that it is very important or important for them that Ukraine becomes a fully functioning democracy. This is a significant increase from the December 2021 results, in which 76% percent responded similarly. In that same vein, respondents identified freedom of speech, equal justice for all, and free and fair elections as the three most important characteristics of a fully functioning democracy. NDI’s research also revealed historic high support for European Union and NATO accession, with 92% responding in favor of joining the EU and 79% in favor of joining NATO. This is significant because accession to the EU and NATO will involve a whole host of conditions and democratic reforms that Ukraine will have to meet, leading to a more democratic Ukraine. These views also extend across all of Ukraine, including the southern and eastern regions, which had previously been less supportive of joining the EU and NATO. However, the regional variations that were seen in previous polls have virtually disappeared. Across the board, these results demonstrate that Ukrainian support for democratic values is neither rhetorical nor merely convenient, given Ukraine’s pressing need for Western support – it is both real and meaningful.
There have also been meaningful actions to make Ukrainian democracy more inclusive, such as the historic ratification of the Istanbul Convention and a widely-circulated petition calling for same-sex marriage, which indicate growing support for gender equity and social inclusion in the country. According to NDI’s August 2022 polling, 72% of respondents want to see a better balance between men and women in political life and 54% agreed that “homosexual people should have the same rights as heterosexuals.” This is a particularly significant trend as anti-LGBTQI+ and anti-gender rhetoric has been increasingly weaponized by authoritarian governments worldwide to clamp down on democratic reform. This sort of rhetoric has also been increasingly used in value-based disinformation attacks by Russia, which seek to vilify LGBTQI+ persons and amplify existing prejudices with regard to gender equity and social inclusion.
Ukrainians remain optimistic about their country’s victory and overall future. Although the war has taken a significant toll on people’s lives and financial conditions, with many people having lost their incomes, jobs, and homes, nearly all Ukrainians are contributing to the humanitarian and war effort. Eighty-one percent of respondents have donated money to the Armed Forces, even though ninety-five percent have reported that they don’t have enough income to live comfortably. Additionally, sixty-three percent have donated supplies to internally displaced persons (IDPs), sixty percent have donated money for humanitarian relief, and a majority have hosted or assisted IDPs. It is clear to see the level of commitment that everyday Ukrainians have for their compatriots, their communities, and their country.
Although the situation on the ground continues to change daily, it is exceedingly clear that Ukrainians remain optimistic about their future and committed to the democratic development of their country. For Ukrainians, victory and democracy are the only acceptable options.
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NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.