Ukraine Post-Presidential Election Survey: Key Findings
This summary details the key findings from the latest International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) public opinion survey in Ukraine. The fieldwork of this survey was conducted between May 19 and June 1, 2019, following the second round of the 2019 presidential election. The survey interviewed 2,003 respondents through Ukraine, excluding the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and the Autonomous Region of Crimea. The data has been weighted by region, age, and gender to be nationally representative of the adult (18+) population of Ukraine. The margin of error for a sample of this size is ±2.19%. The fieldwork and data processing for the survey was conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). Where applicable, data is compared to IFES’ pre-election survey conducted by KIIS between December 8-30, 2018, with a national representative sample of 2,004 adult Ukrainians.
Widespread Positive Assessments of 2019 Presidential Elections among Ukrainians, Leading to Increasingly Positive Attitudes on Democracy and Elections in Ukraine
- Ukrainians largely see the conduct of the 2019 presidential elections as being free and fair. A significant majority say that they elections were either completely free and fair or reasonably free and fair, but with some flaws (51% completely free and fair, 34% reasonably free and fair). Very few report that the elections were either flawed to the point of doubting the accuracy of the results (4%) or not at all free and fair (3%). Positive assessments of the election remained largely consistent across all regions, indicating that Ukrainians largely view the election as well-run and credible.
- The successful conduct of the election has led to more positive opinions on democracy as the preferred political system for the country. A slight majority (52%) say that democracy is preferable to any other form of government, an increase of eight percentage points from the pre-election survey. Fewer respondents say that it does not matter to them what form of government we have (20%) or that in certain situations a non-democratic government can be preferable (16%). Ukrainians in the East are more ambivalent about the form of government than those living in other regions however, with 41% in the East saying that democracy is preferable, while 35% say that it does not matter what form of government the country has.
- Findings from the post-presidential election also show improved attitudes towards the status of democracy in Ukraine. Thirty-eight percent say Ukraine is a democracy, up eleven percentage points from before the elections. There are some differences in attitudes over the status of democracy based on age and region. Younger Ukrainians are significantly more likely to say the country is a democracy with a majority of those under 25 saying the country is democracy (58%) compared to other age groups. Ukrainians in the East are significantly less likely to say that Ukraine is a democracy with only 17% saying it is a democracy, compared to 49% saying it is not.
- Ukrainians increasingly see the value in voting and its ability to bring about changes in the country, although there remains a lack of confidence in politicians to bring about needed change. There is increased agreement (compared to the pre-election survey) that voting gives people in Ukraine a chance to influence decision making (60%, increase of 22 percentage points), that they have a role to play in solving problems in Ukraine (44%, increase of 16 percentage points), and that people like them can have influence on decisions made by the government (32%, increase of 10 percentage points). This is further underscored by a decrease in agreement that ‘it does not matter how one votes, nothing will change’ (43%, down 21 percentage points). While voting is now seen more frequently as an influence point for ordinary people, Ukrainians remain wary of politicians, with 74% agreeing that politicians do not understand people in Ukraine (no change from pre-election) and only 12% agreeing that politicians can be trusted to fulfill their promises (increase of 2 percentage points).
- Examining specific aspects of elections, there are marked improvements in attitudes and views about the election process from the pre-election survey. Ukrainians overwhelmingly say they are informed about the electoral process (84%, up 13 percentage points), that they feel safe voting in elections (84%, up 13 percentage points), that the results of elections accurately reflect the way people voted in an election (82%, up 54 percentage points), and that elections are competently administered (78%, up 17 percentage points). There do remain concerns about the objectivity of media coverage, with only 46% saying that the national media provides objective coverage of parties and candidates up for elections.
- Ukrainians are more likely to positively assess the fairness of elections and operation of polling stations compared to the pre-election survey. A plurality of Ukrainians say that votes are counted fairly (49%, up 24 percentage points), that journalists provide fair coverage of elections (44%, up 10 percentage points), and that election officials are fair (37%, up 15 percentage points). While there remains room for these numbers to go, it indicates that the 2019 presidential elections have started to change public opinion about the quality of elections.
- Finally, as a result of the 2019 elections, there are enhanced attitudes towards the work of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine. This is a notable achievement that should also be considered in the context of a large margin of victory and few credible electoral disputes. A majority of Ukrainians express either a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the CEC (71%). This represents an increase of 30 percentage points from the pre-election survey, with significantly fewer expressing little to no confidence in the CEC (20%, down 23 percentage points).
Information on Elections Reaches Over Half of Ukrainians, with Differences in Preference of Source between Youth and Non-youth
- Over half (55%) of Ukrainians saw, heard, or read information about the election process or procedures leading up to the elections. While awareness of information remains consistent among genders and age cohorts, some differences exist based on regional differences. Significantly fewer Ukrainians in the East (43%) reported hearing, reading, or seeing any information about the election, compared to the other regions of the country. Furthermore, awareness of information in the run-up to the election was higher among those expressing more interest in politics and elections, than those who are less interested, indicating that these people are more likely to be on a lookout for this information than those that are not interested.
- Among those who heard information on the elections, they reported hearing or seeing a variety of topics, including electoral procedures, checking status on the voters list, motivation to vote, change place of voting, and applying to vote at place of stay. Ukrainians largely saw this information as being useful, with a majority rating this information as either very or somewhat useful.
- To learn about elections and the CEC, television remains the most used source, although youth are increasingly turning to the internet and social media. Overall, 70% say they rely on television to learn about the CEC, although this figure is higher among those over 35 years old (77%) than those under 35 (54%). The second most used source is non-CEC based internet sources, which 23% use to learn about the CEC. Conversely, usage of internet sources is significantly higher among younger Ukrainians with 29% of all youth using this to learn about the CEC, compared to 20% of those over 35. Usage of internet sources is highest among the youngest Ukrainians, with 35% using this to learn about the CEC. Other sources used to learn about the CEC include online media (16%), family, friends, and colleagues (11%), print media (10%), radio (9%), and non-CEC-sponsored social media pages (9%). Very few (9%) report not having any information on the CEC.
Campaign Finance Increasingly Important in Voting Choice, while Abuse of State Resources Remains a Problem in Elections
- A majority of Ukrainians (52%) say that it is important to receive information about the financing of political parties and candidates when making an electoral choice. This represents an increase of nine percentage points since the pre-election survey. Furthermore, 35% say they are aware that during the 2019 presidential elections that all candidates submitted financial reports to the CEC and NAPC, of which 21% say they have seen these reports.
- The abuse of state resources remains an issue in elections in Ukraine. Provided a list of seven activities that constitute an abuse of state resources, 29% say they saw at least one happen during the 2019 election and 63% heard of at least one happening. This indicates that the abuse of state resources still tends be widespread, and remains an issue for focus in future elections. Despite this, experiencing an abuse of state resources during the election did not tend to impact assessments of the efficacy of the election or the administration of the election.
- Vote buying was not widespread during the election, either targeted at individuals or communities. Only 2% of Ukrainians report that they or somebody in their family was offered a gift or money in order to vote for a candidate during the first round of the 2019 presidential election, while 8% report knowing somebody in their community who was. Among those who were offered, most say that they received money in exchange for their vote. Additionally, only 3% say that a candidate offered a donation or gift to their neighborhood or apartment block during the election to attempt to win over voters. These findings indicate that there were limited experiences with vote buying during the presidential elections, although experiences may differ during parliamentary elections where candidates have more local ties.
Openness to the Inclusion of Marginalized Groups in the Political Process in Ukraine
- There is increasing support for the adoption of special measures aimed at promoting the participation of women in politics. Sixty-two percent support the adoption of measures to promote the participation of women in politics, while only 18% oppose these measures. Support for this kind of measure has increased by eight percentage points since the last survey. Women are more supportive of these kinds of measures, with 68% supporting, compared to only 54% of men. Support is also lower among younger Ukrainians, with only 53% of those under the age of 30 supporting these measures, while 72% of those over 60 support these.
- A majority of 64% do not consider gender an important factor in their voting choice. Provided a hypothetical race between a male candidate and a female candidate of equal qualifications, 64% say there is no difference between the candidates, while 17% would vote for the female and 15% would vote for the male. While both men and women largely responded that there is no difference based on gender, significantly more women say they would vote for the women candidate than men (21% women; 13% men).
- There is widespread support for the participation of persons with disabilities in the election process. Ukrainians widely agree that it is important for persons with disabilities to have equal electoral rights as other citizens (95%) and that it is important for people with disabilities to participate as voters in elections (95%).
- Currently, elderly voters and voters with disabilities can vote via home voting, but there is a desire to improve access to polling station so these Ukrainians can vote in-person on Election Day. Forty percent of Ukrainians say that both should be available to enhance access to voting, while 35% say home voting is better and 19% support better access to polling stations; this indicates that 59% of respondents believe that voters with disabilities should have better access to polling stations.
- Provided with a hypothetical race between a candidate with a disability and a candidate without a disability, most Ukrainians say the disability status would not factor in how they would vote. Seventy percent say that it does not matter to them whether the candidate has a disability or not in how they would vote in this matchup. This indicates that Ukrainians are open to electing a disabled candidate to office, but their other qualifications will be of more importance.
- There exists support for the political participation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukrainian politics. Overall 71% strongly agree and 19% somewhat agree that IDPs living in their community should have the opportunity to participate as voters in local elections where they currently live and 66% strongly agree and 22% somewhat agree that IDPs in their community should participate in matters affecting their new community, such as public hearings. While support is high across all regions of Ukraine, it is the highest in Eastern and Southern parts of the country, which are closest to the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, and has the highest number of IDPs.