Key Findings – Ukraine Post-Parliamentary Election Survey, October 2019
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 September 29 and October 15, 2019, following the 2019 parliamentary elections. The survey interviewed 2,002 respondents throughout 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).
Widespread Positive Assessments of 2019 Parliamentary Elections among Ukrainians
- Ukrainians largely see the conduct of the 2019 parliamentary 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 (46% completely free and fair, 33% reasonably free and fair), which largely mirror findings from the post-presidential survey. Very few say that the elections were either flawed to the point of doubting the accuracy of the results (7%), or not at all free and fair (5%). Positive assessments of the election remained largely consistent across all regions, indicating that Ukrainians largely view the election as well-run and an opportunity to vote for their party and candidate of choice.
- The successful conduct of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections has resulted in increased opinions on democracy as a government type in the country. A slight majority (51%) say that democracy is preferable to any other form of government, an increase of eight percentage points from the pre-Presidential election survey. Far fewer respondents say that it does not matter to them what form of government we have (21%), or that in certain situations a non-democratic government can be preferable (17%). Across all regions, a plurality of Ukrainians express preference for a democratic government, representing a change from previous surveys, where residents in the East expressed more ambivalence about government type.
- Findings from the post-parliamentary election survey also show improved attitudes towards the status of democracy in Ukraine. Thirty-seven percent say Ukraine is a democracy, up ten percentage points from before the elections. This indicates that the conduct of elections this year have resulted in increased perceptions of the quality of democracy in the country. Despite this, regional differences do appear in regard to perceptions of democracy, with Ukrainians in the South (32% say Ukraine is a democracy, 34% say it is not) and the East (21% say Ukraine is a democracy; 39% say it is not) being significantly less likely to view favorably the status of Ukrainian democracy compared to those living the West and Center/North.
- Ukrainians increasingly see the value in voting and its ability to bring about changes in the country, and believe that they can bring about changes in the country. There is increased agreement that voting gives people in Ukraine a chance to influence decision making (58%, increase of 19 percentage points), that they have a role to play in solving problems in Ukraine (51%, increase of 22 percentage points), and that people like them can have influence on decisions made by the government (37%, increase of 15 percentage points). This points to an increased belief that change can occur in Ukraine, and that one effective method is through the ballot. This is further underscored by a decrease in agreement that it does not matter how one votes, nothing will change (50%, down 14 percentage points).
- Examining specific aspects of elections, there are marked improvements from the pre-Presidential election survey. Ukrainians overwhelmingly say they feel safe voting in elections (81%, up 11 percentage points), that they are informed about the electoral process (79%, up eight percentage points), that the results of elections accurately reflect the way people voted in an election (77%, up 48 percentage points), and that elections are competently administered (76%, up 15 percentage points). There do remain concerns about the objectivity of media coverage, with only 45% saying that the national media provides objective coverage of parties and candidates up for elections, which only represents an increase of six percentage points from the pre-Presidential election survey.
- Ukrainians are more likely to positively assess the fairness of elections and operation of polling stations. Increasingly Ukrainians say that votes are counted fairly all the time or often during election (46%, up 22 percentage points) and that election officials are fair (31%, up eight percentage points). While there remains room for these numbers to go up, it indicates that the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections have started to change public opinion about the quality of elections in Ukraine.
- Finally, as a result of the 2019 elections, there is enhanced attitudes towards the work of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine to organize credible elections. A majority of Ukrainians express either a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the CEC (64%). This represents an increase of 23 percentage points from the pre-Presidential election survey, with significantly fewer expressing little to no confidence in the CEC (26%, down 17 percentage points).
Information on Elections Reaches a Plurality of Ukrainians, but Preference of Source Noticeable between Youth and Non-youth
- Just under half (48%) of Ukrainians saw, heard, or read information about the election process or procedures leading up to the elections, representing a similar figure to after the 2019 presidential elections. While awareness of information remains consistent among genders and age cohorts, there are some regional differences. Significantly fewer Ukrainians in the East (31%) 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, it covered 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 significantly more likely to use the internet and social media for this purpose. Overall, 67% say they rely on television to learn about the CEC, although this figure is significantly higher among those over 35 years old (77%) than those under 35 (44%). The second most used source is non-CEC based internet sources, which 21% use to learn about the CEC. Conversely, usage of internet sources is significantly higher among younger Ukrainians with 31% of all youth using this to learn about the CEC, compared to 17% of those over 35. Internet media sources are also used to learn about the CEC, with 21% of all Ukrainians using this to learn about the CEC. Similar to the non-CEC based internet sources, there is a wide disparity between youth usage (29%) and among older Ukrainians (17%). Other sources used to learn about the CEC radio (9%), print media (8%), and family, friends, and colleagues (7%). Ten percent of Ukrainians say to they do not have any information on the CEC, and this rate is almost twice as high among Ukrainian youth (15%) than non-youth (8%).
Ukrainians Express Concern over Misinformation and Disinformation During Electoral Campaigns
- A slight majority of Ukrainians (51%) say they are either very concerned or somewhat concerned that some of the news or information about political parties and candidates they received during the 2019 electoral campaigns was not reliable or accurate. Concerns over unreliable or inaccurate information was significantly higher among those who are more interested in politics and elections, who tend to be more informed about these issues, and are more likely to be able to spot inaccurate information than less informed voters. Indeed, among those with greater levels of interest in politics and elections, 72% say they came across information about political parties or candidates that misrepresented reality or was factually incorrect at least sometimes during the electoral campaign, compared to lower percentages among those with less interest.
- Ukrainians are mixed as to how confident they are at identifying information specifically designed to misinform people. Overall 15% are very confident and 31% are somewhat confident that they can identify this information, while 25% are not too confident and 15% are not at all confident. Men are significantly more likely to say they can identify (54%) this type of information, compared to women (40%). Similarly, those that are more interested in politics and elections are significantly more likely to say they can identify than those that are less interested.
While Campaign Finance is Increasingly Seen as Important in Voting Choice, Abuse of State Resources Remains a Problem in Elections
- A majority of Ukrainians (53%) say it is important to receive information about the financing of political parties and candidates when making an electoral choice. This represents a slight increase of five percentage points from the pre-Presidential election survey. Furthermore, 30% say they are aware that during the 2019 parliamentary elections that all candidates submitted financial reports to the CEC and NAPC, although very few (13%) report that 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, 71% say they either personally witnessed or heard about at least of the listed violations during the parliamentary election campaign. The rate of visibility of abuse of state resources was higher than during the presidential elections, signifying that the single-member district campaigns may have made the abuse of state resources more visible during this campaign. 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. Only 3% 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 2019 parliamentary election, while 11% report knowing somebody in their community who was. Among those who were offered, most say that they received money in exchange for their vote.
Openness to Inclusion 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-five percent support the adoption of measures to promote the participation of women in politics, while only 18% oppose these measures. Support for these special measures has increased over the course of the past year, with the largest increases in those strongly supporting these measures (increase of eight percentage points), indicating the Ukrainians express increasingly strong views on this topic. Women are more supportive of these kinds of measures, with 68% supporting, compared to only 61% of men. Support is also lower among younger Ukrainians, with only 56% of those under the age of 30 supporting these measures, while 69% of those over 60 support these.
- A majority of 60% do not consider gender an important factor in their voting choice. Provided a hypothetical race between a man and woman candidate of equal qualifications, 60% say there is no difference between the candidates, while 22% would vote for the woman and 13% would vote for the man.
- There is similarly 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 (94%).
- 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. Sixty-nine 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 widespread support for the political participation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukrainian politics. Overall, 69% strongly agree and 19% somewhat agree that IDPs should have the same electoral rights as other citizens, 67% 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 63% 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.