The recent results of the KIIS survey on improving the attitude of Ukrainians to Russia and Russians have caused a great resonance. Someone agreed with this research, others started talking about manipulations and ‘the hand of Moscow’. Opinion found out whether we should trust such researches, why they are conducted, whether there is a need for them, and why the growth of a positive attitude towards the enemy is possible?
Should we trust the results of the research?
Oleksii Buriachenko, the political expert and the chairman of the board of Regional expert-legal association of influence, explained to Opinion that KIIS, like any other sociological center, uses classical methods in its research. Only the wording of the questions, the coverage of respondents, their number, age, place of residence and the like may vary.
“The formula is simple – the more respondents are covered in general and by different criteria in particular, the better the research is and, accordingly, the smaller the sociological error is. In this research, both of KIIS and Levada-Center, the coverage of respondents is not significant (2042 respondents), therefore, respectively, the error values are high enough (at the level of 3-4%).
At the same time, I am convinced that such researches are of significant use for pursuing further multi-sectoral researches. Such researches may be treated differently, but given their publicity and resonance, taking their results into account would be quite frivolous,” the specialist stresses.
The political and international affairs expert and master of public administration Volodymyr Volia told to Opinion that the results of the research can be trusted.
“The results of the survey can be trusted. The indicator of a good attitude to Russia turned out to be so high because the concept of “Russia” is complex and generalized. It is kind of an average arithmetic value. It includes the attitude to: the Russian authorities (it is strongly negative due to a number of conflicts, the aggressive position towards Ukraine), to the people of Russia (conditioned by traditionally intensive human and business contacts), to the standard of living in Russia, to the level of economic and scientific development. The results of the survey in the context of regions fully reflect the specifics of the attitude to Russia which exists all the years of independence of Ukraine,” the expert assured.
Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of the Association of Political Sciences, sees no reason to not trust the results of this sociological research.
“Distrust needs a good reason. Now I do not have such reasons, I do not see who can benefit from faking the results of such a survey. Moreover, the results do not look incredible at all. The results are not very different from previous years, the trends are quite clear and have objective reasons. A slight change in the results may well be related to the presidential elections,” the speaker explains.
Why are such surveys conducted and is there a need for them?
According to Liliia Brudnytska, the expert of the Center for structural politics Choice, the need for such research does exist, because we risk facing a serious ideological crisis.
“On the one hand, the government survives on anti-Russian rhetoric. On the other hand, corruption scandals and certain economic processes have undermined confidence in the government and, consequently, in aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric. It is significant that this trend reveals another serious problem: in Ukraine, of course, there is a division into the regions that tend to be more conditionally loyal to the Russians, but in fact, the ties between the states are stronger at the household level. And this household level could not be broken, even considering the huge sacrifices of Ukraine and the Ukrainians, and, perhaps, it will not be possible to break it. It’s not so much a threat, as a factor that should be considered when building geopolitical plans and modeling the Ukrainian reaction to external threats,” Ms. Brudnytska believes.
Dmytro Sinchenko also agrees with the need for such research.
“Such researches are very useful because they allow us to have an objective picture of the public’s sentiments on the issues that are important for the country. Obviously, the war with Russia is a very important and topical issue for Ukraine. The war directly affected millions of lives of the Ukrainian citizens. Information about the attitude of the Ukrainians to the enemy allows us to assess the extent of its informational impact on our population and to develop effective mechanisms for its neutralization,” the head of the public organization Association of Political Sciences is convinced.
But Oleksii Buriachenko stressed that the results of such researches are perhaps the most important for political projects of the pro-Russian direction. Especially given that almost immediately after the presidential campaign the parliamentary campaign starts, which is the most important for all political forces.
“Political forces that rely on the residents of the South and East need to clearly understand how loyal they are, both to Russia in general and to ordinary Russians in particular. Given the above, it is clear why some of the questions for respondents were formulated this way. (For example: What would you like Ukraine’s relations with Russia to be? Option: Ukraine and Russia should unite into one state).
However, it should be noted that in this research the loyalty of Ukrainians to Russia as a whole (57%) and to the leadership of the Russian Federation in particular (13%) is separated. Moreover, the percentage of loyalty to the citizens of Russia (77%) is extremely, even improbably, high, given the actual war in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea,” the expert said.
Why may the attitude to Russia and Russians improve?
According to Volodymyr Volia, the growth of the indicators of a good attitude could occur for several reasons. In particular, the expert names a certain ‘depoliticization’ of consciousness of Ukrainians, the ‘fatigue’ from politics, migration for the sake of earnings and the like.
“Firstly, the growth of labor emigration from Ukraine. Although the vast majority of the residents are oriented to the West, a significant number of them went to work in Russia. Secondly, the ‘big war’ in Donbass has subsided. And although the conflict is smoldering militarily, it already does not have such negative consequences (the number of victims, suffering, destruction) as in 2014-2015. Thirdly, the residents of Ukraine cease to perceive information about the conflict with Russia due to the fact that it has been discussed for several years. There is a kind of ‘devaluation’ of the negative attitude towards Russia due to the fact that government officials and politicians talk about Russian aggression and the ‘Kremlin’s hand’ a lot, often in cases where Russia is not involved.
Fourthly, the war is somewhere far away, and the annexation of Crimea does not concern the daily life of the majority. Every year the indifference to these topics is growing. In particular, due to the fact that there is no progress in the settlement of this problem and it is not seen in the foreseeable future. Fifth, there is a certain ‘depoliticization’ of the consciousness of the inhabitants of Ukraine. Due to the ‘fatigue’ from politics, political scandals, long-term repetition of the same words and themes. Therefore, the level of ‘political’ attitude to Russia decreases, yielding to another aspect. It is significant that the growth of ‘good’ attitude started after blocking the websites, creation of non-entry lists, lists of banned books, movies and the like. Such researches are a normal practice in the world,” the political expert believes.
But Oleksii Buriachenko suggests that such research results can be provoked by undermined confidence in state institutions and distrust to the government. The expert also adds that such conditions are ‘fertile ground’ for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
“Such data of the research focus our attention on the fact that the Russians are not Russia and, moreover, not the leadership of Russia and that the Ukrainians are potentially ready to establish a peace process through the public space, and not behind the scenes (at the level of the leadership of the countries).
These theses are quite controversial, but they partially reflect the current situation. Because in addition to public interstate diplomacy (politics), there are also feelings of ordinary citizens, both of Russia and Ukraine, who feel that they are only objects of politics, not subjects, as it is in civilized countries.
The level of distrust of Ukrainians to power is now quite high, as evidenced by the high rating of the alternative candidate ZE, and the state institutions that are discredited by a variety of high-profile investigations. This situation becomes a kind of ‘fertile ground’ for the oppositional, and also pro-Russian rhetoric of Ukrainian politicians.
The weakening of state institutions through undermining confidence in their activities, the reluctance of these institutions to evolve – all these factors in the complex lead to increased loyalty among ordinary Ukrainians to the Russian Federation,” the expert thinks.
But Dmytro Sinchenko believes that the reason for such results can also be insufficient efforts of Ukraine in the information war and the neutralization of the myths about ‘good Russians’. In turn, the expert notes that the enemy of Ukraine is not only its leadership but the entire Russian Federation and its every citizen who does not protest and does not fight against the system.
“We must understand that in any country there is a part of the population that sympathizes with the enemies of their state and is ready to contribute to their policies. This category of citizens has a specific definition – a collaborator. Ukraine, of course, is no exception. And some of the collaborators are completely open, they unite into organizations, create media, promote their views. There are a lot of such candidates in the presidential run. At the same time, while competing for their voters, these candidates compete with each other in the promotion of their views, and therefore this propaganda becomes much more powerful.
Unfortunately, Ukraine is not making enough efforts in the information war to neutralize the myths about ‘the good Russian and the evil tsar’, and some authorities also consciously promote this myth, because they are sincerely convinced in it. This line of behavior perfectly matches the Kremlin’s matrix of the ‘triune nation’ and the thesis of ‘bad politicians who made us quarrel’ and ‘profit from the war that is beneficial to them.’
The truth is that by supporting their president, the ordinary Russians support his crimes. Actually, Putin is only an expression of the will of his people. He does what is expected of him. And the imperial ideology of Russian citizens calls for new territorial conquests. Therefore, our enemy is not only Putin, but our enemy is also the entire Russian Federation and its every citizen who does not fight for the national liberation of his oppressed people. And this simple truth must be clearly explained to the Ukrainian citizens,” Dmytro Sinchenko summed up.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel