New Poll: Ukrainians Choose Europe, But Divided Over Conflict Resolution

The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) has released new polling data on public opinions on different pressing domestic matters. The polling numbers are broken down by region, showing regional differences of opinion in Ukraine. The polls provide novel insight into emerging and evolving political opinion in Ukraine, such as in regards to conflict resolution, views on Europe, and opinions about separatism.

KIIS’ polls reveal that Ukrainians are torn on how to resolve the conflict in the east. KIIS asked respondents the question: “How do you think the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk should ideally be resolved?” 41% of respondents would like to see a negotiated settlement, while 40% want to see a continuation of military operations. Public opinion towards the resolution of the conflict is roughly split on regional lines. Ukrainians in the western regions of the country are generally more supportive of restarting a military campaign, while those in the south and east give greater support to a negotiated settlement. For example, 55% of those surveyed in western regions support military resolution, compared to 25% in the eastern regions.

KIIS’ polls also shed greater light on popular opinion towards pro-Russian militant forces in Ukraine. The poll asks: “Do you think that the separatists represent the views of a majority of those in Donetsk and Luhansk, a significant portion of the people but not a majority, or only a small proportion of the people?” A significant majority of Ukrainians, a total of 57%, responded that the militants only represent a “small minority” of the Donbas. Surprisingly, eastern Ukrainian regions seem to have some of the strongest opinions against pro-Russian forces. 61% of respondents in eastern Ukraine believe that the militants represent “tiny minority” of locals’ opinions. Even in the Donbas region, a plurality of respondents (42%) believes that the separatists represent a “tiny minority” of local opinions.

Lastly, the data provided by KIIS indicates that Ukrainians’ strongly prefer close relations with Europe to strong relations with the Russian Federation. Excluding the Donbas, 59% of respondents across the country said that Ukraine would be better off with close relations with Europe. In contrast, only eight % of Ukrainians responded that Ukraine would be better off with strong relations with Russia. Importantly, even in southeastern Ukraine, support for Europe is strong. A plurality of eastern (37%) and southern (32%) Ukraine prefers Europe to Russia.

The polls seem to debunk the narrative that Ukraine is irreparably divided between a pro-European west and pro-Russian east. Ukrainians are certainly divided on how to resolve the crisis in the Donbas, with eastern regions preferring negotiation to confrontation. However, most Ukrainians from every region seem to hold very negative views on separatism, believing that pro-Russian forces only represent a small fraction of the opinions of Donbas natives. Regardless of region, most Ukrainians appear to lean towards Europe, rather than Russia. Although the west is most strong in its pro-European attitudes, a plurality of eastern and southern regions also prefers Europe. These polls, like many before them, demonstrate that Ukraine is much more united than is often portrayed, even if there are important regional political differences.

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