Social survey results: Despite all the problems and difficulties, society still believes in democratic principles


Experts present the results of a social survey and also discuss the successes and failures of Ukraine’s development since becoming an independent country 25 years ago.

Kyiv, August 22, 2016. If a referendum for the independence of Ukraine took place in August 2016, 87% would vote for the act of independence. These results are significantly better than those in 2006 and 2011 surveys: 70% and 67% respectively. Over 25 years, according to most of the population, reformations were successful only in three areas: formation of the Ukrainian nation, ensuring equality between men and women, and ensuring the equality of rights of national minorities. According to almost 90% of the population, reformations failed in building a fair system of justice, fighting against corruption, ensuring social justice, economic development, healthcare, combating crime, and protecting vulnerable groups. Iryna Bekeshkina, Director of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, and Natalia Kharchenkо, Executive Director of Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, reported this at a briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

According to experts, over the past 25 years, the public opinion became more “pro-Ukrainian” and confident of the country’s potential. In 1991, 37% of the population was sure that Ukraine can survive only due to the economic help of the West, and in 2016 only 19% shared this opinion. Only 11% rely on Russia’s support. The feeling of “doom” has also decreased. In 1991, 46% agreed with the statement that little depends on people in what is going on, in 2016 – 34%. However, a sense of social danger from corruption, bribery, and intolerance to people of non-standard sexual orientation remains unchanged.

However, the expert community believes that there were more positive trends over the past 25 years. Ruslan Kermach, Expert-Analyst of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, drew attention to the formation of civil society and strengthening the rights and freedoms of people. Democracy is perceived at 6.5 points out of 10. People suggest focusing on the fight against corruption, implementing economic reforms to facilitate international investments, development of small and medium businesses, and judicial reform.

According to Oleksiy Garan, Scientific Director of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Ukraine can be proud of preserving interethnic peace and of gaining independence in a peaceful manner. The Constitution of 1996 recorded a balance of power and, compared to Russia, was very democratic. “It was adopted by compromise, not through a tank attack. The fact that the President and Parliament ruled together and could not dissolve the constitution, spoke of further democratization.

Our political culture is also different from Russia: there is no faith in the Messiah, but there are strong traditions of private property, historical traditions of local self-government, regional differences and a strong opposition, which cannot be kept in check,” said Mr. Garan. However, the tendency to search for compromise plays a cruel joke on us, because constant search for these solutions prevent us from implementing painful, but necessary reforms.

According to Oleksiy Garan, 54% of the population supports the democratic development of the country, and 20% are prone to authoritarianism. However, 30% are willing to suffer poverty for freedom and democracy. “Despite all the hardships and difficulties, society continues to believe in democratic principles,” noted the expert.

Igor Burakovskyi, Chairman of the Institute for Economic Research and Political Consulting, highlighted the main achievements of Ukraine in the economic sphere. They include the introduction of the national currency and formation of the banking system from scratch. Ukraine is also a member of all key economic organizations. An entrepreneurial class is being formed. “The entrepreneurial class is small, but there are interesting examples. This is not necessarily small and medium businesses. Instead of traditional oligarchs, large companies have appeared that did not develop on the old basis, or through privatization, but as a result of market economy,” explained Mr. Burakovskyi. He noted that reforms should lead to a new practice of public administration, where all decisions must meet five criteria: the effect on small and medium businesses, export, the level of fiscal responsibility, the way to promote competition, and the corrupt contents of such decisions.

Gennady Maksak, chairman of the Board, Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian prism”, commented on the situation in Ukraine on the international arena. “Over 25 years, distrust of Ukraine alternated with interest related to the reforms several times in a row. Now, there is also interest that gradually turns into distrust. If we fail to break this cycle, then we will not have successful foreign policy,” the expert believes. He mentioned the progress of Ukraine in the formation of diplomacy completely from scratch starting with the renunciation of nuclear weapons that could not be used to the full, negotiations with the EU and NATO, as well as international promotion of Ukraine despite a narrow range of available tools. As to the failures, Mr. Maksak mentioned the lack of security guarantees, both in the infamous Budapest Memorandum and NATO, failure to keep Russian pressure on many stages, regarding, in particular, the Black Sea Fleet, and as a result, the loss of territorial integrity.

The national survey of Ukraine’s population was conducted by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, together with Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, on August 4 – 19, 2016.