IRI’s Center for Insights Poll: Pessimism High after Two Years of Violent Conflict with Russia; People in the Ukrainian-Controlled Territories of Donbas Want to Remain Part of Ukraine

January 12, 2016

Kyiv, Ukraine – A new poll released today by the IRI Center for Insights in Survey Research found that after nearly two years of war and an onslaught of Russian propaganda, pessimism is high throughout the country, particularly in  the areas of the Donbas region governed by national authorities (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts).  However, despite the war and Russia’s propaganda, an overwhelming majority of Donbas residents in these areas want to remain part of Ukraine. 

“Despite Russia’s continued efforts to drive a wedge between the Donbas and the rest of Ukraine and its continued violations of the Minsk Agreement, as confirmed by President Putin himself, the people of Ukraine, including those living in the Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donbas, want to preserve the territorial integrity of their country,” said Stephen Nix, director of Eurasia programs at IRI.  “There is no doubt that Ukrainians long for the unity and sovereignty of their country, and it is critical that the United States and Europe support Ukraine to ensure that Russia’s occupation does not become permanent.”

Pessimism is High Following Two Years of Violent Conflict with Russia

After two years of deadly conflict with Russia and Russian-supported separatists, which has left more than 9,000 people killed and another 1.5 million displaced, pessimism throughout Ukraine is high, particularly in the Donbas region.  When asked if the country were headed in the right or wrong direction, only 15 percent nationwide and eight percent in the Ukrainian-controlled territories of the Donbas region believed Ukraine was headed in the right direction.  These findings are consistent with national trends, as Russian aggression in the east has continued to cause great hardship.

This pessimism is also impacting Ukraine’s elected leaders who Ukrainians feel are not doing enough to keep the Donbas region a part of the country.  When asked if they approved or disapproved of the job President Poroshenko was doing, 70 percent nationwide disapproved and 78 percent in the Ukrainian-controlled territories of the Donbas disapproved.  The Cabinet of Ministers had equally poor numbers with 82 percent nationwide disapproving and 85 percent in the Donbas.  Similarly, only 11 percent nationwide approved of the Verkhovna Rada, compared to a nearly negligible three percent in the Donbas.

“The significance of these findings cannot be overstated,” said Nix.  “This should be a warning sign to the Ukrainian government and the international community that they need to redouble their efforts to end the war and engage all citizens, especially the people of the Donbas region, into all aspects of Ukrainian political and civic life.”

People of the Ukrainian-Controlled Territories of Donbas Support Ukrainian Unity 

Despite the war and a continuous barrage of anti-Kyiv government propaganda, a significant 75 percent of Donbas residents in the areas governed by national authorities believed that Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts should remain within Ukraine either with the same status as before (32 percent), with extended responsibilities as a result of decentralization reform (35 percent), or as an autonomous region (eight percent).  Similarly, 72 percent believed that the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (the area not controlled by the Kyiv government) should remain a part of Ukraine.


The poll was conducted in all regions of Ukraine (excluding the occupied territory of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts) from November 19-30, 2015.  The national survey had a randomly selected sample of 1,800 permanent residents of Ukraine aged 18 and older and eligible to vote.  The margin of error does not exceed plus or minus 2.3 percent, and the response rate was 65.9 percent.  The poll also included an oversample of 1,284 respondents in the Ukrainian-controlled territories of the Donbas region (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; see poll presentation for methodology). 

The survey was conducted by Rating Group Ukraine, in cooperation with IRI’s Center for Insights in Survey Research, and was funded by Global Affairs Canada.

The Center for Insights in Survey Research builds on IRI’s two decades of experience in public opinion research and leverages traditional public opinion research and analysis and new methods to help political parties become more responsive to voters, assist elected officials at all levels of government in improving services to citizens, and foster greater participation by underrepresented groups and by citizens generally in the political process.