Polls in Ukraine contradictory over NATO accession

Majority in Ukraine support joining NATO. Credits: Reuters

Majority in Ukraine support joining NATO. Credits: Reuters

14 Aug. — The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Razumkov Centre published the results of a public opinion survey on the subject of Ukraine joining NATO. They showed that the percentage of those who do not wish to take part in the referendum is growing. Among those willing to vote, the majority are for the Western alliance.

The survey was conducted by Ukrainian organizations in every region of today’s Ukraine between 22 and 27 July. 2,011 respondents took part.
Ukraine’s accession to NATO had been on the agenda since 2008, when the leadership of the country at that time initiated practical preparatory work to this end. Viktor Yanukovich’s victory in 2010, however, destroyed these plans. It is only four years later, now, under President Petro Poroshenko, that the Euroatlantic vector has shown itself again with renewed vigor.

The president has stated repeatedly that the issue will be put to a referendum. In late December 2014, the Ukrainian parliament approved a law repealing the country’s non-aligned status, factually paving the way to start working on an application.

But lying on the path to the fulfillment of these politicians’ wishes are not only the ever so cautious approach found in NATO itself but also the inconsistent attitude displayed by the population.

On one hand, the research done by Democratic Initiatives and Razumkov Centre has demonstrated that 64% supported accession to the North Atlantic Alliance, and this is the highest percentage yet.

On the other hand, the survey highlighted a few factors which call for evaluating the final result with some reserve. First, the figure only relates to those who were willing to participate in the referendum. Many of them could only be found in the western part of the country (77.1%), where the vast majority are already in favor of joining NATO (89.2%). In the south, east, and even centre of Ukraine, there is a large percentage of those who either do not want to go to the referendum or have not yet decided. For example, in the south, 38.6% will not participate (19.1% undecided), and in the centre, 17.9% will not (17.0%).

Furthermore, the overall number of those in Ukraine flat out refusing to participate in a referendum is 25.2%, and, when compared with the historical data provided by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, it is apparent abstention rate has a tendency to grow. Before, the main problem for proponents of NATO accession was relatively weak support. Now support has increased, but this is due to the fact that many do not want to participate.

Such a situation has come about because Ukrainians do not see any unequivocally advantageous solution. This can be seen especially clearly when the interviewers do not pose a direct question about NATO but instead provide several alternatives. The question regarding what the best “option for ensuring security” would be, which listed several possible answers from the political-military spectrum, had the following results: “entering NATO” (35.7%), “non-aligned status” (28.8%), and “hard to say” (22.9%).

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