December 11, 2020

Survey shows how views of Ukraine are changing in the EU

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Ahead of the seventh anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian think tank New Europe Center commissioned a poll to survey public opinion of Ukraine in four European Union member states: France, Germany, Poland and Italy. On November 18, the survey results were released in the presence of EU and Ukraine diplomats, including the Ambassador of France to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Andriy Deshchytsia, and minister-counselor at the Embassy of Ukraine to Italy Dmytro Volovnykiv. Following are key data and findings of the research.

 

The survey aimed to discover the views of Ukraine in four EU member states – Germany, France, Italy and Poland, as well as trace the most common associations that European citizens have for Ukraine. Notably, the survey updates the results from a similar opinion poll from 2015, providing a basis for comparison of how public opinion of Ukraine in the EU has changed and noting the key trends of these changes.

Commissioned by the New Europe Center, the survey was conducted by the market research company Kantar and its Profiles division. Over 4,000 respondents age 18 and older answered six questions, including an open-ended one. In each of the countries, respondents proportionally represented various sex and age groups, and regions. Answers were collected through online polling held between September 22 and 29.

The survey’s 10 key findings

— War is a far less frequent association for Ukraine. Both in 2015 and 2020, Ukraine is majorly associated with the war. At the same time, by 2020, war- and conflict-related associations for Ukraine have dropped. In 2015, 49 percent said they associate Ukraine with the war, while in 2020, the number declined fourfold, to 12 percent.

— “Immigrants” rises to a more frequent association. In 2015, the number of answers quoting this association was insignificant. In 2020, it is the third most common association for Ukraine (mentioned by 10.3 percent of respondents). It illustrates the rising migration curve from Ukraine in pursuit of better work prospects in the EU.

— Still, negative views of Ukraine prevail. A majority of respondents have negative associations for Ukraine. The 10 most common answers are negative, citing war, poverty, or immigration. Most widespread associations concerned the “war conflict with Russia” – 12 percent, “poverty/unemployment” – 10.8 percent, and “immigration/seasonal workers” – 10.3 percent. There is not much change from 2015, when the top three mentions of Ukraine were “war” (49 percent), “Russia” (18 percent), and “poverty” (9 percent).

 

At the same time, views differ across the countries. In Poland, views of Ukraine are mostly linked to immigrants (25.8 percent) and poverty (25 percent), followed by the war. In France, Ukraine is primarily associated with Russia (15.5 percent), the war and conflicts (13.1 percent) and Eastern Europe (10.6 percent). In Germany, the three immediate associations are with the war, intervention in Crimea and Russia (the latter cited by 47.5 percent of respondents). In Germany and France, Russia’s war against Ukraine is a more frequently discussed subject due to the role of Berlin and Paris in the Normandy Format.

In Italy, the Russian-Ukrainian war is almost unnoticed by the public – it was mentioned by only 0.6 percent. Italian citizens have the most positive views of Ukraine among the respondents surveyed. The top 10 most common associations for the country include just one that is partially negative – “immigrants/unemployment”; the rest are either neutral – “gas/energy resources” and “politics”, or positive – “culture/history” and “Ukrainian friends.”

— Terra incognita. Almost one-in-four Europeans (23.6 percent) have no associations for Ukraine. That is seen as good news, as these respondents can get information on Ukraine and create positive views of the country.

— How the coronavirus affects enthusiasm to cooperate with Ukraine. Opinions of how Ukraine can be best supported in times of the COVID-19 pandemic are divergent. Roughly half of the citizens see the need to maintain the present level of cooperation or intensify it, while the other half would rather limit the cooperation and have their governments focus on domestic problems.

— In countries surveyed, Russian narratives on Ukraine have not taken hold. Only 0.8 percent said Ukrainians are waging a civil war, while those seeing Ukraine as an extremist/fascist state trail by 0.2 percent. Unchanged from 2015 is what is seen as the biggest obstacle on the road to Ukraine’s accession to the EU: corruption, cited by 43.1 percent of respondents in 2020 (as compared to 37.5 percent in 2015).

— A majority of European citizens (55 percent) support Ukraine’s accession to the EU. The country’s accession to NATO also finds broad support (38 percent).

— In 2020, fewer respondents associate Ukraine with Russia – 9.1 percent as compared to 18 percent in 2015. This reflects a clear perception of Ukraine as an independent state. Suggestions to support Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression ranged from extension of the EU sanctions against Russia (the most common answer, given by 21.5 percent or respondents) to arming Ukraine (the least popular option).

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