May 22, 2014

Presidential vote may not bridge regional divide in Ukraine

Businessman Petro Poroshenko is the leading candidate in Sunday's Ukraine presidential electionThis Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine may do little to unite a nation riven by ongoing separatist movements in the country’s east, and haunted by the March secession of Crimea. Our April survey found that businessman Petro Poroshenko, the leading candidate – according to a local poll conducted earlier this month – is much more popular in the country’s west than in the east, where doubts are widespread not only about the candidates but the fairness of the election itself. 

Our poll, conducted before the list of presidential candidates had been finalized, found that Poroshenko was the most liked among four contenders tested. Overall, a modest majority of Ukrainians (54%) gave Poroshenko a favorable rating. By comparison, only three-in-ten offered a positive view of the country’s first female prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko (30%), and nationalist politician Oleg Tyagnibok (30%). Even fewer (15%) were favorable toward Mykhaylo Dobkin, former governor of Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region.

Ukrainians in the country's west see presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko more favorably than those in the east
Yet, despite his national standing, Poroshenko faces a major hurdle in bridging the country’s sharp regional divide. In our survey, positive views of Poroshenko were more than twice as high in the country’s west (80%) as east (37%). And in the east, even fewer Russian-only speakers (28%) offered a favorable opinion of the businessman, who made his fortune selling cacao beans. (Some have dubbed Poroshenko the Willy Wonka of Ukraine.)

Meanwhile, just 4% of Crimean residents saw Poroshenko favorably. The May survey by the local Kiev International Institute of Sociology found similar regional differences in electoral support for the leading candidate.

No matter the outcome, not everyone may accept the result as valid. In our poll, public opinion was sharply divided along regional lines as to whether the upcoming presidential election would be conducted fairly. In the country’s west, a clear majority said a fair election is likely, while in the east an equally clear majority said it was not.

See the full topline results and survey methodology.

Topics: Eastern Europe

  1. Photo of Jacob Poushter

    is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Robert3 years ago

    Thanks for providing these polling results. It would be helpful if the article presented data on the country as a whole. Having lived here for 12 years, I can assure you that Ukraine does not readily divide into East and West. Thus, one is left trying to guess what oblasts your data actually represents.

    Fact is that the majority of Ukraine lives in a muddled middle whether located in rural Kharkiv oblast, Kirivograd city in the center, or Lutsk in the West. They don’t speak in proper Russian nor textbook Ukrainian and their views on East-West is also somewhere in the middle. These articles referring to the West and the East or Russian-speakers versus Ukrainian speakers certainly have a grain of truth, but they don’t tell you anything about the vast majority of the country particularly on whether Ukraine should stay together.

    If we look at only the Eastern edge of Ukraine, then a 27% favorable rating for Poroshenko is quite unprecedented for someone associated with European integration. This is a victory. In fact it would be better than President Obama’s rating in a number of states we could hand pick for something called the South in the US. Does not mean that war is inevitable or political compromise is impossible. Difficult yes, but that is always true in politics.

    1. Jacob Poushter3 years ago

      Thank you for your comment, Robert. The 54%-favorable rating for Petro Poroshenko encompasses all of Ukraine, including Crimea. The regional divide displayed in the second chart is based on three regional divisions used to design and analyze the Pew Research Center’s survey of Ukraine.

      For the specific oblasts designated in each region, see this map:…

      For more on survey methods, please see our methods in detail:…

      And, for a further discussion of whether Ukraine should remain one country, read our full report on the subject:…