17:12 19.12.2023

Attitudes of Ukrainians towards political and military leadership and mobilization - opinion poll

12 min read

KYIV. Dec 19 (Interfax-Ukraine) – At the press center of the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, the results of a sociological survey on Ukrainians' attitudes toward key members of Ukraine's military and political leadership, mobilization problems, and ways to overcome them were presented.

The study was conducted using the online panel "SunFlower Sociology. Data collection period: December 13-15, 2023. General population: citizens of Ukraine aged 18 and older. The sample is representative by age, gender, and region of Ukraine. Number of respondents: 2000. Theoretical statistical error of representativeness (with a confidence level of 95% and): the percentage of responses of 50% - +/-2.2%; the percentage of responses of 25% and 75% - +/- %; the percentage of responses of 10% and 90% - +/- 1.4%.

The results of the survey were presented by Andriy Yeremenko, founder of the research company Active Group. According to him, the survey showed that most Ukrainians have heard about criticism of Ukraine's political and military leadership during the great Russian invasion. 63.2% are familiar with such criticism. 44.7% of respondents believe that criticism of the political leadership can be justified if there are grounds; 33.5% think so about the military command. At the same time, another 15.5% say that criticism of the state leadership is always useful if it is constructive; 14.7% say this about the military. 

There are also 31.3% of respondents who live in a world of continuous approval of the government and have not heard anything about criticism of it. 13.9% of Ukrainians believe that criticizing the political leadership during the war is "unacceptable under any circumstances"; 19.9% believe that the military command should not be criticized at all. Another 20.1% say that such criticism of the political authorities can be made only in certain cases, and 14.7% say the same about the military.

According to Vitaliy Kulyk, director of the Center for Civil Society Research, despite the attempts of Russian IPSOs to sow total disbelief in the country's political and military leadership, to increase contradictions between the military and politicians, and to raise the level of criticism and "shit," society as a whole has a reserve of "adult" perception of the situation. Ukrainians are generally not inclined to remain silent when there are reasons to criticize, but they are beginning to distinguish criticism from criticism. Online "shitfights" are becoming shorter and do not leave behind a powerful toxic "dry residue." People are starting to filter information, turning off the infodemic of "voices of the apocalypse." This is not yet a healthy environment, but we are on our way.

The distribution of responsibility for Ukraine's successes and failures by Ukrainians in the context of assessing the political and military leadership is also interesting. To the question "Who do you think is responsible for the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and defense?" (respondents could choose several answers), 32% named the chief of the Armed Forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi; 19.7% named the current Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov, and 16.5% named President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A more general answer was given: 40.7% of respondents said that "the responsibility lies with the Armed Forces as a whole," 32.3% - "soldiers on the battlefield," and 25.4% - "international partners," 23.6% - "Ukrainian special services," and 22.3% - "volunteers and civil society." Only 5.8% believe that "ordinary Ukrainians" are responsible for the successes (obviously, this means working for the defense in the rear).

The respondents' answers to the question "Who, in your opinion, is responsible for the mistakes of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and defense?" were slightly different. The top names were given by 39% of respondents to the Chief of the Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, 37.5% to President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 26.4% to former Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and 19.8% to the current Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. Instead, 26.2% of respondents believe that our international partners are responsible for the mistakes of the counteroffensive, 11.3% - the Armed Forces in general, 11.2% - Ukrainian special services, only 2.1% say that soldiers on the battlefield are responsible, 3.2% - "ordinary Ukrainians" and 0.8% believe that volunteers and civil society have not done enough.

Ukrainians' assessment of the professionalism of the military leadership is also revealing. To the question "Which of the country's military leadership and heads of special services do you consider professional?" 77.7% of respondents named the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, 44.6% consider the head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov, 31.9% the Commander of the Land Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi, 23.7% the head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Malyuk, 15.4% the organizer of the defense of Mykolaiv Dmytro Marchenko, 14. 3% of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, 13.3% of the former First Deputy Commander of the Special Forces Serhiy Kryvonos, 12.8% of the Commander of the Joint Forces Serhiy Nayev, 11% of the Commander of the Tavria group of troops Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, etc.

The respondents' assessments of the likelihood of the resignation of the top military commanders are worth a separate mention. 55.4% of respondents have heard about "the possible replacement of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi" and 26.3% have heard something, but not sure. So, this is an urgent issue.

At the same time, 38.7% of respondents have a completely negative attitude to this, 21.8% - rather negative. This decision is fully supported by 4.4% and "rather positively" by 6.7%, while another 6.8% will support any decision of President Zelensky. 11.3% found it difficult to answer the question. Thus, we have 60.5% of those who are negative about the possible resignation of the Armed Forces chief, while 11.1% support it to some extent.

The Ukrainians surveyed believe that opponents of Zaluzhny's resignation motivate their position by the high competence of the chief of the armed forces (42.7%), their assessment of the situation in the Armed Forces (35.4%), the fact that the resignation could weaken the morale of the military (30.7%), trust in Zaluzhny among citizens (27.6%), the general assessment of Zaluzhny's moral qualities (26.1%), and the support of Zaluzhny by international partners (21.6%).

Instead, respondents who support the resignation of the Armed Forces chief see the political motives for the resignation (24.1%), the general situation in the Armed Forces (21.3%), the success of the fight against corruption in the Armed Forces (12.8%), and the overall assessment of Zaluzhnyi's competence (11.2%) as motivating factors. 35.9% could not answer this question.

When choosing candidates for the post of the Armed Forces chief, respondents named: the head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov (10.9%), the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi (10.4%). However, 51.6% of respondents did not answer this question, and 25.6% stated that they did not understand these issues. This may also indicate the "maturation" of a society that does not want to participate in the Dunning-Kruger experiment.

Sociologists did not ignore electoral issues either. Thus, in modeling the image of the future president of Ukraine, in the context of profession/specialty: 47.1% of respondents believe that the future president should be an experienced politician; 27.7% - a military officer; 25.9% - an economist; 15.1% - a person known in the world. For 26.5%, this turned out to be a difficult question.

However, when asked the clarifying question "How do you feel about the idea of a military leader heading the country?", 21.1% answered absolutely positively; 21.1% answered more positively. On the other hand, 6.9% of respondents have an absolutely negative attitude toward a military president and 16.9% have a more negative attitude. Rejection is at the level of 23.8%. For 19.6%, it did not matter whether the future president would be a military man or not.

The next clarifying question "why do some Ukrainians want to see a military man as President of Ukraine?" showed that this choice may be due to an understanding of the country's defense needs (45.2%), experience in managing crisis situations (33.3%), the ability to restore order (28.4%), and personal patriotism (26.7%). Interestingly, 18.2% of respondents believe that a military leader will not play political games, and 15.6% say that the military deserves to lead the country.

The negative attitude of some Ukrainians toward the possibility of a military leader becoming the next president of Ukraine is explained by 43.8% of respondents as a possible lack of understanding of economic issues, 43.6% as a lack of experience in civilian governance, 22.4% as an attempt to introduce elements of authoritarianism and dictatorship, and 21.3% as undiplomatic military leader. 

According to Vitaliy Kulyk, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies, the demand for a military president is not obvious in the electoral choice. I would say the opposite. Ukrainians are quite cautious about this. And they see this possibility not so much in the categories of "strong hand" and "restore order with a bayonet" as in the context of the "long war" and the need for concentrated anti-crisis defense management. The results of the survey are more likely to predict a strengthening of the role of the military in public administration in general, their new position, which has yet to be comprehended and institutionalized, rather than the election of the head of state and a specific candidate.

The survey of Ukrainians on mobilization policy during the war showed interesting results. Thus, 61.7% of respondents recognize the existence of a problem with mobilization, 21.1% say that the problem is not great. 48.1% of respondents say they know many people who went to the front as volunteers, 43.3% say they know them, but not a large number. 

On the other hand, 34.8% of respondents admit that there is a small number of those who were mobilized forcibly among their environment; 26.6% say that forced mobilization is a mass phenomenon; and 24.4% have not experienced it. 

The existence of "evaders" (people who are liable for military service but do everything to avoid being mobilized) in their environment is recognized by 26.7% ("yes, and many") and 33.7% ("yes, but not many"). Only 21.6% say that there are no "evaders" in their environment.


At the same time, 36.1% of respondents believe that forced mobilization is completely ineffective, and 34.6% consider it to be mostly ineffective. More than 70% of respondents do not support forced mobilization. Forced mobilization is fully supported by 2.9% and 12.5% consider it acceptable in certain situations.

Demotivators to join the Armed Forces voluntarily are mainly the following topics spread in the information space: poor equipment of the military (you have to buy everything yourself) - 58.8%; injustice in the work of medical commissions - 58.4%; stories about mobilized people being thrown into battle without training (51.3%); wounded people being left without further support (49.9%), "army slavery", bureaucracy in the Armed Forces such that nothing can be done - 42. 0%, talks about officers taking bribes for vacations or not sending them into combat - 33.5%, officers are not responsible for mistakes that lead to losses - 32.9%, demobilized soldiers are left without further support - 32.7%, not giving enough, not paying (or not fully paying) salaries to military personnel - 29.7%, no one needs a soldier when he returns home - 25.7%.

Ukrainians attribute the improvement of mobilization rates to a change in the approach to recruitment. Thus, 31.8% of respondents believe that the offer to mobilize directly to the unit rather than through the military enlistment office will slightly increase the motivation to mobilize, 13.5% believe that it will significantly increase.

The survey results show that the majority of Ukrainians (in the first choice) will nevertheless point to a value choice when motivated to join the army during the war. 60.2% of respondents say that the desire to defend their country is one of the things that motivates them to go to war, 55.3% say that they want to protect their relatives, and 51.9% say that they are patriotic. Only 38.5% are cynical about financial support. For 21.5%, the motivation is a sense of duty to Ukraine, 20.7% - information about Russia's crimes in the occupied territories, 9% - the influence of friends or acquaintances who are already serving.

Also, according to the respondents, the motivating factors that would contribute to the mobilization of persons liable for military service are: a clear understanding of the conditions and terms of service (54.6%), increased guarantees for the family (40.0%), increased financial support (34.8%), training and preparation for mobilization (34. 3%), increasing the level of trust in the military leadership (28.1%), examples of victories and successes of the Armed Forces (27.9%), confirmation of the absence of hazing and bullying (26.0%), reduction of bureaucracy (in particular, when transferring from one unit to another) (22.3%).

Three factors that are crucial for a Ukrainian when deciding to voluntarily join the Armed Forces. The respondents chose the following: financial support (including guarantees of payments in case of injury or death) - 70.4%; guarantees of social benefits after the war - 45.9%; quality training of the military - 52.1%. Less important were: openness of information about where and how mobilized people will be deployed - 31.1%; attitude of the military leadership towards mobilized people - 28.5%; attitude of the society towards mobilized people - 21.0%.                       

It is also worth noting that 38.2% of respondents believe that informing about the scope of duties that a particular soldier will have after mobilization will slightly increase the desire to be mobilized; 13.7% believe that it will significantly increase the desire. Awareness and honesty are important motivators.

To the question "should women fight in the same way as men?" 9.1% of respondents answered yes, and 54.5% said yes, but only if a woman wants to. A negative attitude toward women's service in the military was expressed by 14.6% of respondents, and 15.4% see such a possibility only "in an emergency." Today, more women are fighting in the Armed Forces of Ukraine (indeed, fighting on the front line) than in any other army in the world.