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Savik Shuster: Petro Poroshenko’s electoral base in 10 regions of Ukraine declined by a third after

living through martial law

12 February, 2019

This is indicated by the results of the Open Mind Foundation's sociological research in the 10 regions of Ukraine where martial law was imposed: Vinnitsa, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Nikolaev, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Kherson and Chernigov.

The survey results show that almost half (46.7%) of the population in the regions where martial law was introduced experienced anger and humiliation as a result of the government's decision. 82.1% of the respondents who indicated feeling these emotions believe that everything was arranged in order to improve the rating of President Petro Poroshenko in the run-up to Ukraine's March 2019 presidential election.

Our foundation studies the emotions of an individual as well as group emotions, the mechanism of their occurrence and how they influence our everyday lives. We believe that the emotional state of people can more accurately predict changes in their electoral preferences than the results of traditional election polls. Usually sociologists ask people what they think, however our task was to find out what they feel. This helps us understand the decision-making process of large groups of people, such as voters.

On November 28, we asked the residents of the 10 regions where martial law was imposed on that day: “What emotions do you have towards the decision to introduce martial law in your region?”*

The direct quote of the question was: As you may know, since 9 am on November 28th, 2018 martial law has been introduced in your region. What emotions do you have towards this government decision?

Since martial law was imposed by President Petro Poroshenko, we believe that the survey results illustrate the emotional attitude of the respondents to the president who signed the decree.


  • The Department of Sociology of the Open Mind Foundation used a stratified (urban / rural population) stochastic sample. In order to present different age groups in the survey, they used CATI (Computer-assisted telephone interviewing) and CAWI (Computer-assisted web interviewing). 950 people were interviewed with an acceptable error of 4.62% and a 95% confidence level. The survey was conducted in the territories under the jurisdiction of Ukraine. The results can be considered to be the opinion of the majority of the citizens of the territory where the survey was conducted. Survey participants were instructed to choose one of four emotions which best described their attitude towards the martial law decision: hope, fear, humiliation, and anger. We took these feelings as a base line for assessing the emotional state of people living under martial law.

On January 10, we conducted a second survey to find out what people thought of the president’s decree to impose martial law, two weeks after it was lifted.


The question asked on January 10: On December 26, 2018, at 2 pm, martial law came to an end in your region. What emotions do you feel now about the decision of the government to impose martial law a month ago, on November 28?

We were also interested in learning why the responders felt one of these four emotions, so we asked a second round of questions:

You are feeling hopeful because:

  1. The introduction of martial law proved to me that we can come together to protect Ukraine.

  2. The government showed Russia that Ukraine is resistant.

  3. Under martial law, the level of corruption and crime sharply decreased.

You are feeling fear because:

  1. The introduction of martial law in only 10 out of 25 regions has split the country.

  2. The introduction of martial law proved nothing, and the threat of Russian invasion still remains.

  3. The level of crime and corruption has increased.

You are feeling angry because:

  1. Russia will never stop attacking us.

  2. The President introduced martial law for his election campaign.

  3. The level of crime and corruption has increased.

You are feeling humiliated because:

  1. The introduction of martial law was only in 10 out of 24 regions.

  2. The President introduced martial law for his election campaign.

  3. The level of crime and corruption increased.

We believe that understanding the causes of fear, hope, anger and humiliation can provide a better picture of the emotional state of Ukraine.


On November 28, a quarter of the citizens (25.6%) living in the 10 regions where martial law was introduced experienced fear.

“I am very afraid of the introduction of martial law. I do not know where to go. Zaporozhye region has a lot of people from Donetsk and Lugansk, and if martial law is introduced in Zaporozhye, which means that a war can begin, then where are we supposed to go with our families? After all, we are not feeling safe and we have nowhere to go.”

70-year-old resident of Zaporozhye region

By far, the President’s decision frightened a greater proportion of women (38%) and people aged 30–44 (33.5%) than other groups.

By early January, the feeling of fear had dropped significantly, but it hasn't disappeared: 17.9% of all respondents said they were still scared, and the overwhelming majority of them (85%) admitted that the introduction of martial law did not change anything and the threat of Russian invasion still remains. 7% of the responders, who said they were experiencing fear, followed up that they were intimidated by the levels of crime and corruption, which, they perceived, had increased over the month in question. However, presumably, crime and corruption levels should be significantly lower under martial law.

The January 10, 2019 opinion poll revealed that women and the middle-aged population (30-44 years) had begun to indicate fear far less frequently – only 23.5% of women perceived the President's decree with fear. Those in the middle-aged group indicating that they'd experienced fear about the introduction of martial law had dropped by more than half: 16.6% instead of 33.5%. This is the only age group where feelings of fear had been almost entirely replaced by feelings of hope (which increased 7.4%) and humiliation (increased 6%). We assume that while some of the people in the middle-aged group were impressed by the resilience of the country, almost the same share believed that the introduction of martial law was part of the presidential election campaign.

Hope as a possible voter base for the president

We believe that people who are feeling hopeful with regard to the introduction of martial law in Ukraine could serve as a potential voter base for current president Petro Poroshenko.

According to the results of our survey on November 28, 2018, the President’s decision to impose martial law in 10 regions caused 33.1% of residents over 18 years old to feel hopeful. We can state that there's a high probability that in late November, they would have indicated that they were planning to vote for the current president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, again in 2019. Moreover, approximately 40% of all men, as well as the younger population (18-29 years) and the elderly (60 years and older) were hopeful and optimistic about the introduction of martial law. These three groups represent the electoral base of Petro Poroshenko.

However, two weeks after the end of martial law, this base had significantly decreased. The president’s decree evoked hope among only 21.5% of respondents (vs. 33.1% in November). Fewer elderly people (18.4% instead of 42.2%) and 18-29 year-olds (18.7% instead of 39.5%) indicated feeling hopeful in the January survey, as they were more likely to be disappointed when reflecting upon the introduction of martial law in their region.

Nevertheless, every fourth man (23.5%) and every fifth woman (19.8%), living in the “martial law regions”, continued to support the decisions of the president. More than half of them (51.2%) who indicated a sense of hope believed that Ukrainians had finally been able to come together to protect the nation. Another 34.6% of those who were hopeful believed that the government had shown Russia that Ukraine is “nezlamna” – indestructible. However, only 6.5% of the president’s electoral base said that the levels of crime and corruption had sharply decreased in the country. Although crime was supposed to decline by itself under martial law, it was expected that more people would notice the change.

The results of our study show that the biggest supporters of Petro Poroshenko are middle-aged people (30-44 years). On January 10, 27.1% of them responded that the decision to impose martial law continues to give them hope, significantly higher than among other age groups.

Humiliation as possible opposition to the president

On January 10, 17.4% of those surveyed in the 10 regions felt humiliated by the imposition of martial law, 6.5% higher than on November 28 (10.9%).

The majority of respondents felt that the situation was artificially created:

“It is not clear why martial law was introduced. Nothing has changed in the city. Neither patrols, nor the military. The seized ships haven’t been released either. A lot of what’s going on still remains behind the scenes”

30-year-old resident from Zaporozhye region

“The introduction of martial law made me wonder: why they didn’t show people where bomb shelters were, why they didn’t set up any mobile hospitals, why were there no civil defense classes? This is some kind of absurdity.”

66-years-old resident from Odessa region

During the second round of surveys, we observed that the share of humiliation among two age groups – middle-aged people (30-44 years) and the elderly (60 and older) – had risen significantly. In January, twice as many residents felt humiliated regarding the martial law decision as in November, when it was introduced. The share of people indicating that they felt humiliated by the president’s move rose from 7.4% to 13.4% among middle-aged people (30-44 years) and from 10.3% to 20.2% among the elderly (60 years and older). Perhaps, these people felt hopeful and optimistic when martial law was introduced, but, later on, changed their minds with regard to the situation. On January 10, the majority of the population (83.5%) indicating that they felt humiliated, said they were feeling this way because they believed the “martial law situation” was just a pre-election stunt orchestrated by the president.

Another 10% of responders indicating that the move had prompted feelings of humiliation believed that the introduction of martial law in only 10 regions made them feel like second-class citizens. The most humiliated people were the elderly (20.6%) and rural residents (28.4%). Among respondents indicating their humiliation, 23.2% of the young population (18-29 years) cited the increase in levels of crime and corruption during martial law.


During the introduction of martial law, women as a group felt most frightened (38.1%). By the end of the period, this fear had transformed into anger; every third woman (29.6%) indicated feeling angry at the government:

“What was it all about? Some kind of misunderstanding. Why now? Why didn't the President impose martial law when Crimea was annexed and people were dying in the Donbas region?!”

53-years-old resident from Odessa region

Three-quarters of women who felt angry (75.4%) said that the imposition of martial law was a presidential pre-election stunt, and 16% felt that the level of crime and corruption had increased during this time.

During the martial law period, the share of men who felt anger didn’t drastically change over time (27% vs 29%). Almost all of them (86.7%) were convinced that martial law had been introduced to promote the interests of President Poroshenko.

The vast majority (93.5%) of the young population (18-29 years) accused the president of electoral manipulation and believed that all the events connected with the Kerch Strait incident were part of the reelection game. Approximately 16 percent of the two middle-aged generations (30-44 and 45-59 years), who felt angry with the government noted a significant increase in crime and corruption in their region.

Brief conclusions:

According to the results of our study, 46.7% of residents of the regions where martial law was imposed feel anger and humiliation towards the government; 82% of them believe that everything had been arranged in order to raise the election ratings of current president Petro Poroshenko.

Note: at the time of the second survey, the number of respondents who were uncertain or refused to answer increased from 6.6% to 13.9%. A significant share of them noted that “they did not notice any effect of martial law at all.” Since the questionnaire did not provide for such an option, the interviewers entered such answers in the column “Refused to answer”.

Detailed data from the survey can be found here.

Source - Open Mind Foundation Analytics Group

The full results of the study will be published on the foundation website ( in mid-February 2019.

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