Public opinion about decentralization reform

Opinion polls
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11 September 2018

Nationwide public opinion polling conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation jointly with Kyiv International Institute of Sociology on August 16-28, 2018 in all regions of Ukraine with the exception of Crimea and the occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. 2,041 respondents aged 18 and older were polled.
The statistical margin of error (with a probability of 0,95 and a design effect of 1,5) does not exceed: 3,3% for the indicators near 50%, 2,8% for indicators near 25% or 75%, 2,0% for indicators near 12% or 88%, 1,4% for indicators near 5% or 95%, 0,7% for indicators near to 1% or 99%.

This polling was presented by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation as part of its project implemented under the USAID/ENGAGE activity, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Pact. The contents of this polling are the sole responsibility of Pact and its implementing partners and do not necessary reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. 

For comparison, the results of polling conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in August 2016 and June 2017 are also provided.


  • Over a year the level of awareness of Ukrainians with decentralization reform has somewhat declined.  16% of the people understand what this reform is about (in June 2017 this figure was around 20%), some 60% heard something about this (in 2017 – 62%). Accordingly, the share of those who know absolutely nothing about decentralization grew from 18% to 23%. Residents from the Central regions know the most about the reform (a total of 83%), while residents in the East of Ukraine now the least about it (53%).
  • Only 19% of the respondents said that they are well aware of the powers which local authorities possess, while 51% are partially aware of this issue, and 32% know practically nothing about this at all.
  • Just as a year before, the support for the government’s measures regarding decentralization prevails over the negative attitudes of the people. In particular, 43% of the polled showed such support (in June 2017– 42%), while 22% showed a negative attitude towards the government’s activity in this sphere (in 2017 – this figure was 27%). Proponents of the decentralization reform prevail in all macro-regions of Ukraine, with the exception of the East (there the level of support for such reform is only 24%, while 29% declared a negative attitude). The highest support of the policy of decentralization was noted in western regions of Ukraine (53%).
  • At the same time, the majority of Ukrainians, as earlier, do not feel the changes from the use of additional funds that were received by local budgets over the latest years – 61% of the population expressed such a position (in June 2017 - 55%). The share of those who feel changes for the better as a result of the increase in local budgets is fairly low (18%), and is only slightly higher than the share of those who feel changes for worse (14%). Besides that, in comparison to June 2017 these shares remained almost without change. Herewith, there are certain regional differences, specifically in the West and the South the number of those who see positive changes is somewhat higher, while in the Center and the East the situation is the opposite – more people there see negative changes.
  • Among those who noted positive changes, most frequently the improvement in the situation with landscaping and sanitary state near residential buildings (46%) was mentioned, while 22% noted the improvements in the work of the housing and communal services system and 21% - in the work of urban transport.
  • Just as in 2016–2017, the majority of those who felt changes for worse pointed to the decline in the quality of medical services ­– 43%. Other areas, in which people noted a decline, were the care for socially vulnerable groups (35%) and providing jobs for citizens (28%). However, it’s worth mentioning that this year the above mentioned changes for worse got lower percentage than it was in the last year polling.
  • Compared with the last year, public opinion regarding the capacity of the local government to take advantage of additional powers obtained as a result of decentralization almost did not change, and in the polls conducted last year and this year the same 44% of the polled (10% - fully confident,  and 34% - mostly confident) were confident in such a capacity of the local authorities, while 26% of the polled in the current public opinion poll expressed considerable doubts about this and 29% expressed their doubts in polling conducted last year. The share of those who are convinced that the local authorities are unable to handle the new powers somewhat fell (from 17% to 12%). The most confident in the capacity of their local authorities to handle new powers are the residents of the West (“absolutely” or “predominantly confident” are 54% of those polled there), while the least confident are the people from the East of Ukraine (27%).
  • Citizens foresee both positive and negative consequences of the decentralization reform. 23% of the people believe it will give them new opportunities to have an influence on the government (this indicator does not differ from that of last year), while 12% believe that thanks to this reform the quality of services will improve (the given indicator in the previous polling was 18%). At the same time, 23% fear that decentralization will lead to the emergence of local “princes”, while 22% – to the devastation of villages and rural settlements. However, mentioning the possibility of the emergence of uncontrolled local elites compared to the last year’s polling fell by 5%, while mentioning of possible de-population in certain regions increased by 6%. The greatest fears regarding “local princes” were identified in the Center (31%), while residents of the West saw the most possibilities of influencing the authorities (32%). Residents of the South noticeably more often referred to the possible devastation of settlements (33%).
  • The awareness of citizens about the process of voluntary amalgamation of communities did not significantly change over a year. In particular, 12% of the polled are well aware of this process (in 2017 – 18%), heard something about it – 57% (in 2017 – 56%), while 26% know nothing about this (just as in 2017). The awareness about amalgamation of communities is the highest in the West (there 19% of the people are well aware of this process, while only 7–13% are aware of it in other regions of Ukraine). Generally speaking, the indicators of awareness regarding the processes of decentralization differ between the West, the East and the Center (accordingly 77%, 69% and 75%), while in the South this indicator is considerably lower (47%).
  • In general, 39% of the population support the voluntary amalgamation of territorial communities, while 28% of the polled have a negative attitude towards this process. Meanwhile, one third of the polled are undecided on this issue.
  • Among the residents of amalgamated communities, the opinion that this amalgamation didn’t affect their living conditions prevails. Such was the assessment of 50% of the polled in this group (at the same time, this indicator is notably lower compared to the last year when it was 63%). The share of those who felt an improvement in their living conditions is 37% in the current polling, while in last year’s polling this figure was only 11%. The percentage of those who felt their living conditions worsened is 10% (the year before this indicator was 12%).
  • Just as a year before, 55% of Ukrainians are for the most part dissatisfied with the ability to have an influence on the local authorities. At the same time, this indicator is somewhat lower in comparison with last year (then it was 63%). However, such a decline was due to the increase in the number of those who could not make their decision on this issue, while the share of those satisfied remained practically unchanged (17% in the current polling and 16% in the previous polling a year before). The lowest number of those satisfied with their possibilities to influence the local authorities is in the East – 10%, while in the West 28% of the people are satisfied with their possibilities. At the same time, only 34% expressed their desire to take part in the management of their village, town or city in the event of the increase in the powers of the local authorities (in 2017, such was the opinion of 37% of the people), while 48% admitted that they are not ready for this (in 2017 – 50%).
  • Among those who expressed their willingness to take part in the governance of their communities, the most popular instrument for this remained participation as voters in elections (46%, in 2017 – 42%). All other forms of participation in community affairs are much less popular: only 16% of the people mentioned participation in public hearings and in civil work on landscaping, while even less raised the issue of other measures. At the same time, there are certain regional differences on this issue: 54% of respondents in the South and 49% in the East are more ready to participate as voters in the elections of local bodies, while people in the West and the Center of Ukraine are somewhat less inclined to vote (40% and 44%, accordingly).  In the West of Ukraine, the number of people ready to participate in public hearings is somewhat higher (22% in comparison with 13-15% in other regions). Meanwhile, in the East the share of those who are not ready to participate in any kind of activities related to their community management is the highest and accounts for 39%.