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Approval Ratings in Ukraine, Russia Highlight Differences

Approval Ratings in Ukraine, Russia Highlight Differences

by Julie Ray and Neli Esipova

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Eighty-five percent of Ukrainians in May told Gallup they disapprove of the job performance of their country's leadership, up from 75% in 2008 and 73% in 2007. The 4% of Ukrainians who approve is not only the lowest rating Gallup has ever measured in former Soviet countries, but also the lowest in the world.


Ukrainians' high disapproval likely reflects frustration with the bitter political infighting between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The conflict between the former allies has essentially paralyzed policymaking for the past year and a half. Individually, Ukrainians give both leaders low marks.


Yushchenko's 7% approval rating is less than half of the 17% he garnered in 2008. (Gallup did not ask Ukrainians to rate Tymoshenko in 2008.) The prime minister's current 20% approval is nearly three times higher than the president's rating, which could be relevant to their chances when they run against each other in Ukraine's presidential election in five months. Analysts suggest that low approval could give outside candidates an advantage in January.

Power Partnership in Russia

Russians' approval of the performance of their leadership over the last several years stands in stark contrast to that of their neighbors in Ukraine. Since the 2008 presidential election, majorities of Russians have approved of the leadership of their country. Approval declined slightly to 56% in June of this year from 63% in May 2008; both measures are substantially higher than the 39% approval rating in May 2007.


Russians' approval ratings of their prime minister and president again contrast the situation in Ukraine -- one acrimonious and the other a "tandem." More than two-thirds of Russians approve of President Dmitry Medvedev (68%) and more than three in four approve of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (77%).


One year into Medvedev's presidency, that more Russians approve of Putin than approve of his protégé, underscores Putin's continuing popularity. Nineteen percent of Russians have no opinion of Medvedev's leadership, which is more than the 12% who have no opinion of Putin's.

Bottom Line

Gallup Polls suggest many Ukrainians likely welcomed the advice U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gave during his visit to the country last week. Biden urged leaders to put aside their "political posturing" in the difficult economic times and "heed the lessons of history -- effective, accountable government is the only way to provide a stable, predictable, and transparent environment that attracts investment, which is the economic engine of development."

In Russia, where the global economic downturn has hit residents hard, approval ratings have stayed relatively buoyant. At this point, the Medvedev-Putin partnership appears to be providing Russians a united front and a sense of political stability in tough times.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in July 2007, May 2008, and May 2009 in Ukraine and with at least 2,000 adults in Russia in May 2007, May 2008, and June 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error was ±4 percentage points in Ukraine and ±3 percentage points in Russia. Samples in Russia and Ukraine are nationally representative, with urban oversample. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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