WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before the divisions between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians in the country became central to the current crisis there, Ukrainian residents saw the tolerance toward people of different nationalities as getting worse. In 2013, 30% of Ukrainian adults said that tolerance toward people of different nationalities was worse than during the Soviet Union days, nearly double the 16% who said so in 2008. Twenty-one percent said tolerance was better and 38% said it was the same.
Ukrainians also saw tolerance of people of different religions as getting worse over the same period but not to the same degree. And, unlike with tolerance of nationalities, Ukrainians were more likely to see tolerance of religions as better (35%) than worse (19%). Most residents agreed that crime and poverty were higher than during the Soviet days, but their opinions were relatively unchanged between 2008 and 2013.
Not surprisingly, Ukrainians' views on the tolerance of different nationalities largely depend on the region where they live, with those in the majority-Ukrainian West displaying a far rosier view than their compatriots in the East, which includes majority-Russian Crimea. Four times as many residents living in the West (44%) than living in the East (11%) reported that tolerance of different nationalities was better than it was during the Soviet Union days. Opinions were more moderate among Central residents.
Opinions about the tolerance of people of different religions were similarly split by region. Far more people living in the West (62%) saw tolerance as better in 2013 compared with the Soviet period than those living in the East region (25%). Again, residents of the Central region held views similar to the nation as a whole.
Outside of the West, where perceptions of tolerance actually improved in the past five years, opinions on tolerance of different nationalities worsened. This drop was most pronounced in the Central region of the country where the percentage saying tolerance was better off fell from 42% to 20% between 2008 and 2013. In the East, the percentage dropped from 18% to 11% over the same period.
Divisions between two major nationalities mirror the regional divides, with ethnic Russians predominantly living in the East, particularly in Crimea, while far fewer reside in the West. Ethnic Ukrainians were twice as likely to see tolerance of nationalities as better off (23%) when compared with ethnic Russians (10%). In a similar vein, 38% of ethnic Ukrainians saw improvement in the tolerance of people from different religions, while 22% of ethnic Russians felt the same way.
Over the past five years, ethnic Ukrainians and those living in the West region have increasingly seen a positive trend in tolerance toward people of different nationalities and religions growing throughout the country, while ethnic Russians and those living in the East region have held a much more negative outlook, seeing the situation as getting worse. This wide contrast in perceptions highlights one possible cause of division in Ukraine and helps to explain the difference in how residents of different regions and nationalities view the future of their country. Moving forward, the new Ukrainian leadership will need to work to overcome these differences and unify a starkly divided country while preventing nationalism from impeding future progress.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2008-2013 in Ukraine. The most recent results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, conducted in June 27-July 31, 2013, in Ukraine. Results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.