- Majority want Ukraine to fight until it wins the war
- Ukrainians who want to keep fighting see victory as regaining Crimea
- Almost universal support for the Ukrainian military
This article is the first in a series based on Gallup's surveys in Ukraine this summer.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After 18 months of grinding conflict, Ukrainians remain deeply committed to winning the war with Russia -- although slightly less so than they were in the early months of the war.
Three in five (60%) Ukrainians interviewed in July and August said they want Ukraine to keep fighting until it wins, twice as many as those who want Ukraine to negotiate to end the war as soon as possible (31%). Ukrainians’ commitment is slightly muted from what it was in September 2022, when 70% of Ukrainians said they wanted their country to keep fighting, but the majority still staunchly support the war.
Quick Summary: When the first tanks rolled across Ukraine’s border in late February 2022, Russian troops were expected to take the capital -- Kyiv -- within a matter of weeks, if not days.
But over a year and a half later, a combination of strong Ukrainian resistance and logistical problems within Russia’s army has resulted in a protracted, attritional conflict. Ukrainian forces, supplied with arms from an alliance of Western countries, are battling across a long front line.
In early June 2023, Ukrainian forces began a long-anticipated counteroffensive focusing on the occupied South. Progress has been slow, but Ukraine claims to have had recent success in breaching Russian defenses.
Regions Closest to the Front Line Most Likely to Favor a Quick Resolution: Although the majority of Ukrainians support fighting until victory, this sentiment is not shared equally across Ukraine. Residents in the North of Ukraine (72%) -- including Kyiv -- and the West (71%) are most supportive of continuing the fight even as they come under increasing attack from Russian shells. A clear majority in the Center (64%) of Ukraine also supports fighting to victory.
In the South (45%) and East (52%) regions closest to the front line, support for continuing the fight is still lower than the rest of the country. As a result, the proportion who favor a negotiated end to the war as quickly as possible is also highest in the South (41%) and East (39%).
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a key figure in national support for the war. His personal approval ratings remain sky-high in 2023 (81%). Ukrainians who approve of Zelenskyy’s leadership are significantly more likely to favor a fight to victory (65%) than those who disapprove (48%).
Ukrainians Are Unequivocal in What It Means to Win the War: Gallup asked those who said Ukraine should fight until victory what would have to happen for their country to declare it had won the war with Russia. Their response was almost unanimous: 91% believe that a victory means regaining all territory lost between 2014 and now, including Crimea. This is unchanged from 2022 (91%).
Crimea has been central to the conflict since 2014, when it came under Russian control. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said several times that Ukraine would recapture the Crimean Peninsula by any means deemed necessary. Ukraine has stepped up its offensive in Crimea in recent months, using NATO-supplied weapons to attack the peninsula by sea and air, including a recent missile attack that struck Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the port city of Sevastopol.
The People Stand Behind Their Military: Ukrainians’ faith in their troops remains unshakeable, with 95% having confidence in the military in 2023, in line with the previous year when the war broke out (94%). In 2022, only Azerbaijan (97%) had more confidence in its military than Ukraine. Faith in the armed forces is widespread across all regions.
But as the war grinds on, fears are rising in Ukraine of maintaining military recruitment levels that allow them to fight into the future. This has led to military recruitment campaigns aimed at encouraging men to enlist in an institution that almost all Ukrainians have confidence in.
Gallup’s surveys conducted in 2023 suggest that a small minority of Ukrainians have changed their minds in the last year and now favor a quick resolution to end the fighting. But Ukraine’s leaders -- and their backers in the West -- will be reassured by the continued widespread civic demand to keep fighting until the war is won.
Maintaining support for continuing the conflict is crucial when the public has such a clear idea of what victory looks like: that is, reclaiming full territorial sovereignty over land lost since 2014, including the Crimean Peninsula.
An end to the fighting currently seems a long way off. Until that day comes, Ukraine remains under bombardment from land and air. Personal tragedies multiply by the day as more soldiers are laid to rest beneath flags commemorating the fallen. But most of the population remains resolute, hoping soon to see a day when the war is won.
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