Opposition to Russian Propaganda and Media Literacy: Opinion Poll

 Detector Media


All-Ukrainian opinion poll was conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in February 2018, as requested by NGO “Detector Media”, financed by Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and US National Endowment for Democracy.

The dynamics of changes in influence of Russian propaganda could be traced by comparing these data with previous opinion polls conducted at the request of “Detector Media”. In particular, analytical report “Opposition to Russian informational aggression: joint efforts for protection of democracy” was presented in April 2015; opinion poll on the perception of Russian propagandist messages, credence to Russian and Ukrainian media, awareness about media owners was conducted in June 2015; research on the level of critical attitude of citizens towards media was completed in March 2016.  In 2017 Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, at the request of “Detector Media”, conducted the research on “How Russian propaganda influences Ukrainian public opinion”.

This research used opinion poll to learn views and opinions of adult Ukrainians (18+) regarding media usage, opposition to Russian propaganda and media literacy of population. The research consisted of several main stages: development of questionnaire and supplementary instruments; development of sample; interviewing of respondents; quality check; data processing and error check; preparation of final data set, tables of one-dimensional and two-dimensional distribution, and analytical report.

For this research KIIS developed stratified, 4-level sample, random at each level. The sample is representative for adult Ukrainian population that lives constantly in Ukraine, is not on military service, in prisons or health care centers (hospitals, hostels). The sample did not include territories which are temporarily out of control of Ukrainian authorities (Crimea, certain areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions).

At first, Ukrainian population was stratified by regions (24 regions and the city of Kyiv); then population of each region was additionally stratified as urban (cities, urban-type settlements) and rural (except Kyiv, where all population is urban). Thus, all Ukrainian population was divided into 49 strata. For each strata, in proportion to the size of adult population, KIIS defined the number of interview to be conducted and the number of communities to be involved in interviewing. For Donetsk and Luhansk regions KIIS calculated population size only for territories currently under control of Ukrainian authorities.

After stratification KIIS selected particular communities for interviewers’ fieldwork. At the first stage, KIIS selected communities within each strata. Urban communities were selected with probability, proportional to adult population size in the given community. For rural strata, KIIS initially selected districts (with probability proportional to adult population size in the given district), and then randomly selected rural communities within the selected district. At the second stage, KIIS selected electoral wards within the selected communities. At the third stage, KIIS selected initial addresses (street, house, if applicable – apartment) where the interviewers should start. At the fourth stage respondents were selected and questioned  using modified route sampling.

The interviewing was conducted via personal interviews using Tablet PC in the respondents’ private households.

Due to random sampling at each stage, women and elderly people were overrepresented in the final data set. Special statistical ‘balances’ were created to restore proper proportions.

Data below are presented for Ukraine in general and separately for four Ukrainian macro-regions: Western (Volyn, Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi and Chernivtsi regions), Central (Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy, Kyiv regions and the city of Kyiv), Southern (Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Odesa regions), and Eastern (Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions).

The fieldwork lasted from Feb. 5 to Feb. 21, 2018. The total number of interviews was 2043, with respondents from 110 Ukrainian communities.

Statistical error for sample of 2043 respondents (with probability 0.95 and design effect 1.5) does not exceed:

  • 3.3% for indexes close to 50%,
  • 2.8% for indexes close to 25 or 75%,
  • 2.0% for indexes close to 12 or 88%,
  • 1.4% for indexes close to 5 or 95%,
  • 0.7% for indexes close to 1 or 99%.

Main results

Level of Usage and Credence to Information Sources

Absolute majority of Ukrainians (86%) receive information about Ukrainian and world events from Ukrainian TV channels. 27% of Ukrainians receive information from Ukrainian websites, 24% from social networks. For 18% the main source of information are personal social relations: relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. No more than 8% of population use other informational sources. In particular, 5% of respondents admitted that they receive information about Ukrainian and world events from Russian TV channels.

57% of Ukrainian population receive information only from Ukrainian media (in the Eastern part of Ukraine there are 52% such respondents). Among the rest of the population, the majority also receive information from TV, but combine it with other sources; others receive information only from websites, social networks and personal acquaintances. Virtually all respondents who receive information from Russian media (5% nationwide, but 11% in the East of Ukraine), also receive information from Ukrainian media. Only 0.2% of Ukrainians (0.6% of Eastern Ukrainians) receive information solely from Russian media.

At the same time, 57% trust information from Ukrainian TV channels about the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine (46% in the Eastern macro-region vs. 54-61% in the other macro-regions), 14% trust such information from the websites,  13% – information from social networks.

On the average, an adult Ukrainian watches 3 Ukrainian TV channels but trusts only 1.5 channels regarding the events in Ukraine and relations between Ukraine, Russia and “people’s republics” in Donbas.

For general audience, top TV channels are 1+1 (watched by 61% of Ukrainians), Inter (48%), TV Ukraine (44%), ICTV (39%), STB (36%), New channel (18%) and 112 channel (15%). In terms of credence to information no more than 35% trust any particular channel. The same 7 channels are leading in terms of the number of trusting watchers: 1+1 (35%), Inter (22%), TV Ukraine (22%), ICTV (20%), New channel (6%) and 112 channel (8%).

1+1 is the leading channel in the Western and Central parts of Ukraine. In the South its rating is still high, but its competitors are closer. The positions of Inter and TV Ukraine are stronger in the Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine. ICTV has roughly the same audience in all macro-regions. STB is most watched in the South, somewhat less in the Western and Central macro-regions, least of all in the East of Ukraine. Some other channels also have visible regional particularities: e,g., ZIK, 24 channel and 5 channel are much more watched in the West, and NewsOne in the South and East. 112 channel and New channel are also somewhat more popular in the East.

Only one fourth of Ukrainian TV watchers (27%) believe that Ukrainian channels truly provide objective information about the events in Ukraine and relations between Ukraine, Russia and “people’s republics”. Significantly more people (43%) believe that the information provided by TV is not true (whereas 30% reserved their opinion). The proportion of those who believe in objectiveness of the information provided by Ukrainian TV channels becomes lower from the West to the East (31% to 20%).

42% of adult Ukrainians use at least one social network. The most popular network is currently Facebook, used by 36% of Ukrainians. No more than 11% of Ukrainians use other social networks.

29% of Ukrainians use only one of the “Western” social networks. Only 3% use solely Russian social networks; 8% have accounts in both “Western” and “Russian” social networks.

Information Check

35% of respondents claim that, if they get an information from Ukrainian national, Russian, their local media, or media of “Donetsk/Luhansk people’s republics”, they would check it with media of “the other” side. At the same time, slightly more than a half of the respondents (52%) would not check the information.

At the same time, if the information from different sources is contradictory, 58% prefer to believe Ukrainian nationwide media, and only 1% would rather believe Russian media or media of “people’s republics”. At the same time, every third Ukrainian (38%) does not know which side he or she would rather believe in such situation. In the West 27% don’t know which side to believe; in the Center – 37%, South – 47%, East – 48% (although anyway Ukrainian media keep the lead in all macro-regions).

Fullness of Information on Particular Issues

Most of Ukrainians admit that they receive insufficient information about state strategies and goals regarding Crimea (63% vs. 23% who said they have rather or fully enough information), regarding the territories controlled by “people’s republics” (60% vs. 26%) and new Law on Reintegration of Donbas (68% vs. 13%).

At the same time, as compared to previous KIIS poll (December 2016), the level of informational awareness has become somewhat higher (in December 2016 only 17% had enough information regarding Crimea, and 20% regarding Donbas).

Subjectively, Eastern Ukrainians believe themselves more informed about state strategies and goals regarding both Crimea (34% believe themselves “sufficiently informed”) and Donbas (40%), whereas in the other macro-regions the proportion of those who believe themselves sufficiently informed does not exceed 25%.

Only 5% of the respondents claim to be familiar with at least some of the provisions of the Law on Reintegration of Donbas. At the same time, 50% heard something but do not know any details, and 41% didn’t hear anything about the Law.

Interpretations of Current Events in the Context of Annexation of Crimea and the Conflict in the East of Ukraine

52% of respondents believe that the war was initiated by Russia and separatists (at the same time, 15% blame Ukraine, and one third has no definite opinion – which is a negative fact after 4 years of war), 43% of respondents believe that Ukrainians and Ukrainian-speaking people are persecuted in Crimea and “people’s republics”(vs. 10% who believe that Russians and Russian-speaking people are persecuted in Ukraine).

30% believe that an attack on the freedom of speech is currently going on in Ukraine; 33% believe that in Ukraine there are too much pro-Kremlin media; 38% has no definite opinion about this issue.

People mostly reject certain restrictive measures:

  • 44% do not support the ban of Russian TV channels (37% support it),
  • 46% do not support the ban of Russian social networks (30% support it),
  • 53% do not support the ban of certain Russian artists and movies (29% support it).

Only in the Western macro-region we can see certain domination of the “pro-Ukrainian” interpretation of events and support of some decisions of the Ukrainian authorities. However, even here 28% of respondents either believe that the war was initiated by Ukraine or have no definite opinion about this issue. Just slightly more than a half of Western Ukrainians (52-56%) support the ban of Russian TV series / social networks / artists.

In the Central macro-region 55% blame Russia / separatists for initiating the war (whereas 14% blame Ukraine, and 31% have no definite opinion about this issue). The ban of Russian TV channels is rather supported; however, the majority here stands against the ban of  TV series / social networks / artists.

In the South and East only one third of the respondents believe that that the war was initiated by Russia and separatists (17-18% blame Ukraine, the rest have no definite opinion). Also, the majority here is against the restrictive measures against Russian TV channels, TV series, social networks and artists.

Opposition to Kremlin Propaganda and Disinformation. Assessment of Effectiveness of the State and NGOs

Ukrainians mostly suppose that opposition to Kremlin propaganda is the responsibility of governmental bodies: 49% of respondents believe that this is solely governmental responsibility. 33% of respondents “split” the responsibility between governmental agencies and NGOs.

Ukrainians have no definite opinion about the “success secret” of Russian propaganda. Mostly they suggest that Russian propaganda is effective due to serious financial investments into propaganda (38% of respondents), lack of critical thinking of ordinary audience (33%) and Russia’s bribing foreign media and politicians (30%).

Ukrainians rather critically assess effectiveness of both governmental bodies and NGOs in opposing Kremlin propaganda. The creation of Ukrainian content is assessed somewhat better: 24% believe that the state is doing enough in this direction (47% disagree), 19% believe the same about NGOs (44% disagree).

16% of respondents positively assess governmental activity in providing media literacy courses in educational institutions (46% disagree), 14% positively assess similar activities of NGOs (42% disagree). Regarding restoration of TV and radio broadcasting for Donbas 13% believe that government is doing enough (50% disagree), 10% believe the same about NGOs (42% disagree)

Critical assessment of governmental and NGO’s effectiveness prevails in all macro-regions, although the overall assessment in Southern and Eastern macro-regions is somewhat better.

  Ukrainian Language Quotas on Radio and Tv

One third of Ukrainians (33%) support quotas for Ukrainian language on radio and TV; 43% do not support it. Of those who support it only one third believe that the state and NGOs are doing enough in this direction.

The support for quotas becomes much lower from the West to the East: in the Western macro-region 50% agree with this decision (24% disagree), in the Central macro-region the figures are 36% vs. 39%. In the South and East most of the people (resp., 57% and 67%) are against quotas, which are supported, resp., by 22% and 14% of regional respondents.

Self-Assessment of Ability to Recognize Fakes

Slightly more than a half of Ukrainians (53%) believe themselves capable to distinguish good-quality information from disinformation and fakes at least in most cases (including 20% who believe they can do it always). One third of respondents (31%) admit themselves usually or utterly unable to discern whether the information is trustworthy. The number of respondents who believe themselves generally capable to discern rotten information is about the same in all regions.

These respondents are more certain about their ability to identify fakes:

  • Respondents from middle-size towns and big cities (60-68% believe that they mostly can identify fakes vs. 43-49% of rural respondents);
  • Men (61% vs. 47% women);
  • Younger persons (the figures are gradually lowing from 60% for respondents below 30 to 33% for persons 70+);
  • Better educated Ukrainians (66% for respondents with higher education vs. no more than 50% for persons with lower level of education);
  • Specialists, students, businessmen (66-73% vs. no more than 55% for other occupations; least of all retired persons – 41%);
  • Wealthier Ukrainians (66-73% for those who have high or average income vs. 46% low-income persons and 38% very low-income persons).

Among the criteria of identification of non-fakes people mostly refer to their trust to the media which provided this information (for 33% of Ukrainians this is one of the main criteria) and visible authorship (30%).

Enhancement of Media Literacy

Most of Ukrainians (61%) believe that the state and NGOs should foster the enhancement of media literacy. Teaching media literacy is important for 61-66% in the Western, Central and Southern macro-regions vs. 43% in the Eastern macro-region.

In virtually all social-demographical categories of the population, the majority believes that teaching media literacy is important.

At the same time, the respondents have no definite opinion about the primary target group of such teaching. Most of those who admit that teaching media literacy is important give priority to teenagers (48%); 29% of respondents consider media literacy important for adults.

22% of Ukrainians would personally agree to receive training in media literacy. The most interested are Westerners – 31% vs. no more than 20% in other regions. Of those who are interested people mostly prefer online courses (56%).

There is a correlation between readiness to receive training and positive self-assessment of one’s ability to recognize fakes: an interest to trainings was expressed by 31% of those who believe themselves always capable to identify fakes, 26% of those who believe themselves capable to identify fakes in most of the cases, and 16-17% of those who believe themselves capable to identify fakes at least sometimes.

These respondents are more interested in getting such trainings:

  • Respondents from middle-size towns and big cities (26% vs. 18% of rural respondents and those from small towns);
  • Younger persons (40% for respondents below 30, 21-24% for respondents between 30-49, no more than 16% for persons 50+);
  • Better educated Ukrainians (34% for respondents with higher education vs. no more than 19% for persons with lower level of education);
  • Students, specialists, businessmen (35-48%);
  • Wealthier Ukrainians (46% of those who have high or average income vs. 32% low-income persons and 10-17% very low-income persons).

The short presentation: Credence to media, influence of Russian propaganda, and media literacy in Ukraine

The full report: Opposition to Russian propaganda and media literacy: results of all-ukrainian opinion poll


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