Poll on New Language Law Support

Concerning Ukraine’s new language law, opinions are quite mixed, based on the results of several different polls. The Razumkov Center conducted a poll between June 16 and 25. It included 2,009 respondents from all regions of Ukraine. A clear majority considered that the law was linked to election strategy (65.1 percent). A very high number of western Ukrainians believed that Ukrainian should be the only State Language (84.4 percent), but elsewhere, the picture was ambiguous. Overall, 25 percent of respondents maintained that Russian should have the status of an official language in certain regions, and 23.9 percent said that it should be the second State Language of the country, i.e. almost half of respondents backed this view. In eastern Ukraine (defined as Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv), only 13.6 percent thought that Ukrainian should be the only State and Official Language, while about one-third believe that it should be the only State Language. But there was minimal support for the view that Russian should replace Ukrainian as the main State or Official Language (http://razumkov.org.ua/ukr/news.php?news_id=400).

A Ratings poll of July 2012 provides a broader picture of the language question. In Ukraine, 55 percent perceived Ukrainian as their native language and 40 percent Russian. Ukrainian was declared to be the native language of about 40 percent of eastern residents, although in the Donbas specifically, some 80 percent cited Russian as their native language, as did 70 percent of residents in the south. About 70 percent of the supporters of the Party of Regions are Russian speakers, along with half of the members of the Communist Party.

But for the most part, residents of Ukraine have had few language difficulties as far as official documentation is concerned and, for example, understanding medication instructions in Ukrainian, other than a few elderly people in the Donbas. Still, 45 percent of Donbas residents support increased protection for the Russian language; the opposite applies in western Ukraine where 80 percent think that it is necessary to provide more support for the Ukrainian language.

Yet even among Regions supporters, only 40 percent consider that Russian needs more protection in Ukraine. Around 59 percent of native Russian speakers back the law introduced by deputies Kolesnichenko and Kivalov; 62 percent of Ukrainian speakers oppose it. Overall, 42 percent are against the new law, and 34 percent are in favour


According to Iryna Bereshkina of the “Democratic Initiatives” Foundation, the new language law has had little impact on the election preferences of Ukrainian voters


The responses on the new language law are not particularly decisive in any respect. Support for it is lukewarm at best in all regions of Ukraine. Moreover, there are indications from other polls of the growing patriotism in Ukraine (not to be confused with nationalism) that embraces both eastern and western regions, as well as growing support for a pro-European Union direction rather than toward the Russian-led structures such as the Customs Union.

The Ratings poll cited above shows that the number of proponents of a united state with Russia has declined steadily (42 percent today, as opposed to 47-48 percent in January), and 54 percent are in favour of Ukraine joining the EU. Over the past six months, the number of Ukrainians considering themselves to be “patriots” has increased from 73 to 82 percent.