Is it necessary to militarize Ukrainian society: the attitude of citizens (March, 2024)

May 15, 2024

The results of a sociological survey conducted from March 21 to 27, 2024, by Razumkov Centre's Sociological Service as part of its project implemented under the USAID/ENGAGE activity, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Pact. The contents of this survey are the sole responsibility of Pact and its implementing partners and do not necessary reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

The face-to-face survey was conducted in Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Zhytomyr, Zakarpattia, Zaporizhzhia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava, Rivne, Sumy, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Kherson, Khmelnytsky, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi oblasts, and in the city of Kyiv. In Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson oblasts, it was conducted only in the territories under the control of Ukrainian military forces, where no active armed conflict is taking place.

The survey was conducted under stratified multistage sampling with random selection at the first sampling stages and using the quota method of respondent selection at the final stage (with respondents being selected under gender and age quotas). The sample structure represents the demographic pattern of the adult population in the areas where the survey was conducted as of the beginning of 2022 (by age, gender, and urban/rural classification).

2,020 respondents over the age of 18 were surveyed. The sampling's theoretical margin of error does not exceed 2.3%. Given this, additional systematic abnormality within the sample may have been caused by Russian aggression, namely the forced evacuation of millions of citizens.

In Ukraine, the issue of militarization has been actively promoted since 2014. It has become even more acute with the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation. Nowadays, it is discussed mainly as an alternative to the state policy, which has led to Ukraine being not ready for war both in general and in individual social sectors, current difficulties with the mobilization, fortification, material and technical equipment for the army, as well as as a safety mechanism against the similar issues in the future.

The word militarization is usually perceived negatively — as something mandatory related to war, complete and strict subordination of society to the state apparatus, demanding the public to give up their rights and freedoms, etc. However, the definition of militarization is quite arbitrary as it depends on the type and form of the state structure (authoritarianism and democracy), the focus and goals of state policy (aggression or deterrence), the conditions of its implementation (wartime or peacetime), and the degree of public life coverage (total or partial). Examples of fascist Germany and the USSR during WWII, Israel, modern Russia, and Ukraine help understand the said differences.

For the average person not to be frightened and to convey the ultimate nature of militarization, such definitions as democratic, reasonable militarization, or state and society securitization are used in Ukraine.

The ultimate nature of Ukrainian society militarization is that it is considered a forced way to ensure the state and society's sustainability in wartime and peacetime given the neighboring aggressor state, even after its defeat and possible break-up.

To initially study the attitude of Ukrainian citizens toward militarization, Razumkov Center asked them several questions within the framework of a nationwide survey conducted on March 21–27, 2024.

What is their attitude to a long-term change in state budget priorities to strengthen the security and defense sector (Armed Forces, other law enforcement agencies, defense industry)?

More than 67% of the respondents gave an affirmative answer, 7% — negative, and more than 16% were neutral. The fact that more than 80% of Ukrainian citizens do not oppose any changes aimed at strengthening the defense capability evidences the growing social demand for a more decisive state policy in this area.

However, we assumed that when answering this question, citizens perceived such changes as “distant”, unrelated to their lives and well-being. Therefore, the next question was: “What is your attitude to the possibility of a long-term change in budget priorities within your community in favor of increased spending on security?” Still, the breakdown of the answers turned out to be approximately the same as for the previous question: about 64% — affirmative, 9% — negative, and 17% — neutral.

The third question was: “Would you agree to such changes if they were to adversely affect your personal/family budget?” About 50% answered it affirmatively and 29% — negatively. Moreover, if in the first two cases, the share of those who were not sure was 9–10%, then in the third one, it increased to 22%. It means that citizens are aware not only of the need to ensure security but also of the difficulties with solving this problem, especially when a significant part of state and community funds must be allocated to reconstruction and damages reimbursement.

The answers to the first three questions prove the following:

  • society has developed an understanding and demand for a policy to strengthen security at the state and community levels;
  • to ensure support for the policy implementation, there must be a balance between funds allocation on security and ensuring citizens' well-being.

The self-organization factor is essential to ensure security at the state and community levels. Last year's study “Civil and military cooperation to protect the public during the war in Ukraine” by Razumkov Center was dedicated to this issue. Within its framework, there was an expert survey of field-specific employees from local authorities and self-government bodies on the readiness and capability of territorial communities to create independently voluntary units to support territorial defense and civil protection. Then, this was assessed at 3.5 points on a 5-point scale

Nowadays, we have asked the citizens the same directly: “In your opinion, should communities allocate their budgets to volunteer units (supporting territorial defense, fire, emergency, and rescue teams) in wartime and peacetime?”. About 80% of the respondents consider such expenses reasonable in wartime (only about 10% expressed a different opinion). However, in peacetime, the attitude of citizens turned out to be more conventional: 54% of respondents consider allocations to voluntary units to support territorial security relevant (29% do not agree). Attitude to maintaining voluntary civil defense units in peacetime is more positive: 63% consider such expenses relevant, and 22% — do not agree. This is due to the significant demand for rescue services and their contribution when liquidating fires, the effects of natural disasters, etc.

The state information policy plays an important role in ensuring the society's sustainability with militarization being a way of achieving it. Currently, there are many complaints about the state information policy. Still, the Center's objective was not to reveal this policy's faults but the demand and attitude of citizens to finance its sectors: raising citizens' awareness, patriotic education, and entertainment programs. Most respondents assessed raising citizens' awareness (66%) and patriotic education (61%) positively (4-5 points on a 5-point scale), while the entertainment programs — by fewer persons (only 16%). According to the average points, the distribution of funding priority for these sectors is as follows:

  • raising citizens' awareness — 4.05
  • patriotic education — 3.95
  • entertainment programs — 2.55

An important area of ensuring moral and psychological stability, security culture, public readiness to adapt to difficult conditions, and mobilization of human resources during a special period and under martial law is military and patriotic education in preschools and educational institutions. The absolute majority of respondents (73%) consider such measures relevant, and 16% — do not agree. During the survey, the respondents (especially those who answered “no” or were not sure) had a silent question: “How come we criticize Russia for the militarization of education and still do the same?” However, it is one thing to carry out military and patriotic education based on the principles of lies, aggression, and non-acceptance of anything of foreign origin, and quite another if it is based on the principles of historical truth, deterrence against aggression, and tolerance. That said, a separate difficult task will be the “re-education” of children and youth who have been taken to the territory of Russia or stayed in temporarily occupied territories, thus, experiencing the poisonous influence of Russian propaganda.


Neighboring an aggressor state that exceeds Ukraine in terms of material and human resources, leads to an urgent need for the militarization of both Ukrainian society and the state, which is relevant in wartime and peacetime.

Militarization is a comprehensive and multidimensional process covering many spheres of social life and requiring the highest professionalism on the part of the authorities and the efforts of the entire society.

Ukrainian society as a whole approves of the militarization idea but demands the authorities take counter-steps at all levels to ensure security, well-being, and meaningful and trust-based communication.

Finally, it should be noted that the presented survey results are only the first assessment of general markers of Ukrainian society's readiness for militarization. The next steps should be as follows:

  • widening the study to include more detailed research on the attitude of citizens to militarization and cover other aspects of social sustainability;
  • developing a general and more detailed type of system ensuring the sustainability of Ukraine (political, economic, social, international, and military aspects), agreed upon with all stakeholders;
  • developing and discussing the strategy for ensuring the sustainability of Ukraine within the expert environment and by the public: efforts on the part of the state, society, business, and partners.