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There are two surveys that struck me recently:

December 2021, KIIS, about then-current public opinion:

survey on December 2021

February 2023, Gradus (note, the survey was taken in 2023, but it was talking about the public opinion on just before 24/February/2022):

survey about February 2022

I find the decline 49% to 26% rather drastic. Almost half of those who in December 2021 believed in the possibility of a full-scale invasion changed their mind in about two months, by February 2022.

What factors caused that?

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3 Answers 3

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As James K points out, comparing two surveys with two different methodologies needs to come with heavy caveats at the best of times, but when one poll asks respondents to recall their state of mind a year ago then this is highly unlikely to be comparable with a survey conducted at that time.

KIIS produced a second poll with an identical question in late January 2022, which showed barely any difference in views among those surveyed.

enter image description here

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Because the Gradus poll is asking retrospectively, so the context of the question is very different. The questions "What do you believe now" and "What did you believe a year ago" are very different and should not be directly compared. People often mis-represent their past beliefs. These polls don't provide strong evidence of a change in mood between December 2021 and February 2022

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    Yeah, this surely before even looking at any other differences between the polls. The KIIS one was also slightly leading, reminding the reader of the "accumulation" of Russian troops. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 7:24
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    OTOH people are generally biased to claim they were better predictors than was really the case doi.org/10.1177/0146167282082012 So, this instance is kind of a counterexample to that. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 7:40
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    @Fizz, that is also noted, and you may also look at the framing and phrasing of the questions. Essentially these are "different questions" and so have "different answers", and they don't provide strong evidence of a change in opinion.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 7:44
  • Many people don't even remember what they voted at the last elections.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:11
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    Even without the question change, the polls were conducted by different pollsters. You just can't use polls from different pollsters to judge changes over time. Any differences in public opinion will be swamped by differences in methodology.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 1:46
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Here's a bit of extra evidence that the KIIS poll was abit leading in its formulation (by reminding the reader of the "accumulation" of Russian troops)

https://uatv.ua/en/every-fifth-ukrainian-estimates-probability-of-putin-s-invasion-as-high-poll/

The probability of a full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine is rated by 19% of Ukrainians as high, 33% as a medium, and 20% as low. The corresponding poll was conducted by the “Rating” sociological group on February 16-17 [2022].

According to the survey, 19% of respondents rate the likelihood of a full-scale military invasion of Russia in Ukraine as high, 33% as a medium, 20% as low, while 25% believe there is no threat. In addition, 28% of Ukrainian residents are absolutely sure that Ukraine will be able to repel Russia’s attack, and 13% are not at all sure.

The poll concludes that in the last few days the assessment of the probability of a threat as high has decreased from 28 to 19%. At the same time, the confidence of citizens that Ukraine will be able to repel the attack if the Russian invasion takes place has increased from 58 to 64%.

The the KIIS poll was forcing a yes/no/dunno rather than more finely graded scale. Also, even back then, the results in the Rating poll(s) showed a fairly high degree of day-to-day variability, on the finer scale they used.

'Rating' also has this more details graph of the responses on that Q in previous polls

enter image description here

Depending how you want to parse that, their Feb 2022 results were not substantively different than those in 2018, for instance. OTOH those in April 2021 were different enough. A bit of googling shows that's when the first Russian buildup was reported. So, I guess one conclusion from that is that repeated/continuous media reports of troop concentrations at the border [over 2021-2022] had an effect in the public mind of reducing the threat perception, i.e. a kind of habituation response. OTOH, the Feb 16-17 poll was conducted right after the press/Russia announced they were pulling some troops back from the border. So maybe the change from the Feb 12-13 poll was just a reflection of those news.

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