The Center for Turkey Studies in Kadir Has University conducted a “Research on Public Perception of the Turkish Foreign Policy” in order to exhibit the public opinion on the Turkish foreign policy and to determine the views on which issues should be prioritized in policies and on the institutions that influence those.
Conducted in 26 provinces and with 1.000 adult participants that are representative of Turkey’s demographics, the survey conducted by the Kadir Has University asked the participants about from which outlets they keep track of foreign policy-related issues, which institutions are executing the foreign policy, and the dynamics of Turkish foreign policy with special reference to Turkey’s bilateral relations with Syria, the USA and the EU.
While the research has showed that the Turkish public is worried about the developments in the Middle East and sees ISIS as a threat, nearly half of the participants supported a passive approach to dealing with ISIS. Perception of the Syrian problem has decreased to 20.3% in May 2015 from a 65.5% in November 2013. 36.3% of the participants agreed that the inflow of refugees should be stopped and previously arrived refugees should be sent back.
37% of the participants say they see Turkey as an Islamic country, while 24.3% characterized Turkey as a European country.
ISOLATION IN FOREIGN POLICY
According to the survey results, the percentage of those think that Turkey has no allies in foreign policy is 38.9, and those say that Turkey should pursue a unilateral foreign policy is 22%. Both results indicate an upward trend when compared to the public opinion survey data from November 2013, which was conducted by Kadir Has University. The closest ally of Turkey, with 37.2%, is seen as Azerbaijan, with which Turkey shares a common cultural traits and history.
YOUTH FOLLOW FOREIGN POLICY FROM SOCIAL NETWORKS
According to the survey, over-65 participants follow the foreign policy agenda from traditional sources of information such as radio, print magazines and newspapers; while younger population utilize sources such as internet, social circles and social networks for receiving news. While media outlets rank highly in preferences for keeping informed on Turkish foreign policy, trust toward media institutions rank lower compared to individuals’ social circles, academic publications and internet portals.
GREATEST THREATS ARE ISRAEL, USA, SYRIA, AND INCREASINGLY ARMENIA
According to the participants, countries that are perceived to be presenting the biggest threat to Turkey are Israel, the USA, and Syria. According to the results, 20.3% of the public perceive Armenia as a threat, which is a significant increase from the 7.2% in November 2013. 32.4% of the public say under no circumstances the border crossing with Armenia is to be opened.
51.9% of the participants have a negative outlook on the Turkey-USA relations. USA’s approach to Turkey is deemed as “colonialist” by a 32.6%. According to the public opinion, the greatest problem in USA-Turkey relations is counterterrorism, and the greatest areas for cooperation are military and economic affairs.
INTEREST IN THE EUROPEAN UNION DECREASING YET STILL IMPORTANT; REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS MAY BE RECOGNIZED UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES
42.4% of the participants support the Turkish membership to the EU. However, 47.6% of the public carries the opinion that membership to the EU will never occur. 7 out of 10 survey participants think that Turkey’s membership to the EU is being prevented. Turkish public is undecided on a privileged partnership with the EU, as 32.4% has an unfavorable view on this idea. One of the interesting results of the survey is that 43.7% of the public support the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, if the Cyprus dispute is resolved.
VIEWS ON THE MIDDLE EAST POLICY ARE CHANGING
On the issue of Turkey’s policy toward the Syrian conflict, those state that Turkey should “stay neutral” decreased to 31.6% from 41.7%; and those agree that Turkey should support international sanctions against the Assad regime has increased to 14.9% from 11.3%.
85.1% of the participants state that ISIS is a terrorist organization, while 65.5% thinks that ISIS presents a threat to Turkey. Yet, 46.6% of the participants say issues regarding ISIS should be followed from a distance.
36.3% of the participants say “The influx of refugees should be stopped; previously arrived refugees should be sent back”. The percentage of participants that state that Turkey should keep away from Israeli -Arab disputes is 39.1.
In the survey, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is identified as the institution that should be active in the making and execution of the Turkish foreign policy. Also, increasing political and economic cooperation with other countries is seen as the key for a strong foreign policy.
You can access the survey results on: http://sites.khas.edu.tr/tdpkaa/