The 2017 results of the Survey on Social and Political Trends in Turkey, conducted every year by Kadir Has University's Center for Turkish Studies, were announced on January 31, 2018. According to the survey, which measures Turkish public perceptions on current issues and potential problems, the Turkish public views “terrorism” as the most important problem facing the country, although there is a decline in its intensity compared to 2016. In addition to terrorism, FETÖ is still regarded as a serious problem. Unemployment and the high cost of living are seen as the next greatest problems, following terrorism and FETÖ.
The results of the 2017 Survey on Social-Political Trends in Turkey, conducted on behalf of Kadir Has University’s Center for Turkish Studies by a team comprised of Prof. Mustafa Aydın (Rector of Kadir Has University), Prof. Hasan Bülent Kahraman, Prof. Osman Zaim, Prof. Banu Baybars Hawks, and Dr. Cihan Dizdaroğlu were presented to the press on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.
The Survey on Social and Political Trends in Turkey was conducted between 11 December 2017 and 07 January 2018 through face to face interviews with 1,000 respondents, representing country’s population aged 18 and over, residing in the city centers of 26 cities, who answered questions on politics, economic developments, social relations and international issues.
FIGHTING TERRORISM AND FETÖ ARE THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS AND PERCEPTIONS OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE COST OF LIVING AS SERIOUS PROBLEMS HAVE INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY
According to the survey results, in 2017 Turkish people regarded terrorism as the foremost and the fight against FETÖ as the second most significant problems facing Turkey. Terrorism, seen as the most important problem in 2016 with 35 percent, has kept its top position in the country’s agenda in 2017, though it has gone down to 29 percent. FETÖ, identified as a problem only by 1.3 percent in 2015, went up significantly in 2016 as a result of the 15 July coup attempt and became the country’s second most serious problem with 25.2 percent. In 2017, with an 18.1 percent rate, FETÖ continues to be viewed as the second most serious problem in Turkey. When respondents were asked what they regarded as Turkey’s most significant problem, those answering “unemployment” went from 10.5 percent to 17 percent this year, while those answering “the high cost of living” went from 9.8 to 13.1 percent. Geographically, those residing in Marmara, Black Sea and Central Anatolia regions regarded “terrorism” as the top problem, while those residing in Aegean, Mediterranean, Southeast Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia regions identified “unemployment” as the top issue.
THE MOST CRITICAL ECONOMIC ISSUES: UNEMPLOYMENT, DEPRECIATION OF THE TURKISH LIRA AND INCREASING FOOD PRICES
When asked “what is the most serious problem of the Turkish economy at the moment”, 16.9 percent replied unemployment, while 14.1 percent stated that it was the depreciation of the Turkish lira. The increase in the price of food products, inflation and high interest rates were identified as the other most critical issues of the economy.
Nevertheless, the number of those who find the government’s economic policies to be successful rose strikingly. While the rate of those founding the government’s economic policies “successful” or “very successful” was 38.7 percent last year, this figure went up to 47.7 percent this year. The number of respondents answering that they thought the economic policies were successful rose significantly particularly among the AK Party voters. In contrast, amongst respondents who voted for other parties, the economic policies were mostly described as “unsuccessful”. Those who found them the most unsuccessful were HDP supporters with 58.3 percent. The rate of those who regard the last year as being economically worse than the year before went down from 55.7 percent to 48.8 percent this year.
FOREIGN POLICY APPROVAL RATE AND SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP ARE INCREASED
According to the survey results, the percentage of those finding the government’s foreign policy to be successful went up from 35.2 to 45.9 percent. When the rate of those finding Turkey’s foreign policy to be successful is examined in terms of party loyalties, it is seen that AK Party voters predominantly find the government’s foreign policy successful, while it is significantly lower among voters of other parties. The percentage of those finding the government’s foreign policy “definitely successful” and “successful” is 75.2 percent among AK Party voters, while it is 27.5 percent among MHP voters, 19.9 percent among CHP voters, and 11.1 percent among HDP voters.
Although 71.4 percent of respondents supported European Union membership in 2014, this rate decreased to 65.1 percent in 2015 and to 45.7 percent in 2016. The three-year downward trend was broken this year and people’s support for EU membership was found to be at 57.8 percent. While 43.6 percent of the Turkish population supports the continuation of talks with the EU, the percentage of those supporting Turkey’s continued membership in NATO was found to be 59.2 percent. It is possible to say that Turkish people have not yet made up their minds on whether Turkey can ensure its security internationally without being a member of NATO. Indeed, 39.8 percent of respondents think that Turkey can provide for its security without being a NATO member, while 37.7 think it cannot.
THE US IS SEEN AS THE MAIN FOREIGN THREAT TO TURKEY WHILE AZERBAIJAN IS SEEN AS ITS CLOSEST ALLY
In 2016, Israel ranked first among the countries posing the biggest threat to Turkey with 73.3 percent. This year the United States is seen as the biggest threat with 64.3 percent, while Israel ranked second with 61.4 percent. Azerbaijan was again reported as the most important friend/ally at 67.8 percent. Azerbaijan was followed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Russia. The response to the question of whom Turkey should cooperate more with in its foreign policy was reminiscent of the saying “The only friend of the Turk is the Turk”, with the Turkic republics increasing its ranking by 9.5 percent from last year to come at the top with 25.4 percent.
GOVERNMENT’S SYRIA POLICY AND CROSS-BORDER MILITARY ACTIONS ARE SUPPORTED
The trend of increasing support for the government’s policies regarding Syria continues. The number of respondents reporting that they approved of the government’s Syria policies had increased to 32.3 percent in 2016, up from the previous year’s 29.5 percent, and this year further increased to 38.5 percent. 63.6 percent of those reporting to be AK Party voters found the government’s Syria policy to be “definitely successful” or “successful”, while this rate was 20.2 percent amongst CHP voters, 16.7 percent amongst MHP voters and 8.4 percent amongst HDP voters.
Support for Turkey carrying out cross-border security operations to combat terrorism is more widely supported than Turkey’s maintaining soldiers in foreign countries. 56.4 percent of respondents support cross-border operations, while 48.1 percent support basing of Turkish soldiers in foreign soils.
HALF THE PUBLIC SUPPORTS PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYİP ERDOĞAN
When participants were asked, what should the characteristics of an ideal president be, the most frequent responses were that an ideal president should be “honest and ethical”, and have a successful professional or political track record. When asked about their approval of the current president, 49.7 percent of the respondents indicated their support for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On the other hand, 2 out of every 5 respondent stated that there is no need to put forward a coalition candidate for the first round of the forthcoming presidential elections, while 30 percent of respondents support parties participating in the general elections through pre-agreed coalitions.
2 OUT OF EVERY 5 PEOPLE THINK THAT “THERE IS A POLITICAL VACUUM IN TURKEY”; AND MAJORITY THINK, “THE İYİ (GOOD) PARTY COULD FILL IT”
While the majority of the AK Party supporters perceive no vacuum in Turkish political spectrum, in general 2 out of every 5 people think that there is a political vacuum in Turkey. 45.6 percent of those thinking there is a vacuum believe that the İYİ Party could fill it. 37.7 percent think that the İYİ Party will attract voters from the MHP, 18.9 percent think that it will attract undecided voters, 17.8 percent think that it will take votes from AK Party, and 9.8 percent from CHP. Despite a slight reduction from last year, 52.7 percent of respondents think that there is a political polarization in Turkey; while fifty-two percent perceive this polarization along the secular-religious divide.
TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS INCREASED
When asked which institutions were the most trusted, the police and gendarmerie came in at the top for the first time since the survey has been conducted. While 49.4 percent of respondents in the previous year reported the presidency to be the most trusted institution, this year 62.3 percent indicated the police and 60.8 percent indicated the gendarmerie to be the most trusted institutions. With confidence in institutions generally increasing, the rates for individual institutions also increased. Confidence in the army rose from 47.4 percent to 60 percent, coming in third. Confidence in the presidency rose seven percent to 56.5 percent to become the fourth most trusted institution. The least trusted institution was again the media with 35 percent, which rose by 20 percent from 15.1 percent in 2016, but still was unable to increase its ranking.