Turks Divided on Erdogan and the Country’s Direction

Turks Divided on Erdogan and the Country’s Direction

The FINANCIAL -- As Turkey prepares to vote for its first ever directly elected president, a new Pew Research Center survey finds the Turkish public is divided over the main contender for the office, current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan and his party, the moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), have dominated Turkish politics for the last decade, overseeing considerable economic growth and an expanding role for Turkey in regional and world affairs. And most observers expect Erdogan to win the August 10 election.

But on a number of issues, Turks are almost evenly split between those who are happy with Erdogan’s leadership and the state of the nation, and those who believe the former Istanbul mayor is leading the country down the wrong path. Overall, 44% are satisfied with the country’s direction, while 51% are dissatisfied. Half say the economy is doing well, while 46% think it is in bad shape. Forty-eight percent say Erdogan is having a good influence on the country; the same percentage believes he is having a negative impact, according to Pew Research Center.

Many Turks sympathize with the street demonstrations that rocked the country and attracted international attention just over a year ago. A 49% plurality say they supported the anti-government protests that took place throughout Turkey, most prominently in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. And a majority (55%) disapprove of how Erdogan dealt with the demonstrations.

Turkey’s military has long been a major player in the country’s politics – indeed, there have been several military coups since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 – and a 55% majority believes the armed forces are having a good influence on the country. However, this level of support is down sharply from 72% in 2010 and an even higher 85% in 2007, according to Pew Research Center.

Another long running theme in Turkish politics is the deep divisions between secular and religious camps in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and contemporary Turkish society continues to reflect this divide. For example, highly observant Turkish Muslims are much more likely to support Erdogan, believe the country is on the right track, and oppose last year’s protests.

These are among the key findings from the latest survey of Turkey by the Pew Research Center. Based on face-to-face interviews conducted between April 11 and May 16, 2014, among a representative sample of 1,001 randomly selected adults from across the country, the poll also finds America’s image continues to be overwhelmingly negative in Turkey. Only 19% of Turks express a favorable opinion of the United States. And just 25% have a positive view of the European Union, although Turks, by a 53% to 37% margin, still believe Turkey should join the organization.

Turks are divided on the direction of their country. Roughly half (51%) are dissatisfied with the way things are going in Turkey, while 44% are satisfied. Over the past four years, opinion on this this question has generally been split. However, prior to 2011, the mood in Turkey was much more negative, with clear majorities expressing dissatisfaction with the country’s direction every year from 2002 to 2010. And in 2002, following a severe economic crisis, 93% of the Turkish public was dissatisfied and only 4% satisfied, according to Pew Research Center.