Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Poll Finds Turks Living in Europe Maintain Strong Turkish Identity
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Poll Finds Turks Living in Europe Maintain Strong Turkish Identity

Washington, D.C. — Members of Europe’s Turkish and Turkish-Kurdish diaspora maintain a strong Turkish identity but still welcome the opportunities and freedom of life in Europe – even in the face of lingering discrimination, according to a new poll from the Center for American Progress, Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Foundation Max van der Stoel, and Fondation Jean-Jaurès.

More than 5 million people of Turkish descent live in Europe. These diaspora communities have often prompted politically sensitive debates about immigration, citizenship, integration, assimilation, and social exchange. Conservative and far-right parties in Europe have seized upon issues of migration and cultural diversity, often engaging in fearmongering about immigrant communities.

The poll finds that, overall, the diaspora feels at home in Europe, expressing satisfaction with their living circumstances and general contentment with host nations’ integration policies. They generally feel accepted by their non-Turkish neighbors and colleagues, and they are pleased with the educational and economic opportunities Europe offers. For most, these positives outweigh the discrimination many still encounter.

Nevertheless, across the board, most in the Europe-based Turkish diaspora continue to identify themselves first and foremost as Turks. The diaspora is largely uninterested in their host countries’ politics, with little involvement in party politics. Few feel politically represented in Europe. But those who are politically engaged, in general, tend to favor left-wing politicians and parties.

Turks in Europe remain very interested in Turkish politics. They strongly endorse, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s maxim that Turks in Europe should “integrate but not assimilate,” even while Erdoğan remains a polarizing figure in diaspora communities, as he is in Turkey.

“The survey presents a mixed picture for those who wish to see Turkish immigrants fully integrated into European societies,” said Max Hoffman, associate director for National Security and International Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “European Turks appreciate many aspects of life in their ‘adopted’ countries, yet the diaspora community’s primary sense of identity remains overwhelmingly Turkish. Citizenship and generational differences emerged as important factors in the survey.”

The poll found that 1 in 5 Turks living in the sampled countries say they plan to return to Turkey to live, while 72 percent want to remain in their current country of residence. Most respondents identify primarily as a Turk—72 percent overall—and few identify primarily as a member of their host nation.

This report builds upon previous CAP public opinion research on national identity in Turkey and aims to shed light on how the Turkish diaspora feels about European host countries; how Europeans of Turkish descent identify with Turkey and the Turkish community; and how these communities feel about the European Union and crucial issues of integration, migration, and politics.

The survey was conducted by the polling firm DATA4U using telephone interviews on landline and mobile phones in four countries: Germany (1,064 respondents), Austria (416 respondents), France (452 respondents), and the Netherlands (425 respondents). The survey is balanced by gender, age, and place of residence, and is representative of the Turkish-origin population in these countries. It has an overall margin of error of +/- 2 percent.

Read the report: “The Turkish Diaspora in Europe: Integration, Migration, and Politics” by Max Hoffman, Alan Makovsky, and Michael Werz

For more information on this topic or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected] or 202-478-6327.