RELEASE: New CAP Poll, Reports Show Turkey’s Rising Nationalism, Hostility to U.S. and Syrian Refugees

Washington, D.C. – In the aftermath of an attempted military coup in 2016, Turks remain deeply divided about the country’s direction and political leadership. But they are united in skepticism and hostility towards the United States, Syrian refugees, and global elites.

Those are among the results of a new poll conducted by the Center for American Progress that shows Turkey’s rising nationalist sentiment, growing distrust of outsiders, and suspicion that global elites are holding the country back.

In two new reports analyzing the data, CAP experts find that security threats and populist politics have left Turkey in a defensive crouch and driven the emergence of a powerful right-wing nationalism.

Turks are divided regarding the government’s response to the coup; about 49 percent say they approve the government’s actions, while 39 percent do not, though responses are starkly divided along partisan lines.  Opinion is likewise split regarding the post-coup crackdown on dissent by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with 44 percent calling the government’s actions appropriate and 44 percent saying they are inappropriate.

Among the other key findings:

  • The Syrian refugee issue has escalated and is now among the most important sources of anger and resentment among Turks generally, particularly on the right – 79 percent of Turks have unfavorable views of the Syrian refugees.
  • The U.S. is viewed favorably by just 10 percent of Turks, with 83 percent holding unfavorable views and 42 percent of respondents holding very unfavorable views.
  • Russia is more popular than the U.S. or NATO, but just 28 percent of respondents viewed Russia favorably compared with the 62 percent who saw Russia unfavorably. NATO, meanwhile, was viewed favorably by just 24 percent of respondents, with 67 percent viewing the alliance unfavorably.
  • Contrary to many observers’ contentions, most AKP voters do not appear to be Islamist in their political beliefs, though a meaningful minority is. Nativism seems to be a more powerful force than religious conservatism in Turkey today.
  • Erdoğan must balance the vocal religious conservative base—the compassionate Islamist wing of the party—with the anti-cosmopolitan and anti-refugee impulses of the wider Turkish right—the “Turkey Firsters.”

Beyond these insights, the reports provide a look at an evolving Turkish nationalism that is prickly, defensive, and conspiratorial. This outlook reflects the hostile national mood after years of security crises and terrorism threats but is also the product of Erdoğan’s rhetoric and governing choices. This new nationalism stands in stark contrast to the confident cosmopolitanism espoused by Erdoğan and the AKP in the early years of their rule.

Read the reports:

“Is Turkey Experiencing a New Nationalism? An Examination of Public Attitudes on Turkish Self-Perception,” by John Halpin, Michael Werz, Alan Makovsky and Max Hoffman.

“Tukey’s ‘New Nationalism’ Amid Shifting Politics: Further Analysis of Polling Results,” By Max Hoffman, Michael Werz, and John Halpin.

For more information or to talk to an expert please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org, or 202-478-6327.