Poll: Ahead of elections, Turkish people divided over Erdogan

While Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted AK Party currently holds a majority in the Turkish parliament, it has also polarized many

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may face challenges in the looming presidential election due to his lack of popularity among the country’s secular population, a poll shows.

While Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted AK Party currently holds a majority in the Turkish parliament, it has also polarized many, a schism that became most apparent during the Gezi Park protests that have flared in the capital Istanbul over the last two years.


“The results are not surprising. Turkey has been polarized for a long time now and the polarization is reaching a peak with the presidential elections,” said Omer Faruk Genckaya, a professor of political science at İstanbul’s Marmara University, according to Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. “The country is split into two - such is the atmosphere at the moment.”

According to a report by the Washington-based Pew Research Center released earlier this week, 55 percent disapproved of Erdogan’s heavy handed response to the demonstrations that involved thousands being injured, tear gas, and dozens of arrests.

However, the AK Party-led government enjoys wide popularity among the religious Muslim population. According to Pew Research, the group most satisfied with the country’s direction are devout rural Muslims - with 59 percent of Muslims who pray more than five times a day voicing approval - “while only 26% of those that hardly ever pray agree,” according to the report.

The AK Party’s popularity from the country’s religious population stems from its enactment on Islamic principles, according to Istanbul-based freelance reporter Zeynep Cermen.

“They (the AK Party) are increasing their discourses on Islam, limiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, and Islamic principles became the first and foremost for everything. So you can see small girls with headscarves, and you can see women everywhere. Even in the sea they are all covered,” said Cermen. “I think this is a process and they are really targeting to be an Islamic country in the near future.”

Dramatic difference

Opinions of men and women on Erodgan’s leadership also differ dramatically. While men are evenly split on their satisfaction with the country, 53 percent of women said they were dissatisfied.

The large difference in opinion between men and women is a by-product of Erdogan’s successful attempts to appeal to a rural constituency, said Çermen.

Additionally, educated people are far less satisfied with the country than the less educated. According to the report, 68 percent of people with a post-secondary education said that they were not satisfied with the government as compared to those with only a secondary education.

“Turkish rural men with low education or non-educated people are very content with [Erdogan’s] discourse. Because Erdogan is promoting the ‘macho’ culture, he is saying the true things that these kinds of men want to hear,” she said.

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