Survey shows falling trust in Erdoğan and Turkish judiciary

The MetroPOLL polling company’s Pulse of Turkey survey in October bore striking results on several of the most urgent issues facing the country, including the economy, domestic and foreign policy and the upcoming local elections.

Asked in mid-October which way they would vote if elections took place that month, 34.1 percent of the survey’s 1,895 respondents from 28 provinces said they would choose the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) gained 21.3 percent, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party 10.3 percent, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) 8.3 percent and the opposition nationalist Good Party 7.7 percent of responses.

Not counting the undecided and those who said they would not vote, who together accounted for over 10 percent of respondents, the figures show the AKP with 40.7 percent, while the CHP has around 25.4 percent, the MHP 12.3 percent, and the HDP and Good Party remain just below 10 percent.

The figures show that the AKP has a hold over the poorest segments of society, winning over 38.2 percent of the lowest income respondents to the CHP’s 19.3 percent. The CHP fared better with high earners at 24.4 percent to the AKP’s 26.8 percent, while the other parties took most of their support from the middle classes.

Over half of respondents were pessimistic about the direction the country is heading in. While only 24 percent thought things are improving in Turkey – a half of whom identified as AKP voters – that represents a 2 percent rise since the last survey in September.

The proportion of respondents who see the economy as the country’s most pressing issue has leaped by 30 percent since the January survey to 54.6 percent. Terrorism, meanwhile, has dropped almost 20 percent since then to capture only 5.6 percent of respondents asked the same question.

Others notable issues to have increased in the public perception are education, which 6.1 percent of respondents said was the country’s most serious problem, and the issues of injustice and social polarisation. The Kurdish question, the Gülen religious movement, which is accused of plotting a failed coup attempt in 2016, and the threat of “foreign powers” were issues which experienced a fall in respondents.

Further figures from the survey help paint a picture of why the economy has become such an urgent concern in Turkey: the proportion of people who say their standards of living have gone down has reached 63 percent. While between 83 percent and 97 percent of opposition party voters said their living standards had decreased, just 42.2 percent of AKP voters shared that view.

However, a full 79 percent of respondents said their salaries were not enough to get by on, while 60 percent said their income had decreased in the last six months.

The AKP’s struggle to control inflation, meanwhile, has failed to muster very broad enthusiasm; just over half of respondents thought it would end unsuccessfully, and 60 percent of people are against the use of municipal police to enforce price cuts. Inflation is currently at around 25 percent, and most Turks believe it will remain at that rate or higher for the foreseeable future.

Another significant point to come up in the survey was the loss of confidence among voters for the AKP’s management of the economy. One in three AKP voters and a full 60 percent of MHP voters said they were dissatisfied with their government’s economic policies. The dissatisfaction among MHP voters is particularly salient, given that the party has supported the government’s economic policies in parliament.

The president has stubbornly denied the country is facing economic problems, but on this point the public clearly disagrees. Almost two thirds of AKP voters said they believed the country was in the grip of a severe economic crisis, and almost all CHP and MHP voters agreed with them.

Despite the widespread agreement that the economy is on a downward slide, only 18 percent of AKP voters said they had lost faith in their party.

Meanwhile, almost half of respondents said they thought opposition parties did not pay enough attention to the country’s economic issues. This reflects a broader dissatisfaction expressed by opposition voters on the effectiveness of their parties’ activities in opposition to the government.

MetroPOLL also revealed Turks’ attitudes to world leaders, starting with Erdoğan, whose approval ratings has fallen by 2 percent to 40 percent since the last survey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was Turks’ most trusted foreign leader, with Turks rating him 3.7 out of 10. U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, fell to a rating of 1.8, a full two points lower than his rating in 2017.

Among the domestic issues the survey touched on, the CHP can take heart from the fact that 60 percent of Turks oppose the AKP’s plans to turn over the secularist party’s shares in İş Bank to the treasury. The shares were bequeathed to the CHP by Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, on the condition that their profits are spent on Turkish language and historical associations.

Meanwhile, the majority of Turks believe Andrew Brunson, the U.S. pastor who was held in Turkey on terror and espionage charges for two years, was released in October due to pressure from the United States.

International sources following the trial have said the charges against Brunson were baseless, citing the questionable evidence against him including statements from anonymous witnesses and secret documents.

However, only 12.7 percent of Turks surveyed said the pastor had been innocent of the charges against him from the start. Two thirds believed that his release had damaged Turkey’s international standing.

In other words, Turks have largely not been taken in by Erdoğan’s assertions that Brunson’s trial and eventual release were overseen by an independent judiciary and without his government’s interference. This gives a tangible glimpse of the widespread acceptance in Turkey that political interventions on the judiciary have taken place.

Sixty percent of respondents said their trust in the judiciary had been negatively affected as a result, and 57 percent said outright that they did not trust the judiciary or its verdicts.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.