Nearly half of young backers of Turkey's ruling party want to live abroad - poll

Research into young Turks shows nearly half of those who support the Islamist ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wish to live abroad after 18 years of AKP rule in the country.

Some 47.3 percent of young AKP voters said and 68.6 percent of young supporters of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the coalition partner of the AKP, said they would like to live outside Turkey, according to an opinion poll by the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV).

In all, 62.5 percent of the participants said they wished to live abroad.

Turkey has seen tens of thousands of highly qualified people leave the country over a tempestuous decade that saw nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, a failed military coup in 2016 and a two-year state of emergency and widespread crackdown following the attempted putsch.

The later years of AKP rule have seen the government grow increasingly intolerant of dissent as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tightened his grip on power.

The booming economy of the early AKP years in power has also been firmly confined to history, and in 2019 income per capita slipped to $9,127, equivalent after inflation is adjusted to a level last recorded in 2006 and far from the $12,480 peak in 2012-2013.

The SODEV research shows that all segments of youth in Turkey are struggling to find reasons to be cheerful with the country’s economy struggling since 2018 and rights and freedoms severely crippled.

Some 61.7 percent of participants were students and 19 percent were employed. The remaining participants were unemployed, with 7.3 percent saying they had given up looking for a job.

With prospects bleak at home, young Turks who want to settle abroad said they were motivated by their career prospects, the feeling that their personal freedoms were restricted at home, and better educational opportunities abroad, the research said.

The report said that freedom of expression is of prime importance to young Turks. 

Over 68 percent of youths consider it very important to be able to express their opinions freely and 52 percent say it is very important that others can also express their thoughts freely, the research showed.

When asked whether they would prefer to spend the rest of their life earning $10,000 a month in Saudi Arabia or $ 5,000 a month in Switzerland, 72.2 percent of the survey’s participants preferred Switzerland. 

Even 60.5 percent of the AKP supporters who took part in the survey said they would favour Switzerland over Saudi Arabia.

Turkey saw a 20 percent increase in the number of people moving abroad in 2018 compared to the previous year, with a total of 137,000 leaving the country, according to data from the Turkish Presidency.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stepped up efforts to reverse the brain drain in the country, launching a new scholarship programme to lure academics to Turkey.