Erdoğan’s ‘pious generation’ project not working with Gen Z - Turkish pollster

Generation Zers are not interested in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent decision to open Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia landmark to Muslim worship, which is a symptom of a larger phenomenon of disinterest in Turkey’s political agenda among young Turks, said Bekir Ağırdır, head of the KONDA Research Company.

There are some 20 million people in Turkey who belong to Generation Z, a reference term used for those born between the mid-90s and 2010 and who have used digital technology since an early age.

A large proportion of these children born in urban areas have life anxieties, which is an underlying reason they are so angry on social media, Ağırdır told Euronews on Thursday. Although 55 percent of young people in this generation are hopeful about their own lives, their hopes for the future of the country are gradually disappearing.

“The project of raising a religious generation is not working,” Ağırdır said, in a possible reference to Erdoğan’s bid to shift Turkey away from a secular foundation to a more Islamist-oriented institution. “This is beyond whether the government is in the wrong or right.”

The KONDA head added that the young generation does not have “the same understanding of conservatism as their fathers.”

“Wearing a veil or not, Alevi or Sunni, they see each other as they grow up, together, sitting in the same classrooms, feeling the same dread for their future lives,” Ağırdır said.

A Deutsche Welle report earlier in July said Erdoğan was failing to win the hearts of young Turks reaching voting age, which could hamper his prospects for re-election.

Of the nearly 6 million young people between the ages 15 to 20 expected to vote in the 2023 election, 70 percent have no expectations that existing politics and political actors can solve the country's problems, Euronews said on Thursday.

According to Ağırdır, the main problem of youth is a lack of role models. Although there are new political formations, these developments do not excite young people.

“Beyond the youth, Turkey's special situation is a polarised society stuck to its identity,” he said, suggesting that if opposition parties want to attract young voters, they would have to create a “utopian” platform that appeals to various Turkish demographics.

“If you don't have this utopia, you're not worth the hearts of the young."