DOĞU ERGİL

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DOĞU ERGİL
February 17, 2013, Sunday

Political perceptions

The Metropoll public opinion research agency recently conducted a study of the preferences of Turkish voters.

The first question inquired whether trust and support for political parties has increased or decreased in the last year. The Turkish public answered as follows: 33 percent of voters said their trust and support for the incumbent Justice and Development (AK Party) has increased. The same proportion of the electorate said the opposite, and 24.4 percent replied that that their attitude has not changed. Among AK Party voters, 16 percent said their level of trust and support for their party has decreased in the last year; 64 percent of Republican People’s Party (CHP) voters, 51 percent of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters and 49 percent of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) voters responded that their trust and support for the AK Party has decreased in the past year.

When asked about the CHP, 44.5 percent of all voters have lost trust and support for the party. Only 11 percent said their support has increased, while 31 percent said their attitude has not changed. Among the CHP voters 32 percent have declared that their trust and support for their own party has increased, while 22 percent said it has decreased.

Trust and support for the MHP among voters has increased for 15 percent of the respondents and has decreased for 34 percent of those surveyed. For 54 percent of MHP voters, their level of support for their party has increased, while 12 percent reported a decrease. The attitude of 31 percent of MHP voters has remained unchanged.

Trust and support for the BDP among the general electorate in the past year has decreased for 50 percent and increased for 3 percent, while there was no change for 22.5 percent. It seems that the BDP is the party that suffered the most in trust and support among all political parties. Even among its supporters, 29 percent declared that their trust and support for their party has decreased. Only 27 percent of BDP voters said that their support for their party increased in the last year, while 17 percent said their opinion has not changed.

Why?

When asked “What are the basic reasons why the AK Party has increased its share of the national vote in parliamentary elections to 50 percent?” the top answers voters gave, according to their frequency, were as follows: 1- It is trustworthy (9.2 percent); 2- It is successful (6.1 percent); 3- It is industrious and productive (6 percent); 4- Its support for the needy (4.7 percent); 5- Ignorance (false consciousness) of the people (4.6 percent); 6- Insufficiency of the opposition (4 percent); 7- Its economic success (3.8 percent);  8- Rapport with the people (3.7 percent); 9- Strength of its leader (3.3 percent). It is evident that the electoral success of the AK Party does not rest on a single factor; rather, it is a complex phenomenon.

When people were asked “Why can’t the CHP get enough votes to come to power?” the answers were as follows: 1- There is a leadership deficiency (9.1 percent); 2- It does not engender trust (7 percent); 3- Inter-party feuds and factionalism (4.8 percent); 4- Pursuing the wrong policies (4.4 percent); 5- Detachment from the people (4 percent); 6- Entropy and lack of political creativity (3.3 percent); 7- Inability of party administration and deficiencies in the overall organization (3 percent).

Finally, a seminal question was put to the public regarding the reasons for their party preference. The top answers are as follows: 1- Trustworthiness/honesty (16.4 percent); 2- Industriousness and productivity (7.8 percent); 3- Economic policies (5.9 percent); 4- Successful party organization (5 percent); 5- Its record on human rights, basic freedoms and democracy (4.7 percent); 6- Its leader (4.7 percent); 7- Future expectations and how the party relates to voters (3.3 percent).

These findings refute the general belief that people vote mainly because of their ideological leanings. Rather, the data indicate that their preference rests on their perception of how well they believe they are represented by the party and how powerful the party is in its ability to realize its goals. This is a rational choice. So all the rhetoric about ignorance, delusion or being bought off for a few kilos of rice by the AK Party seems to be grossly exaggerated, if not misleading.

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