Hamas popularity strikingly low in Turkey, Pew survey finds

September 11, 2013, Wednesday/ 14:17:00

A newly released survey shows a surprisingly low popularity in Turkey for Hamas, whose leaders have close ties with the Turkish prime minister and frequently visit Ankara, leaving the group trailing behind even al-Qaeda.

The Pew Research Center surveyed Muslims in 11 countries and released a report on Tuesday which finds declining support for suicide bombing and organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

The survey found that a median of 45 percent across the Muslim publics surveyed have an unfavorable view of Hamas, the rival Palestinian party ruling Gaza.

More than half of Muslims in Turkey (73 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of the militant organization. The popularity of Hamas in Turkey stands at a mere 5 percent, while al-Qaeda has 7 percent popularity. Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, support for the organization has fallen among Turkish Muslims (-10).

The Pew survey report said al-Qaeda, which is responsible for some of the most well-known and devastating terrorist attacks in the last 15 years, received the most negative ratings among the extremist groups included in the survey. A total of 73 percent of Turks hold an unfavorable view of the group.

Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group based in Lebanon who have played a key role in the Syrian crisis fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces, is viewed unfavorably by a median of 42 percent among the Muslim publics surveyed.

Nearly three in four in Turkey (73 percent) expressed distaste for Hezbollah. Seven percent of Turkish Muslims hold a favorable view of Hezbollah while 20 percent of Turks surveyed expressed no opinion on the Shiite militant group.

Across the Muslim publics surveyed, a median of 51 percent have an unfavorable view of the Taliban. A majority of Muslims in Turkey (70 percent) have a negative opinion of the group.

Only 10 percent of Turkish Muslims view the Taliban favorably (10 percent) and 21 percent of Turks surveyed have no opinion.

Pew said the results of the survey are based on face-to-face interviews and on national samples. In Turkey, Pew conducted surveys with 1,000 people in 26 regions between March 5 and 24 this year. The survey put the margin of error between -7 and 7.

Majorities in most of the Muslim publics surveyed express concerns about Islamic extremism in their country. The survey revealed that Turkey, however, is the only country surveyed where at least half of Muslims (51 percent) say they are not worried about Islamic extremism.

Most publics surveyed reject suicide bombings and other forms of violence in the name of Islam. However, in some countries, substantial minorities of Muslims say attacks on civilians are at least sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies.

A majority in Turkey share unequivocal rejection of religious-inspired violence (54 percent say it is never justified). In Turkey, 16 percent of Muslims take the view that attacks on civilians are sometimes or often justified while 17 percent said they are rarely justified and 14 percent said they have no opinion.

In Turkey, support for suicide bombings and related forms of violence has gone up and down in the last decade.

In 2002, the level of support for suicide bombing was 13 percent in Turkey and this figure remained almost unchanged in 2005. Those who said suicide bombings could be often or sometimes justified spiked to 17 and 16 percent in 2006 and 2007 but significantly dropped to 3, 4, 5 and 7 percent in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. This year this figure rose to 16 percent.