Washington, DC – A poll released by IRI underscores the crossroads at which Turkey finds itself, highlighting reasons for concern and optimism.  The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appears to be restoring voter confidence in the economy as a 46 percent majority of respondents believe their economic situation has improved in the past five years.

A strong commitment to secularism in the public sphere still exists in Turkey.  An overwhelming majority of Turks, 74 percent, reject Sharia as a model for Turkey’s government. Sixty-nine percent believe that religion is best kept in the private sphere.

Aspirations to join the European Union (EU) are still clear as 53 percent of Turks view a relationship with the EU favorably.  Sixty percent would vote yes on membership were a referendum held at the time of the poll.  Even though a combined 50 percent cited economic development and decreased unemployment as important benefits of EU membership there remains significant reluctance toward integration from young Turks (see slides 35, 36 and 42).

Mistrust of outside powers remains in the Turkish national consciousness.  Forty-four percent of Turks do not believe Turkey has any close allies while a majority identifies at least one country as a worst enemy.  A question measuring the extent of the Severes Syndrome (referring to the rejected World War I peace treaty that split the Ottoman Empire among regional powers) revealed 68 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the West wants to divide modern Turkey like they divided the Ottoman Empire.  The syndrome’s influence can be seen in a number of responses, notably the belief that the Southeastern problem (how Turks refer to conflict with the Kurds) is the result of “foreign governments trying to divide Turkey.”

More than 1,500 interviews were conducted between November 18 and December 5 2006.  The sample size included 300 additional youth as they comprise a growing majority of the population that is currently disengaged from political and civic life.  The margin of error is approximately plus or minus 2.57 percent.

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