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Turkish citizens mistrust foreigners, opinion poll says

ISTANBUL – Radikal | 5/2/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Turkish citizens maintain unfriendly attitudes toward the wider world, according to a survey conducted by the Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation, or SETA.

Turkish citizens maintain unfriendly attitudes toward the wider world, according to a recent survey conducted by the Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation, or SETA.

The opinion poll revealed many people in Turkey have negative views of Arabs, Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Russians, and Americans, but views over Europeans seem to be split, while a certain majority expressed positive views of Azerbaijanis whose native language is intelligible to Turks. 

According to the research, some 36.6 percent of participants have a favorable view of Europeans, while 35 percent expressed unfavorable sentiments. Some 40 percent of the younger generation also expressed more favorable views regarding Europeans, whereas those who were over 61 years of age tended to have a more negative opinion. On Americans, 64.8 percent of those surveyed indicated unfavorable views, with only 13.8 percent expressing favorable views. 

Some 33.2 percent of those surveyed said they had positive attitude toward Arabs, up against some 39 percent who said they had a negative perception of them. Men also seemed to be slightly more unfavorable toward Arabs than women, with some 42 percent of males, as opposed to 36 percent of females, expressing negative sentiments regarding Arabs.

Participants in the survey said if they had to make a choice between Europeans, Americans and Arabs, they would choose Arabs. When asked whether Arabs were better than Americans and Europeans, 25.3 percent of those surveyed said they “absolutely agree,” while 19.9 percent said they “generally agree.” 

The research was coordinated by Professor Talip Küçükcan and covered some 3,040 participants in 12 provinces in Turkey.

Views of Iranians were also in the negative, according to the survey, which found 31 percent held favorable views of Iranians as opposed to 39.5 percent who had unfavorable views. The research showed participants with higher levels of education and better jobs tended to entertain more unfavorable perceptions about Turkey’s eastern neighbors. Negative views of Iranians were also higher among women, 44 percent of whom expressed unfavorable views, in contrast to men, only 35 percent of whom were unfavorable.

The participants’ outlook on Armenians, Jews and Greeks was especially unfavorable, with some 73.9 percent saying they held negative views about Armenians, 71.5 percent saying they had negative views toward Jews, and 67 percent saying they had unfavorable views toward Greeks. The survey showed an unfavorable stance toward Armenians and Jews was relatively more widespread among those participants with lower levels of education and socioeconomic status. Unfavorable views of Jews were also slightly higher among younger men.

Results of the poll showed 51.7 percent of participants held unfavorable views toward Russians, while 20.7 percent expressed favorable views. Positive attitudes toward Russians were higher among better educated men, with only 13.2 percent of women stating positive views about Russians, up against some 28.4 percent of men who said they had a positive opinion.

Some 37 percent of those surveyed also said they had a favorable perception of the Chinese, while 30 percent expressed an unfavorable view. 

The participants were also asked about which countries Turkey should cooperate with in order to uphold its long-term interests. The Turkic republics of Central Asia and Azerbaijan were top of the list with 31 percent, followed by Islamic countries with 26 percent, the European Union with 23.1 percent, and the United States with 11.8 percent. Russia and China were at the bottom of the list with 8.1 percent.

Previous research conducted by PEW Research Center also showed there was considerable fluctuation among Turkish citizens’ views on foreigners. According to the Global Attitudes survey, 52 percent of Turkish citizens had expressed favorable views of the United States in 2000. That rate dipped in 2007 and climbed back up to 17 percent in 2010 with the election of Barack Obama as the United States president. There was also substantial fluctuation in Turkish citizens’ outlook on Jews, with some 32 percent of Turkish citizens expressing an unfavorable stance toward Jews in 2004, while as high as 73 percent expressed unfavorable views about Jews in 2007. According to a Eurobarometer research, 43 percent of Turkish citizens had a positive stance on the prospects of Turkey joining the European Union as a full member in 2006. That rate climbed to 48 percent in 2009 but fell to 38 percent in 2010. The same research also showed 20 percent of Turkish citizens felt some affinity toward other Muslim countries.

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