35 percent of Turkish voters give 'unconditional support' to Erdoğan

35 percent of Turkish voters give 'unconditional support' to Erdoğan

Barçın Yinanç - barcin.yinanc@hdn.com.tr
35 percent of Turkish voters give unconditional support to Erdoğan A segment of the electorate is devoted to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a relationship which can be explained by love, with 35 percent of voters offering unconditional support to the president, according to Faruk Acar, the head of the Andy-Ar polling company. 

“But the phenomenon of unconditional support has ended in the big cities, as there is a segment which admires Erdoğan but also question his policies,” said Acar, who worked for the “yes” camp in the referendum. 

The support of 51.5 percent for the “yes” side carries a deep message, as the electorate refrained from offering greater support – something that could be understood as an attempt to increase awareness of the other side’s concerns, Acar told the Daily News.

What is your analysis of the outcome of the referendum?

The outcome was not a surprise for us. Eighty percent voted based on identity politics, and we had 20 percent floating votes, of which only 10 percent was open to being influenced by the campaign period.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were in an alliance, yet it was the Kurdish votes in the southeast that secured the outcome in favor of “yes.”  

The MHP did not deliver.

Only 30 percent of the MHP voters said “yes,” and it was the votes that broke away from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) that contributed to the “yes” outcome. Despite everything, the HDP still has one of the biggest consolidated constituencies, especially in the big cities.

But the HDP’s policies after the June 7 [2015 elections] and the fact that warfare took place in the cities led to questioning among HDP voters.

Our research [before the referendum] showed that the services provided by the state via appointed trustees [to replace mayors] were appreciated by voters. There was an impression that the state intervened speedily to reconstruct the places that were destroyed. 

We were estimating a 10 percent increase in votes [in favor of the AKP]; in addition, 10 percent of HDP voters did not go to the ballot box, which meant a 15 percent rise in favor of the “yes” camp. 

But at this stage, we cannot say that the voters who broke from the HDP will go to the AKP either. But we know that they will not go back to the HDP.

Why not?

First, these voters had come from the AKP; second; our research has shown us that the arrest of local officials and those in the leadership position was supported by these voters. They gave a chance to the HDP but they think this chance was not properly used by the HDP, and that reaction led to the increase in “yes” votes.

So what exactly did Kurdish voters say?

The message in the southeast is very clear: They say: “Right now you are in a fight against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]; don’t give up; continue. We were interlocutors and sat at the table. Take me again as an interlocutor, and let’s sit back down at the table; we need to talk again.”

But who is that “me?”

It is the HDP, AKP, Hüdapar [Free Cause Party], all of them. Some have expressed this message by voting “yes,” some by voting “no.” The latter said: “Look, despite everything, I am voting ‘no.’ The HDP is still important for me.” 

Let’s talk about the “no” camp. What is their common denominator?

The June 7 elections revealed a 60 percent block. Their common denominator is to say “no” to the current political system and the current administrations; not only to the AKP but to [MHP leader Devlet] Bahçeli. Obviously, you can’t explain it with one reason. Being anti-Erdoğan is there, too. 

When you look at the “yes” camp, a new system and a new enthusiasm for the future – all of these are just additional factors. The main axis in the 51.5 is the support and confidence toward the president.

When you look at the “no” camp, concerns about one-man rule, or about the loss of the gains of the republic are again additional factors; the main axis there too is being against Erdoğan. He has consolidated the votes on both the “yes” and “no” camp. There is a group of voters who, no matter what Erdoğan does, he will not be able to get their support.

During the campaign period, the president was debated, not the presidential system. The moment President Erdoğan started to talk, he was able to consolidate the “yes” block. The relationship between the AKP constituency and the natural leader of the party goes beyond any analysis based on a normal relationship between party supporters and their leader. There is a harmony based on love between Erdoğan and his constituency. There is devotion; his voters support him blindly. 

What is the percentage?

Thirty-five percent say “whatever the president tells us to do, [we do].” We have seen that Erdoğan continues to receive support even when he changes his policies 180 degrees. We saw this in the Russian case. There is no other leader who can do that. 

The rest vote for him due to the feeling that there is no better alternative coupled with admiration. They admire him, but they also question him.  

Looking at some neighborhoods which are strongholds of the AKP, can the reduced ratio of “yes” votes be interpreted as a defection from the AKP?

The loss from the AKP is around 2.5-3 percent. This gap was bridged by the votes which came from the MHP as well as the HDP. But this 2.5-3 percent are not really AKP voters. They are the floating votes.

What is their profile? Are they conservative? 

Most of them.

Can you see a divide between rural conservatives and urban conservatives?

Obviously, the outcome was determined by the votes in the big cities, especially votes in terms of “no.” In the cities in rural parts of Anatolia, where you do not have metropolitan cities, conservative politics are still important. The voters in metropolitan cities have a bigger tendency to question. They look at their daily lives, and the expectations are greater. The unconditional support in the big cities has ended. There is the profile of a voter with greater self-confidence who says, “I question your politics.” This self-confidence was boosted with July 15 [the attempted coup of 2016]; where the voters see themselves as actors who stopped the coup. On July 15, it was Istanbul that saved Turkey, whereas in the referendum, it was Turkey that saved the “yes” camp despite Istanbul.

Fifteen years ago, the municipalities governed by those coming from the National Vision [Millî Görüş] tradition contributed to the success of the AKP. In the present day, AKP municipalities are a trademark. But 15 years ago, when a municipality brought electricity to the neighborhood, it was greatly appreciated. Today when the government opens the Eurasia tunnel or the Osman Gazi Bridge, there is an electorate that says, “Of course you have to do it. This is being done with my taxes.” 

Is that how we should interpret the relatively low “yes” ratio in traditional AKP strongholds like Eyüp and Fatih in Istanbul?

This is one of them. But there are other reasons, too. The policy against the Fetullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) is another reason among others. Some believe that the government was not totally honest in its fight against FETÖ as it did not vigorously pursue [alleged Gülenists] in its close circle.

Look, there were very sensitive messages given by the electorate. Looking from the “no” camp; it said: “This is my country too; I am as big as you. You don’t love this country any more than I do.” Looking from the “yes” camp, there was a deep message in the fact that the electorate refrained from giving greater support to “yes.” It wanted to show that it is aware of the concerns of the other side. So the electorate gave its support to the new system, but this support was carefully weighted.

Who is Faruk Acar?


35 percent of Turkish voters give unconditional support to Erdoğan

Faruk Acar went to school in Bursa, where he received a degree in public administration. He is currently pursuing post-graduate education at Istanbul University’s Sociology Department.

Acar entered the research sector as a pollster. After spending several years in the field, he moved into an executive position.

He established the Andy-Ar Social Research Center in 1999.

Before the 2004 and 2007 general elections, as well as the 2010 constitutional referendum and 2014 presidential elections, Andy-Ar was one of three companies that provided the closest estimate to the result.

Andy-Ar is based in Istanbul but has 35 offices across Turkey and engages in research in over 40 provinces in Turkey. Acar provides political and strategic counseling to political parties, municipalities, as well as public and private institutions.