‘COVID-19 measures fully supported by public’: Poll

‘COVID-19 measures fully supported by public’: Poll

While the government speeds up efforts toward normalization, especially in order to revive the economy, a survey conducted in the second half of April revealed a high level of anxiety in society due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. An overwhelming majority appears to support the confinement measures, yet there are mixed feelings in terms of government approval, as just 40 percent said they find the government performance successful.

Kadir Has University commissioned the opinion poll on COVID-19 in 26 cities between April 3 and 17, when the official numbers on the pandemic, including the death toll, were on the rise.

Two-thirds of respondents said they were worried about the pandemic. Thirty percent thought they had a high chance of contracting COVID-19, while half said they had a 50-50 chance of falling ill with the virus. 

More than 90 percent of respondents said they were abiding by individual measures, like washing hands, respecting social distancing, wearing masks and staying home. Some 78 percent also said they were not going to work. 

The poll provides an important glimpse at the adaptation levels to online or distant working.

Some 70 percent of respondents have a job; of those, 40 percent said they’re now working from home, while 30 percent said their job was not suitable to work from home, as in the case of barbers. 

Approval of COVID-19 measures

There is a high level of support for the measures introduced by the government. More than 85 percent of respondents supported the closure of schools, restaurants and shops, the curfew on those aged 65 and above, the cancellation of sport activities, the stopping of prayers in mosques and other quarantine measures. The lowest rate of support came for a total curfew in the country, but even that was high, with 84.6 percent of respondents backing such a decision.

But while there is a high level of support for the government’s measures, just 40 percent said the measures were sufficient, versus the 34.5 percent that found it insufficient. The remaining quarter said it was neither sufficient nor insufficient.

There was a similar trend with the government’s approval ratings; 40 percent said Ankara’s pandemic policies were successful, while 30 percent said they weren’t. A further 29.5 percent were on the fence.

Residents of the Marmara region, the area hardest hit since the largest number of Turkey’s cases have occurred in Istanbul, were least impressed with the government’s response, with just 28 percent giving the government a good grade.

In terms of age groups, one of the lowest approval rankings came from the 18-34 group, just 37.3 percent of whom deemed the government’s actions successful. That rate was even lower for the 18-20 group (35.9 percent), which has been under a permanent curfew since the first week of April.

The poll also asked respondents which party they would vote for if there were elections.

According to Professor Mustafa Aydın, who headed up the research team, the findings on voting behavior need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as views in times of crisis often prove to be temporary and inconsistent.

There is a general acceptance among political scientists that in times of crisis, even the most unpopular governments’ approval ratings go up. For instance, few will contest the fact that the Italian government has performed badly in handling of the COVID-19 crisis. But even there, the approval rating of the prime minister has gone up. There is a psychological explanation to that. When people are frightened and face an uncertain future, they hold on to what they know. At the same time, they hope that those with responsibility succeed. 

In view of that, the ruling coalition’s approval rating should have risen significantly more, said Aydın. According to him, the declining trend in the support levels for the ruling coalition, as evidenced by its losses in local elections a year ago, does not seem to have overturned. However, this does not appear to have translated into a significant rise in support for opposition parties either.

But even if there is no sign that those dissatisfied with the ruling coalition have decided to cross to the opposition ranks, opposition parties, especially the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are constantly being targeted by ruling politicians. How else can we explain the “coup” pandemic in the midst of a global deadly health crisis?