Poll: Turks somehow liberal on rhetoric but not in practice

Poll: Turks somehow liberal on rhetoric but not in practice

“We came up with a set of questions related to liberal values and tried to figure out whether Turkey is indeed, as some outsiders might perceive, a country devoid of liberalism, or whether liberal and democratic values have in fact taken root in Turkish society,” writes Dr. Hans–Georg Fleck, the representative of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, in the introduction to research conducted by a respected independent Turkish pollster. 

The findings of the poll conducted by Metropoll on behalf of the Foundation, published yesterday, showed that Turks were somewhat liberal in rhetoric but not in practice.

When people were asked which of the following terms they considers most important, “liberty” came up with 41 percent as the most important value, ahead of equality, solidarity, welfare and security.

Some 60 percent said it was “very important” to live in a country with a democratic government, while 32 percent said it was “important.” 

While these findings attest to relatively strong democratic values, other findings say something different. When asked “do you think people should give up some of their fundamental rights and freedoms for security and counter terrorism?” Forty percent said “yes” while 46 percent said “no.” Some 55 percent, meanwhile, said the state must be allowed to gather personal information “only for security reasons.”

Interestingly, while 28 percent find Turkey to be a “fully democratic” country, 25 percent believe it is “not democratic” and 43 percent say it is “partly democratic.” 

Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent are in favor of the separation of religion and politics. However, 23 percent say they have a “very positive” view of having an Islamic state, while 38 percent have a “positive” view of it. 
There is a similar contradiction when it comes to gender equality. Some 59 percent said men and women should be equal, while three-quarters of people have no problem with women earning more than their husbands. However, 58 percent of people say they think women should get permission from their husbands before they start working.

Free speech has never been a strong attribute of Turks. However, 56 percent said expressing ideas in the media, even upsetting ideas, should be free, while 75 percent said opinions should be expressed even if they are against their values and beliefs. Only 33 percent said such ideas should be prohibited. 

Looking at these findings, one might think that Turks are in favor of free speech. But in real life, especially when you look at social media, people not only do not tolerate views different from their own, they insult those expressing those views. 

Still, amid the current political mood in Turkey, the fact that Turks displayed some strong liberal values - even if only at the rhetorical level - did come as something of a surprise. 

Among those questioning the findings was Professor Ersin Kalaycıoğlu of Istanbul’s Sabancı University. 
Kalaycıoğlu draw attention not only to the situation in Turkey, but also to current developments across the world. He noted that free speech is under threat globally. Worse, referring to findings detailed in British journalist Timothy Garton Ash’s recent book “Free Speech,” Kalaycıoğlu said free speech is facing a threat not only from states, but also from civil societies, 

“I was a pessimist before, and I became even more pessimistic after I read this book,” he said.

Indeed, it is not only Turkey. The whole world seems to be going in the opposite direction in terms of certain liberal values.