What would be the result of a referendum on the EU?

What would be the result of a referendum on the EU?

What would be the result of a referendum on continuing membership negotations with the EU—a suggestion that has been voiced frequently recently by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? 

What is the current level of support, which had gone as high up as 75 percent during the initial period of negotiations in the 2000s?

It appears Americans are also curious about the answer to that question related to the ongoing intensive debate within the Western world about “where Turkey is going.”

The Washington based think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), known by its affinity to the Democratic Party, tried to understand the state of support for the European Union in Turkey by asking Metropoll, one of Turkey’s leading research companies, to conduct an opinion poll. The company went on the field before the elections between May 24 and July 4 and asked answers to questions related to the EU via face to face interviews with 2,534 participants.

First, Metropoll asked, “Do you want Turkey to be a part of the EU?” The answer to that question reveals a meaningful drop in support to the EU, which for years maintained a net majority and that the Turkish nation is literally divided on the issue.

While 49 percent of participants said yes, 50 percent said no. One percent either did not give an answer or said, “I don’t know.”

Among the supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), 46 percent said yes, 52 percent said no.

Even if the “no” response is higher, there is non-negligible support within the AKP for the accession process.

Among the supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), 56 percent said “yes,” while 43 percent said “no.”

It is possible to say a meaningful segment has been influenced partially by the nationalist/patriotic wing within the CHP and has an anti-EU stance. The weakest support to EU membership comes from the constituency of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 39 percent. A majority of 61 percent within the MHP opposes Turkey’s accession to the EU. The strongest support for membership obviously comes from the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) with 60 percent.

Meanwhile, despite the division on the membership issue, 65 percent of the Turkish nation has a warm stance on traveling to the EU, or going there for education or employment.

Interestingly, positive answers go up as high as 61 percent within AKP supporters, 55 percent among MHP voters and 77 percent within the CHP.

In other words, even though there is erosion on the support for membership, the majority of Turks want the EU’s door open for options like travel, education or employment.

An important point we should underline here is this: This research reflects tendencies that are not affected by hot political debates within the framework of a referendum. In case of a referendum, different dynamics would start factoring in with the involvement of government and opposition.

In case President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was to decide to opt for ending negotiations, run a strong campaign in this direction and use means of propaganda on his hands to the maximum extent possible as can be seen in previous examples, the probability of having the cursor go in a definite way towards the “no” front cannot be underestimated.

There is another interesting point. Even if Turks are divided on the EU issue, this division disappears on the question of whether or not Turkey should remain in NATO.

Fifty-five percent said “yes,” while 27 percent said “no.” Eighteen percent said, “I don’t know,” or chose not to respond.

With 58 percent within the AK Party’s voters and 59 percent within CHP voters, the support level between the two parties is very close. This rate goes up to 65 percent within the MHP.

As a result, we can say Turks do not have much hestitation on NATO membership, whereas they are divided on membership to the EU.