In a country that has more than 50 million registered voters, a single vote does not carry much influence. Yet voter turnout in Turkish elections remains over 80%. So why do Turkish people vote? More importantly, what are the main determinants of voter behavior? In fact, fulfilling one's duties as a citizen matters more than having an impact on the election results.
Turkey is one of the leading countries when it comes to voter turn-out. The 2018 general elections recorded a 88.2% participation rate while the 2019 municipality elections recorded a 84.4% level of participation. When compared with Western countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom that recorded voter turnouts of 55.7% and 67.1% for their latest general elections respectively, Turkey has the second greatest voter turnout following Belgium, which record a 88.4% turnout for its 2019 federal elections.
At TurkiyeRaporu.com, we asked respondents what was the main reason for them to vote. As 50.8% responded with “to fulfill my duty as a citizen”, having an influence on the result does not appear to matter much for Turkish citizens. On the other hand, 16.9% of the participants claimed that they vote to represent their views, which was followed by 16.1% that vote "to support their parties". Less than 2% stated that they prefer not to vote. Hence, the proportion that did not vote in the past elections mostly consists of the people that wanted to vote but could not do so for one reason or another.
As for their main reason for voting, HDP voters exhibited a different perspective compared to other voters. While the most selected option was the same as the group as a whole, the percentage was much lower, that is 31.5%. What was even more significant was that one in every four HDP voter stated that he or she voted for his views to be represented. For other voters this was true for only 16%. Thus, the pursuit of being heard seems to affect the HDP voter base, which mostly consists of Kurdish people and youths.
A minority of 8.2% agreed to vote for the sole purpose of defeating the opponent party. The fact that this option was more commonly shared by the younger groups is concerning as it points to the permanence of the country's polarization in future generations. Yet close to six million new voters from generation Z will vote in the upcoming elections. Their preferences, whether polarized as their predecessors’ or not, will deeply affect the outcome. I believe politicians that manage to connect with this new generation will have a higher chance of succeeding in the upcoming elections.
At this stage, it is also crucial to investigate the process of choosing the party to vote in the general elections. To understand the people's tendencies, we put forward six different factors for choosing the party they vote for to the respondents, to rate between 1 to 5. With 4.38 points, the leader of the party they vote for turned out to be the most important factor. Only CHP voters differed from the other groups as they attributed the highest level of importance to the services provided by the mayors of the party they voted for. This is not surprising since the 2019 local elections led to the victory of CHP candidates at municipalities across the country, corresponding to almost half of the population. It is apparent that the actions of these mayors will be of utmost importance for the party’s future in parliament.
Other factors such as “being able to take seats in the parliament”, “ideology”, “being able to win” and “the candidates it presents” were also considered significant. However, we can conclude that the actions and statements of the party leader matter the most. In particular, the significance attributed to the other candidates of the party being the lowest, Turkish politics seem to be shaped by the actions of a few figures rather than by that of the crowds behind them.