The BIST100, the Istanbul stock exchange, has risen steadily in third week of May. Since the beginning of the month, the index has increased by 4 percent. Likewise, for the past two weeks, the value of the Turkish Lira has appreciated steadily against the dollar. As of May 21, the Turkish Lira to USD exchange rate was 6.79. That is close to its value in the beginning of April. Such positive developments have undoubtedly affected public opinion with regards to the future of the Turkish economy.
In fact, our latest surveys demonstrate that 42 percent of Turkish people believe the economy will be stronger next year. This figure is the highest we’ve seen since we began measuring public opinion regarding the future of the Turkish economy in November 2019. It is noteworthy that consumer confidence is increasing. What is more, results from our very latest survey show that an important share of the population is experiencing difficulties paying their utility and credit card bills. One might assume that this would lead people to expect the economic situation to worsen. Yet the results of our survey suggest otherwise. It seems like there is an understanding that the economy has hit rock bottom and can only improve as we move forward.
Natural gas bills became a sudden source of debate as people complained that their bills were unusually high. Accordingly, in the survey we conducted at TurkiyeRaporu.com during the third week of May, we asked our participants the following question: “Which of the following payments did you have difficulties with in the last two months?” We provided them with several options to choose from. According to our results, while 28 percent of participants had difficulties paying their natural gas bills, 35 percent struggled to pay their electricity bills. Finally, if 34 percent of participants stated that they struggled with paying their rent, 22 percent of them said they had no difficulties paying their bills or rent. A quick cross analysis shows that more than 30 percent of those participants who had difficulties paying their bills or rent still believe that the economic situation will improve next year. This corroborates our point that some outcomes do not affect public opinion as we expect them to.
A similar trend applies to our participants’ credit card payments. In our latest survey, we asked our participants “Which of the following would you agree with regarding your credit card payments in the last two months?” using in a multiple-choice question. Overall results show that 35 percent of participants did not have a credit card. While 21.7 percent of participants could not pay the minimum amount of their credit card bill, only 14 percent of them were able to pay the total amount of their credit card bill. Finally, 30 percent of participants stated that they were only able to pay the minimum amount of their credit card bills. A quick cross-examination of the results shows parallels with our previous question. Amongst the participants who stated that they were only able to pay the minimum amount of their credit card bills, 42 percent of them believed that the economic situation would improve next year. An even more striking result is that amongst those who couldn’t even pay the minimum amount of their credit card bills, 58 percent believed that the economic situation would improve next year.
In short, it seems like there is a rising feeling of optimism rooted in the belief that things cannot get worse. Unfortunately, such a feeling is misguided. The overall situation is doomed to get worse. We are to witness societal disruptions which will take years to reverse. This has nothing to do with politics. Officials in leading positions should know it.
There are two reasons why many jobs will not come back. First, some businesses will not reopen in the wake of this calamity. Second, consumer demand is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic times for a while.
In the latest surveys more than 50% of the participants stated that, even once the pandemic is over, they will go to the shopping mall less than they did prior to the pandemic. Statistics from China demonstrate similar consumer trends. It will take some time for consumer habits to get back to normal.
Upon asking whether or not Turkey should borrow from the IMF in order to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, only 30.8% of participants agreed, while the remaining 69.2% disagreed. The fact remains that the IMF is still negatively connoted amongst Turkish people.
As conditions worsen for the households, prospects get darker. It appears that the first wave of the health crisis will be over soon. Brace yourself for the economic downturn that it will leave its wake. That is of course until the pandemic’s second wave.
Some 50 percent of Turkish people disagree with President Erdoğan's donation campaign and believe that the government should be supporting the people and not the other way around. Some 41 percent disagree with the government's move to freeze CHP-led municipalities' donation campaigns while only 35 percent support the decision.
In the early days of March, our polling results suggested that 46% of the population in Turkey would not get vaccinated if a vaccine was developed against COVID-19. Luckily, this indifference to the virus has evolved for the better between March and now. As we enter the most critical two weeks of the pandemic in Turkey, the numbers with respect to self-isolation and precautions offer more hope.
The move by the government to freeze the donation accounts of municipalities will not benefit anyone.It is not the public that is getting polarized, it is the politics. And those who polarize will lose this race.
Like all governments around the world, the Turkish government has a number of tough calls to make during this time of public health turned economic crisis. So far, the Turkish government seems to have opted to keep up economic activity as long as it can, before it imposes a total lockdown.
Only one in two people in Turkey are worried about Coronavirus, while close to 20 percent stated that they were “neither worried nor unworried”. More strikingly, despite the warnings only 48 percent do not shake hands while only 49 percent do not kiss when seeing someone.
Amid growing tensions between Turkey and Russia on the Syrian battlefront, we asked respondents to rate the countries and international organizations based on how much they trust them. The bottom line of this story is that Turkish society has lost faith in its allies and neighbors.
The Turkish public is focused on Idlib. Naturally so. The rising number of martyrs and the difficulty to see an definitive end in sight to conflict worries many people. The risk of losing Turkish soldiers is the chief concern by 47.1% among Turkish public. If the heavy Turkish casualties continue to rise, the government might risk losing domestic support.
While one usually knows what people like about their preferred political parties, one tends to be less aware of what voters dislike about their parties. An investigation into this by TurkiyeRaporu.com showed that Turkey's two largest parties also have the most disgruntled base.
The most pressing problem Turkey faces today is unemployment. The main cure for it is an structural improvement of the Turkish economy.
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? In fact, fulfilling one's duties as a citizen matters more than having an impact on the election results.
Even though the majority of the society did not conduct an earthquake test, 66.4% of society believes that their home is earthquake resistant. In fact, 43.7% of attendants stated that they believe their homes are earthquake resistant even though they never conducted an earthquake test. Statistics demonstrate that Turkey is not prepared for earthquakes at both an infrastructure and individual level.
Following a significant earthquake and amid a turbulent political conjuncture, Turkey's citizens are worried. Yet rather than politics or economics, people are mostly concerned about their individual security and that of their families.
Speculation regarding the potential of new parties are abound. According to our September 2019 polling across Turkey, the potential for the new parties that would be established by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former economy chief Ali Babacan stood a little over 17% combined. This number in line with the 15-20% of the electorate who are looking for something new. We will have to wait and see whether the new parties will be able to realize this potential.
As the demands of its electorate have changed, the AKP can no longer resort to ideological polarization. This could allow for shifts in the political landscape.
A nation-wide poll, conducted during the first week of January, showed that 58% of the population is against sending troops to Libya. A breakdown of the result according to party supporters is telling. The AKP base itself is opposed to it and a divergence prevails between the AKP and the MHP bases.
Turkey is now sending military support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) to aid in its fight against General Hafter. The potential benefit of this decision is too distanced from the public life. Particularly, if the mission turns into an operational one, it will be very difficult to explain to the public why we are indeed in Libya.
Turkey is locked into a single issue and it is not the new wave of Turkey bound refugees from Idlib. It is the mega Canal İstanbul project. However, public does not have adequate knowledge of the project according to a recent poll.
Finally, last week, former Prime Minister and chief of foreign policy, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s much anticipated Future Party was inaugurated. Analysts are rushing to deem his party’s chances slim. I see that there is a fundamental flaw in that analysis.
For a long time now, all our polling points to two main sources of dissatisfaction among the public. First is the economy. Second is the Syrian refugees and the Syria policy. Both are policy areas where Mr. Babacan and Mr. Davutoğlu were responsible for at the highest level of public office. It would have been much easier and strategically correct for President Erdoğan to link today’s woes to the wrong doings of the two during when they were in office.
Most recently, an event transpired likely to be seen in scenarios of an absurd comedy piece. With the “pro” votes of MHP and AK Party MPs, the bill postponing the requirement for filtration in thermal power plants, was approved in the parliament. The decision caused an uproar in the opposition ranks but also in a large section of society. Then, something quite unexpected happened; President Erdoğan vetoed the bill. The irony is of course, that the very same law that was tabled by Mr. Erdoğan’s AK Party was vetoed by President Mr. Erdoğan himself.
Last Tuesday, former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Babacan for the first time appeared on national television as an opposition politician. Mr. Babacan did not object when the host of the talk show host suggested he appears as more of a “political organizer” than a “political leader”. It shows that his movement is not organized in the typical political hierarchy that voters are used to see.
A couple of months ago, when three HDP mayors were removed from office, I had predicted that this increased the chances of early elections in the fall of 2020. Looking at the economic sentiment of the house hold, it is safe to say chances for an early elections has slimmed since. Because, right now economy is the number one priority of the Turkish electorate and they are not happy.
According to a latest poll, President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) appears to have lost 1.2 points of support whereas Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its support by 3.1 points after Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring" in northern Syria.
In Turkey and across the world, the voting behavior of the young is changing. Turkey hosts close to 5 million citizens comprised between the ages of 14 and 17. By 2023, this entire group will vote, constituting close to 10% of the entire electorate.
Day-to-day events and inconsistent messages that have been coming from Turkey's traditional Western partners over the past decade have fostered negative sentiments. Yet the majority of the Turkish public values a long-term partnership with the West.
Since 2015, patterns in voting behavior have been shifting. Poor governance and a stagnant economy are largely behind this change.