Politics is also about measuring human behavior. This is why both journalists and politicians are obsessed with polls. Different polls show us that Turkish people are becoming more polarized. This polarization is one of the factors pushing President Erdoğan toward a more Islamist agenda.
Everyone has been talking about Generation Z these days in Turkey. Generation Z became the talk of the town after the poll released by polling company Gezici in the newspaper Sözcü. Their poll showed that the generation of young people below age 20 were getting further away from the AKP.
According to the poll, 28.5 percent of this generation define themselves as atheists; only 15 percent of them pray or fast. For 76.4 percent of this generation, concepts like justice and freedom of speech are very important. For generations X and Y, this ratio is around 35 percent.
Just over 82 percent of generation Z stated that they see no problem in marrying someone from a different belief system. This ratio is around 32 percent for the generation above them.
Gezici polling is not the only firm coming up with such data. Konda polling has given us similar analysis. Konda made a comparative study between 2008 and 2018. According to Konda’s research, the ratio of people who define themselves as a religious conservative used to be 25 in 2008; this ratio decreased to 15 percent. In 2008, 29 percent of people defined themselves as modern; in 2018, 42 percent defined themselves as modern.
Konda’s numbers have proven to be right in the latest local elections. Young people living in bigger cities voted for the opposition, which caused the AKP to lose the five biggest municipalities in Turkey.
Such numbers have been giving hope to Turkey’s opposition circles. Analyzing the numbers, one can think: all the opposition has to do is just sit and wait for younger generations to become voters, and Turkey’s democracy problem will be solved on its own. However, there are other numbers that paint us a totally different picture.
Ali Çarkoğlu, a professor at Koç University, informed us about these other numbers in the piece that he wrote for yetkinreport.com.
Çarkoğlu’s team has been measuring data since 2002. They have been asking the same question since then: “Would you want the Turkish state to be run in accordance with sharia, Islamic law?”
Çarkoğlu underlines that around 2007, the ratio of people supporting Islamic jurisprudence was around 14 percent, while between 2013 and 2018 this ratio was always between 9 percent and 17 percent. However, Çarkoğlu writes that there has been a big jump in this number: the field work they did in 2019 showed them that 22 percent of people said they would support Islamic jurisprudence.
Çarkoğlu does not mention any age groups in his piece.
When we look at the numbers, and consider the outcomes of the recent elections, we face a very polarized nation.
Younger people living in metropolitan areas are moving towards more liberal values and ideals. They expect more democracy. Older people living in the heartland of Anatolia, however, are moving in the opposite direction. As younger voters move away from the AKP, the party’s voter base is becoming more radicalized. The AKP voter base is becoming more Islamist and more conservative.
It is probably possible to analyze President Erdoğan’s latest radical moves one after another. Turning the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, bringing forward a new law that constrains social media, putting a retreat from the Istanbul Convention onto the agenda…
It does not seem possible for Erdoğan to get more votes from the new generations moving to the center or center-left. He has passed that point; it does not seem possible for him to make a u-turn, change his political narrative and move back into the center. His only realistic choice seems to be to keep his loyal base consolidated. As this base moves to the far right, so does Erdoğan. This is his new vicious circle. He takes radical steps to consolidate his base, his base becomes even more radicalized, and asks for more. It does not seem possible for him to break this vicious circle.
As a textbook example of a populist politician, Erdoğan will try to keep himself in power. He will hold on to the base that brought him to power in the first place. However, this new phase is going to be radically staggering for Turkey.