Public support for Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria is at 79 percent, a poll company has said, adding that the operation is perceived as a “national issue.”
The offensive, called “Operation Peace Spring,” wins the “complete” support of 53.3 percent of the population, while another 25.7 percent give it their “partial” backing, according to a recent research by Metropoll.
The research showed that the overall support for the operation is higher than it was for the previous Syria offensive, which was called “Operation Olive Branch” and that was carried out in the northwestern city of Afrin, with its support remaining at 71 percent.
“When we come to Peace Spring, it is significant that not only is overall support higher at 79 percent, but also that ‘partial’ backing is 10 points higher,” the findings read, while citing support from all electoral groups as the reason for this increase.
“With the ground ready for various opinions to emerge and for the military operation to change political perceptions, the fact that the opposition aligned with the government in seeing the operation as a ‘national issue’ played a key role in defining perceptions,” it added.
Made possible by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, Operation Peace Spring is Turkey’s third Syria offensive in the last three years. Aiming to clear the border from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and establish a safe zone, it was backed by all political parties in parliament, except the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Back to Nov. 1, 2015
According to Metropoll, the offensive put an end to the period of political change that polls showed during the March 31 local elections and the re-run of the Istanbul mayoral elections on June 23.
The popularity of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was challenged by three main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayors in August and September, data showed, adding that the climate changed entirely in October.
“When we come to October 2019, the climate has changed entirely and we see President Erdoğan, who has stamped his mark on national politics for 15 years, again in the ascendancy,” the findings said, adding that the overall party support was also changed by the operation.
According to Metropoll, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has gained about three points (from 40.2 percent with undecided votes distributed to 43.2 percent), and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has gained about one point.
“The Public Alliance’s combined support has risen from 50.9 percent in September 2019 to 55 percent in October,” it said, referring to the alliance between the AKP and MHP.
“Thanks to the Syria operation, the Public Alliance has more than regained the backing it lost in the March 31 and June 23 elections,” it also said, adding that as of October, the numbers are back at the position on Nov. 1, 2015 elections, in which the AKP gained 49.5 percent of the votes.
“This picture, at a moment when neither Ahmet Davutoğlu nor Ali Babacan, major AKP figures who split away, have yet formed a new party, appears a good moment for the government to renew general and presidential elections,” Metropoll said.
In parallel, the CHP, HDP and İYİ (Good) Party have each lost about one point last month.
“The military operation has pulled voters toward central political positions that they regard as strong,” read the findings.
“In terms of what is often discussed as ‘Kurdish votes’ in Turkey, in the wake of Peace Spring we see what we could call a ‘search for stability.’ In October 2019 we see the AKP winning the support of 35.8 percent of those defining themselves as Kurds. The HDP wins backing of 39.2 percent of that group,” it said, adding that the figures were 22.5 and 46 percent in September.
Those who call Peace Spring a “partial success” make up a majority at around 40 percent. Additionally, despite a 42.4 percent majority expecting that Peace Spring will be negative for the economy, the majority is inclined to back the operation.
‘Turkey is now considered to be less close to Assad than the PYD’
Similarly, Syrians across Raqqa and Hasakah show widespread support for Turkey’s offensive, Gallup International Association said.
According to the research conducted over the last ten days with a representative sample of 600 adults across Raqqa and Hasakah and 100 Kurds who fled the towns and villages that Turkey carries out its offensive, 58 percent support Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from their areas, while 33 percent of the Kurds supporting and 67 percent opposing it.
Surprisingly, the same proportion – 57 percent – support the Turkish military offensive. While the Arab population widely support it with 64 percent, the Kurds are less enthusiastic with 77 opposing it.
Gallup International said that there are three possible reasons for a split in the Kurdish opinion on Turkish offensive, with the first one being a deep intra-Kurdish divide.
According to the association, many Kurds in Syria are ideologically at odds with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Many of these people are currently displaced and await the successful conclusion of the Turkish operation so they can return home,” it said, adding that a number of young Kurds fled to Turkey and the “Olive Branch” zones to avoid PYD conscription.
“Turkish intervention designed to defeat the PYD/SDF is in their interest, yet these people also do not welcome the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad regime taking control of their territories because they will also force people to fight with them. Turkish control is the safest means of avoiding personal engagement in violence,” the association added.
In its findings, Gallup International said that many of the Kurds perceived the PYD as collaborators with Assad. Turkey is now considered to be less close to Assad than the PYD.
“Our survey shows 55 percent of those across the two governorates believe Turkey is having a positive influence in the region,” it added.
Fall in those who are pessimistic about the economy
Another striking finding is in perceptions of Syrian refugees as a major problem, something that was put forward as a reason for the AKP losing votes in the local elections.
In October, however, the issue fell back to seventh place in the list of voter concerns, while “economy” and “unemployment” remained major concerns. “Terror” rose a full 9.1 percent into third place.
Although, the aforementioned topics stood as concerns, a change in perceptions of the economy was also seen in October 2019.
One of the questions in the area concerned the “standard of living,” with a full 14 point decline from September to October in those who said their standard of living had fallen over the last year.
There was a clear decline in perceptions of worsening standards of living among all voting groups, but particularly among AKP and MHP voters. The level of “dissatisfaction with standards of living” stood at 70 percent at the March 31 local elections and had fallen to 50.8 percent in October 2019.
Likewise, from September to October, Metropoll found a 17 percent fall in those who expect the economy to deteriorate. In October those expecting a worsening made up 37.2 percent. Those expecting an improvement rose by close to 10 points.
“Beyond AKP and MHP voters, among İYİ Party and HDP grassroots, there is a fall in those who are pessimistic about the economy. The reason for this, as outlined above, is a tendency to ‘gather around the center and strength,'” the findings read.
While economic optimism rose, trust in the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) inflation figures decreased, with those who distrust the TÜİK figures rising from 35 percent in September to 40 percent in October. Trust fell from 43 percent to 42 percent.