Results from Opinion Poll "Void of Liberalism:A View on Liberal Values in Turkey

A View on Liberal Values in Turkey

Friedrich Naumann Foundation Turkey Office conducted an opinion poll titled “Void of Liberalism: A View on Liberal Values in Turkey” in June 2016. The questions were related to liberal values and tried to figure out whether Turkey is indeed, as some outsiders might perceive, a country devoid of liberalism, or whether liberal and democratic values have in fact taken root in Turkey. The findings of the poll were published just recently and discussed with the experts as Prof.Dr.Ersin Kalaycıoğlu, Assoc.Prof.Dr.Bican Şahin, Prof. Dr. İştar Gözaydın Savaşır and Barçın Yinanç. The results showed that Turks were somewhat liberal in rhetoric but not in practice. People accept the importance of liberal values, but when it comes to the practice there are many contradictions. It seems that Turkish people have some limits for freedoms and those values may correspond to different meanings for the society. 

When people were asked which of the following terms they considers most important, “liberty” came up as the most important value, ahead of equality, solidarity, welfare and security.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press enjoy high support. However, certain encroachments into the freedom of thought are regarded as being permissible. For example, ‘Turkey’s territorial integrity’, “national integrity’, Ataturk and secularism may be the grounds for limiting freedom of expression.

A View on Liberal Values in Turkey

Men and women are considered equal but treated differently. But, it seems that “equal” means something else for the majority since they think that the women should ask their husband’s permission to work. Also, acceptance for minorities is generally high, while prejudices against LGBTI community prevail. Majority thinks that the homosexuality is a perversion, and as such has to be prevented.

Another contradiction is about the religion and state. Respondents give a mixed picture on the relationship between state and religion. Separation of both spheres is generally demanded however, governments shall be guided by religious values.

When it comes to the state-individual and freedom-security dilemmas, there is a tendency of supporting the state and the policies of the state. For example, public safety is a legitimate justification to cut back civil rights and freedoms can be restricted in case of security threats.

We see that the Turks are not pessimistic about their own democracy. Majority perceives Turkey as a democratic country. Even a considerable amount of people think they live in a full democracy.

Although it seems that the people favor a liberal democracy, closure of political parties is considered right for various reasons like separatist and religious movements.

Looking at these findings, one might think that Turks are in favor of free speech, liberal democracy, tolerance etc…We should look at to the specific questions to have a more accurate comment about the results. Many people have also doubts what democracy and freedom mean to the public. Freedom and democracy have always been given by the states as much as it fits to their agenda. There have been always an enemy and security threats, and the freedoms have been restricted in the name of the survival of the state. It seems that, although people value freedom, they may give up their freedoms for short term economic benefits and the security issues.

You can reach the full report here.

Find the photos from the presentation here: