Elections in Türkiye: the cloudy picture of opinion polls

By | May 9, 2023

“Kilicdaroglu Deflates As Erdogan Takes Lead In Latest Polls”, “Erdogan And Kilicdaroglu Within Stone’s Throw”, “Kilicdaroglu’s Lead Over Erdogan Within Statistical Margin Of Error”, “Erdogan’s Final Counterattack, Statistics Show Kilicdaroglu victory polls”: These are just some of the breaking headlines in the run-up to Turkey’s May 14 election, where the electoral landscape looks more fluid than ever.

Two decades after the establishment of the then newly formed Justice and Development Party (AKP) in government, most of Turkish society remembers nothing more than Erdogan’s twenty years of omnipotence on the country’s political scene. But as the country is a few days away from the national and presidential elections, for the first time his unchallenged power is severely shaken.

To such an extent, in fact, that many were quick to predict his defeat even before the opposition nominated the common candidate for the presidency.

Erdogan is on the mend

The truth is that catastrophic earthquakes were one of them The biggest challenges of Erdogan’s political career. The government’s response to him was perfunctory and inadequate. On top of that, the economic policy implemented has caused uncontrollable inflation and many in the country have crossed the limits of tolerance for the power of the Turkish president.

As his popularity collapsed, a fledgling alliance of six opposition parties, led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), seemed remarkably disciplined and organized. After 20 years in power, Erdogan was on the brink of losing control of Turkey.

Things, however, look somewhat different now.. Using his widespread influence in the media, Erdogan effectively limited public discussion of the earthquake, focusing attention on Turkey’s industrial and military achievements under him. Meanwhile, a third candidate has entered the race, giving the Turkish president additional tools to divide the opposition, while a government reform of how seats in parliament are allocated could give the Justice and Development Party (AKP) ) a significant advantage in the next vote.

With the May 14 elections just around the corner, it now seems possible that Erdogan could take the contest to a second round and the AKP and its coalition partners win a majority in Parliament. “As unexpected as it may seem, Erdogan’s return is characteristic of a politician who has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to use state resources to his advantage and divide or neutralize his opponents,” observes the director of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Research Program of the Washington Institute and a specialized historian. in Southeast Europe, Soner Cagaptay.

The survey landscape and the degree of credibility

In this context, almost every day, based on the last period, surveys of polling companies come to light, whose operating framework is worth examining.

First, when talking about surveys, we must always keep in mind that they are scientific tools to generate knowledge and not magic bullets that show the future. Usually, they must be considered as “photographs” of political tendencies, which however is far from reality..

As in Greece, many in Turkey ask reasonable questions about companies, some of which – according to extensive research carried out by Metin Kaan Kurtulus– More control is required. “Turkey has too many polling companies. As the election approaches, you will see a new poll almost every day. However, how many of them are reliable is another question.” he says to himself Magazine and adds:

“The owners of most companies have political interests, so each company is considered a party organ that supports their head. That’s why you’ll see some program results that differ greatly from the survey average. Also, if a polling company has ties to a political party, they tend not to give the true picture if it’s not in their favor.”

In the neighbor, however, the following paradox occurs: Key people from the companies in question had previously run for political office. and after their failure they returned to the field of opinion polls, thus raising serious doubts about trust and credibility. “You will see some new companies come and go after the election. These obviously have a specific political purpose.” observes Kurtulus.

According to “Although there are more than 15 polling companies in the country on a fixed basis, those considered reliable do not exceed the number of fingers on one hand. This is also the reason why the average of all surveys is not representative of the actual data.

However, as he points out, there are companies that try to do their job accurately and professionally, and are held accountable when their surveys fail. “For me, I would say the What’s happening and the MetroPOLL They are the most reliable right now.”

Speaking to turkeyarecap.substack.com Bekir Ağırdır Bekir Ağırdır, former Konda general manager, emphasizes that there have been positive developments in recent years, however there are still problems, which are not necessarily the pollsters’ fault.

As he says, parties and politicians want opinion polls to confirm their views, not reflect the views of voters. “They don’t want to know the truth. If the investigations don’t yield the results they themselves seek, they will have to explain to their executives.”

search methods

The techniques and methods chosen for the investigations play a decisive role in drawing conclusions. The large sample of participants combined with the inclusion of different age groups and political beliefs is necessary for the surveys to reflect reality and capture the pulse of society.

For example, in Turkey, university graduates tend to lean more towards the opposition at this time. In 2022, about 18% of Turks were university graduates (TÜİK). If a polling company conducts a survey where 50% of the participants are university graduates, obviously it will not give correct results.

In addition, as Kurtulus observes, the panorama in the country is quite polarized, to such an extent that citizens are often afraid to express themselves against the ruling party. On the other hand, some government supporters worry that if they openly express their preference, they will be marginalized. Thus, in the polls they appear quite hesitant about their true intentions.

Another important factor is the time when the samples are taken. “If you do a poll right after a major disaster where the government hasn’t handled the situation properly, you’ll see that a lot of people will lean in reaction to the opposition. However, what is important here is whether the opposition will be able to retain the support of these voters two weeks later.

Think of a survey like this: if you measure your blood pressure immediately after going up a flight of stairs, you’ll get different results than if you measure it while sitting down.”

A small advantage for Kilicdaroglu

Making his own assessment of election night on May 14, Kurtulus points out that the battle for the presidency is on a razor’s edge, with Kemal Kilicdaroglu holding a narrow lead in most presidential polls. In the parliamentary elections, it seems that Erdogan’s Popular Alliance can maintain a majority.

“If the elections are repeated and the AKP-led Popular Alliance has a majority in parliament, the advantage may go to Erdogan. That is why the opposition wants the presidential election to end in the first round. How many votes will the candidate of the CHP in 2018, now Memleket party leader Muharrem Ince and former MP Sinan Ogan in the first round can decide the outcome of the election.”

However, compared to 2018, when all the polls showed that Erdogan would win – some predicted that he could fall below 50% in the first round and there would be a second round – the political landscape has changed radically, as much has happened. in recent years; the erosion of the economy and democratic institutions has continued, the National Alliance has grown, the HDP, the third largest pro-Turkish party in Turkey, openly supports Kilicdaroglu, earthquakes have destroyed cities and killed more than 50,000 people .

“These are just a few examples of why this year’s election has a truly unique dynamic, and it’s still hard to make any sure estimates· many things can change in a few days, especially when we talk about Turkey,” concludes Kurtulus.

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