October 26, 2007

Survey reveals middle-class Turks support secularism

Middle class, centrist views
Friday, October 26, 2007

A recent survey reveals middle-class Turks support secularism, consider themselves devout yet modern, and support Turkey’s European Union accession process

ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

The Turkish middle-class is secular, against a military coup, supports Turkey's accession to the European Union and is devout but with a contemporary twist, a recent survey has revealed.
The survey, released yesterday, was conducted by Scientific Research Projects for Open Society Institute and the Bosporus University.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 7 to Oct. 1, 2007 in 18 city centers and adjacent districts that best represent Turkey's urban population. The 1,809 subjects interviewed, reflect the urban population in the 18-and-over age range. Most of the subjects that participated in the survey were elementary to high schools graduates. Only 41 percent held regular jobs.

Money issues

About 58.3 percent of the subjects interviewed saw themselves as middle-class, with 41.6 percent saying the money they earn can hardly help them make ends meet while 30.7 percent said a little money is left after meeting their basic needs. Most of the interviewees said middle-class people could be distinguished by the amount of money they earned and from the neighborhoods they lived in.

Approximately 39.2 percent of the people that participated in the survey said they earned YTL 750 and below, while 38.8 percent said they needed YTL 2,400 or more to be able to make ends meet. The only source of income for 78.9 percent of the subjects was the salary they received from their jobs, while 7.8 percent earned their money through commercial or industrial activities and 2.9 percent through jobs that did not require higher education, such as plumbing, painting and driving.

More than half the subjects would like to acquire real estate if they would receive YTL 100,000. 51.5 percent said they would invest in real estate, while 14.4 percent would found a new business. Yet only 28.9 percent would buy a home if they receive YTL 25,000, while the same amount would instigate 20.8 percent to buy a car. Approximately 14.1 percent would use that amount to meet the needs of their children while 12.8 percent would use it to erase debts.

How to become rich

Most middle-class representatives believed the road to riches passed through hard work. Roughly 47.2 percent believed the rich have become rich because they have worked a lot, 22.5 percent said the reason was because the rich came from good families, another 22.5 said it was because they were well educated, with 21 percent saying it was because they were lucky. Yet 20.4 percent believe the rich have attained their status through stealing and corruption.

The interviewees believed that even though hard work is not the only way to become rich, not working enough is the reason for being poor. A total of 55.3 percent believed people stayed poor because they did not work or strive hard enough. And 34.3 percent responded it was because the poor had not received well enough of an education, with 20.9 believing it was because the state did not help them enough.

Around 46 percent of the subjects were elementary school graduates, with 42.5 percent having graduated from middle or high school, and 11.4 percent were university graduates. Yet 46.8 percent of those surveyed said they would like to receive either a master's degree or a Phd degree if given the opportunity. Education has countless benefits, yet the most popular ones among the surveyed subjects were that it provided wider vision, higher income levels and life standards, and the means to a better job. Non-material benefits, such as becoming a person that is respected by others and to be able to establish an independent life from one's parents, scored lower than material benefits.

Let's talk politics

Most considered themselves rightists. 34.9 percent believed, in general, that they were closer to the rightists in the left-right grouping in Turkey. Less than half, 14.9 percent considered themselves closer to the leftists. Yet 24.1 percent said they were closer to the center that reconciles the left and the right. Approximately 10.1 percent replied they did not believe such polarization existed, while 16.1 percent were undecided.

Yet, the way the subjects specified themselves in terms of their political views differed from where they saw themselves in the polarization. 43.9 percent saw themselves as neo-rightist (supporting democracy and the West) while 23.2 percent specified themselves as traditional rightists (doubting democracy and the West), 23.4 percent as traditional leftists (supporting democracy and doubting the West), and 9.5 percent as having a parochial/ethnic view.

An overwhelming majority of the Turkish middle-class is against a military coup. A total of 81.9 percent of those polled said they would not support a military coup or an oppressive regime, no matter what the reason. 12.3 percent said this statement would not be valid for them, while 5.8 percent were undecided.

Lately, Turkey has been witnessing a polarization between secular and anti-secular groups. The middle-class is on the side of secularism based on the survey results. About 44.9 percent said they would like for secularism to be applied in society without any changes. Just 12.3 percent believed secularism needed to be reinterpreted. And 8.5 percent believed the two could meet on common ground, while 9.5 percent believed there is no such polarization and 24.8 percent were undecided.

Of those polled 62.7 percent defined themselves as devout with a contemporary twist, while 37.3 percent said they were traditionally devout.

In a country as ethnically diverse as Turkey, most of the middle-class believed the Turkish identity needed to be adopted by all. 42 percent said each ethnic group needed to accept the Turkish identity in full, while 13.8 percent said the languages and cultures of ethnic groups have to be recognized and 16.3 percent said they were supporters of reconciling both the Turkish identity and the identity of the ethnic groups.

The EU issue

Approximately 57.4 percent of the people that participated in the survey said they supported Turkey's accession to the EU. Yet 32.4 percent were against it, with only 1 percent undecided on the subject. The number of the undecided was higher when it came to the benefits of Turkey's EU accession process. 58.9 percent believed Turks benefited from the process, while 30.5 believed the opposite was true, and 10.6 percent were undecided.

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