Urban Turks' Trust in Major Institutions Drops Sharply

Urban Turks' Trust in Major Institutions Drops Sharply

by Jan Sonnenschein

Government critics may increasingly see military as Erdogan's ally

This article is the first in a series based on results from Gallup's polling conducted amid the recent protests in Turkey.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Turkey is becoming increasingly polarized along urban and rural lines, according to Gallup surveys conducted amid the recent protests in the country. In May and June 2013, 43% of Turks living in large cities with at least 100,000 inhabitants expressed confidence in the national government, compared with 68% of residents of smaller cities and rural areas.


Most of the surveys took place after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the raids of protesters' camps in Istanbul's Gezi Park on May 30 and 31. The police action triggered protests in other major cities across the country. Gallup's data, however, show that urban Turks were growing discontent with their country's institutions before the recent unrest.

In 2011, before Erdogan's Justice and Development (AK) Party won a third term, urban and rural Turks were equally likely to express confidence in several of the country's public institutions. By 2012, these two groups' views of the national government and the judicial system started to slowly drift apart, with urban Turks withdrawing support. This rift became larger in 2013 and included the military.

Less Than Half of Urban Turks Trust Judiciary

Urban Turks are also more likely than those in rural areas to have confidence in the judicial system -- 66% vs. 49%. This confidence divide in the judiciary has never been greater between urban and rural Turks.


Urbanites' Trust in the Military Falls

For the first time on record, Turks living in small cities and rural areas are now clearly more likely to say they trust the military than large city dwellers -- 81% vs. 59%, respectively. In previous years, the two groups exhibited similar levels of confidence in the military.


It is important to note that Gallup surveyed in Turkey before a Turkish court sentenced at least 19 people, including the country's former military chief, to life in prison on Aug. 5 for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the Erdogan government. The case, known as the "Ergenekon coup plot trial," reflects the hostility and suspicion between the country's military elite and the ruling AK Party. Many of the now-convicted or retired army officials regarded the army as the guardian of Turkey's secular constitution, while the AK is rooted in Islam. The Ergenekon investigation started in 2007 when several explosives were found in the home of a former military officer, leading to the arrest of about 200 people in what state prosecutors viewed as a large conspiracy.

These allegations may have contributed to the substantial decline in urban and rural Turks' confidence in the Turkish military between 2008 and 2012. Yet, in 2013, trust in the military among rural Turks rebounded, while it appeared to drop further among city dwellers. However, the Turkish military continues to be the most trusted institution (68%) among Turks overall -- garnering more trust than the national government (54%) and the judicial system (56%). It remains to be seen whether the military can retain its popularity in the light of the latest court ruling.


Gallup's data reveal that political fault lines in Turkey are not running between voters of the Islamist AK party on one side and secular supporters of the military on the other. Instead, the country is ever more divided between residents of large Turkish cities -- who are increasingly losing faith in the country's main institutions, including the military -- and rural Turks, who largely express trust in these institutions. With the majority of big city centers located on the Mediterranean coast in the western part of the country, the rural parts of the East such as eastern and southeastern Anatolia remain the government's strongholds.

Further, in 2008, 71% of Turkish adults who distrusted the national government expressed trust in the military, while in 2013, government critics were considerably less likely to have faith in the military (48%). This finding suggests that critics of the Erdogan administration may increasingly regard the military as being controlled by the moderate Islamist AK government after many of its secular generals have either retired or been jailed. The data also suggest that since the start of the Ergenekon trial, government critics associate the judicial system ever more with Erdogan's government. In 2013, 18% of government critics said they trusted the judicial system, down from 44% in 2008.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in July 2008, November 2009, July 2010, May 2011, March 2012, June 2012, and May and June 2013. The two surveys from 2012 were combined into a single measurement. The 2013 survey was conducted between May 19 and June 23, with most interviews taking place in June. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.8 percentage points for the 2013 data. For results based on the two groups of the population, residents of cities with at least 100,000 inhabitants and residents of smaller cities and rural areas, the margin of error varies between ±6.5 and ±8.4 percentage points for the 2013 data. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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