Erdoğan’s hostile rhetoric boosts anti-west, anti-American sentiments in Turkey

The anti-West and xenophobic rhetoric of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his government and the media has boosted anti-west, anti-American sentiments in a record level among Turkish people, according to the results of recent public opinion surveys.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the recent public surveys showed that most of the people in Turkey describe themselves as “anti-American.” A survey carried out by Optimar of 1,508 people across 26 provinces, 71,9 percent of them described themselves as anti-American, while 22,7 percent say they are “partially anti-America,” with only 5,4 percent saying they are not anti-American.

Fifty-eight percent of the people surveyed said international powers such as the US, Israel, and European countries are behind the rapid strengthening of Islamic State in Iraq   and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. Asked what they think about Turkey and Russia moving closer together, 62,1 percent found it a positive development, while 22,4 percent called it negative, and 15,5 percent had no opinion.

Hilmi Daşdemir, who heads the pollster, reviewed the results of a poll done back in 2016. “When we asked in 2015 ‘Which countries should Turkey act in line with on foreign policy?’, 23,1 percent said the US, but now this fell to 13,6 percent.” Daşdemir said more people are supporting Turkey’s cooperation with countries such as Russia and China.

AGS Global, another pollster, has also surveyed 393 businesspeople recently in various sectors. Some two-thirds, 66 percent, of the businesspeople said they had negative views of the US, versus only 13 percent with positive views, and 21 percent with mixed views. Most businesspeople with negative views of the US said the main factor behind this is a “lack of trust.”

Ahmet Güler, AGS Global’s CEO, said contrary to the crises in the West, the stable situation in Russia created a positive attitude among businesspeople and cited another reason for the falling US profile is the shift of world’s economic and political center to the Asia-Pacific region.

Adil Gür, the CEO of pollster A&G, has also said that their recent surveys show a growing anti-American attitude in Turkey alongside falling anti-Russian views. Gür said the anti-Russia percentage was quite high 20 years ago, while the anti-U.S. percentage was lower.

According to Gür, US support for the PYD/PKK and the Gülen movement in recent years has seriously pushed up anti-American sentiments. These sentiments even increased to 85-90 percent amid US support for the PKK during Turkey’s military intervention in Afrin. Gür claimed that even 82 percent of Kurds living in Turkey think that the US is not their friend and ally.

Meanwhile, the number of Turkish citizens visiting the United States last year halved from the year before, amid a visa crisis between the two allies, a controversial laptop ban that was ultimately abolished, and escalating bilateral political tension.

Official data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) showed that 157,896 Turks visited the US in 2017. This figure was significantly down from the all-time high in 2016, when 313,654 Turkish citizens visited the US.  The same measure in 2015 was 251,903, according to TÜİK data.

Washington on Oct. 8 announced the suspension of all visa services in Turkey, apart from immigrant visas, in reaction to the arrest of a US consulate employee in the country. Ankara responded with similar measures, but the months-long visa row between Turkey and the United States ended last month as both countries announced that they would resume full-capacity visa proceedings for each other’s citizens.

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