By Dr. Samir Abu Rumman
Fortunately, there are numerous opinion polling centres in Turkey with diverse backgrounds that discuss various topics in great depth and with an unorthodox approach. One of the topics that has been addressed in these polls is the prediction of possible outcomes for the Turkish presidential elections in 2023. The results indicate that as the elections approach, the outcome is uncertain and not predetermined for an all-powerful incumbent leader who has boasted of a high approval rating of 99 percent.
In this article, I will overlook the influential factors on voters’ behaviour that have been addressed in opinion polls, such as the economy, foreign policy, democratic institutions, concerns about inflation rates in the country, high unemployment rates, currency depreciation, engagement in regional conflicts, and diplomatic disputes with traditional allies.
Furthermore, I will also bypass the benefits, importance, and accuracy levels of opinion polls, despite some mistakes that have occurred in the past. I will also address the well-known challenges that opinion polls face in Turkish elections specifically, including the changing stances of candidates and voting trends, challenges in polling Turkish citizens residing outside of Turkey’s borders, the impact of earthquakes in certain regions, and the sampling (coverage) from as many provinces as possible. Another challenge is the duration of the ban imposed by the Supreme Election Council on conducting or publishing opinion polls for elections within ten days of the voting day, regardless of the data collection method.
Since the upcoming election represents the most serious challenge yet for President Erdogan and his ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), in the face of the fierce opposition that has escalated in recent years and culminated in an alliance with a non-secular opposition leader, Oğlu, who competes with Erdogan using religious rhetoric, as evidenced by his speech “I am an Alevi,” which garnered over a hundred million views on social media in only a few days. This heated situation has influenced opinion polling organizations and their results, and reactions have emerged expressing criticism, and skepticism, including from President Erdogan himself, unlike his party leader the representative of the (AK Party) in Istanbul, Osman Nuri. Although Nuri mentioned the connection between polling companies and the opposition, he still believed that the (AK Party) maintains the leading position and is confident of victory.
In my perspective, these elections are a “bone-breaking battle” between the third that supports Erdogan’s party and the quarter of the population supporting the opposition parties. The outcome of this battle and the election victory will be determined by the quarter of undecided voters, which represent a large share of the electorate and have a significant influence. In the next ten days they will play a decisive role, not only in the results of opinion polls, but also in determining who will ultimately govern the Turkish people.
Original article published in Arabic in Alanba daily Kuwaiti newspaper on May 14, 2023.
Samir Abu-Rumman, PhD, based in Princeton University, USA, has more than 20 years of experience in research, education, and development in different countries. He is the supervisor of “World of Opinions” in Kuwait, Jordan, and the U.S., has lead and supervised different regional and global research projects for organizations such as the World Values Survey and Arab Barometer for Princeton University. He is the author of many books and articles, such as:
“Extremism and People…- ISIS in the World Public Opinion”
“Interests and priorities for Gulf Youth”
“Islam and Muslims in the World Public Opinion”
“Arab-Israeli Conflict in American Opinion Polls”
“The Political Dimensions of Interreligious Dialogue”
“Episodic Volunteering … A sample of volunteers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain”
He is a weekly writer for Alanba, a daily Kuwaiti newspaper, former visiting scholar at the University of Delaware Biden School of Public Policy & Administration, president of WAPOR WANA, and a visiting research scholar in the Princeton University Department of Politics beginning in August 2022. Dr. Abu-Rumman is a writer for the Indiana University indices (the Global Philanthropy Environment Index and the Global Philanthropy Tracker) and he has trained hundreds of participants on research, survey and nonprofits.