New poll in Turkey reveals support for NATO, but not US


From Christopher Torchia, the AP:  As elections approach in June, results of a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggest that Turkey’s government will pursue a path of relative pragmatism, despite fears of the influence of Islam on the state.

Turkey still aspires to join the European Union, but that once-strong vision appears to have faded. The poll shows that 52 percent of respondents want Turkey to stay in NATO, and 50 percent want to join the European Union. Yet 42 percent have an unfavorable view of the EU, reflecting frustration with a process that has stalled partly because of European opposition and the slow pace of Turkish reform. …

The number of pro-Islamic television channels, which air programs praising the virtues of Islam, also is on the rise. According to the AP-GfK poll, 85 percent of respondents called religion an "extremely" or "very" important part of their lives. …

Yet for all the importance of religion in their lives, 65 percent of poll respondents said religious leaders should stay out of government. Only 17 percent said religious leaders should have a say in government, reflecting comfort with the idea of secular institutions. …

[A]ctivists complain of police abuse, long pretrial detention and the use of anti-terrorism laws to muzzle dissent. In January, Human Rights Watch said: "Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions would be greatly reinforced by bold domestic reform on rights."

The poll suggests that more than half of Turks themselves believe they will get into trouble for saying some things in politics, or even just about anything in politics. However, a sizable minority of 29 percent said they feel completely free to speak their minds.

One test was the Jan. 15 inauguration of a 52,000-seat football stadium in Istanbul, meant to highlight Turkish know-how and spirit. Some fans heckled the prime minister, who left the state-funded arena in anger. Prosecutors opened an investigation, raising worries about threats to free expression.

"Since when is booing a prime minister a crime?" said Evrim Erdogus, a 30-year-old electrical engineer who plans to vote for the main opposition party. "I don’t want to hear about how Turkey is becoming `democratic. …’"

The United States does little better than Europe in the eyes of Turks – 55 percent hold an unfavorable view of the United States and 49 percent of President Barack Obama.  (photo: Getty)

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