Well, the answer of this question is surely complicated. I doubt even the people in power know the answer.
Kadir Has University annually watches Turkish public’s perception of the foreign policy. This year the university again conducted its poll in 26 cities with a thousand people. Questions about Turkey’s foreign policy were asked. One thing is important while evaluating the answers: this year ten percent less people defined themselves as Islamist/conservative. Turks started to define themselves more as nationalists or Kemalists.
There are just details of course but what the poll says overall is simple. Turks do not want chaos anymore. Disillusions of leading the Middle East as in the Ottoman era is over. Now it is time to be realistic, and Turks can be good realists when they choose to. Turks are once again looking up to the West. Soli Özel, who is one of the academicians says the poll shows that Turkish people do not want clashes in foreign policy anymore. Turks want to have a strategically important country but they do not want a fight. According to Özel, Turks actually want to be a Western country, however because of their deep distrust, they look for partners among Turkic states. Özel basically says that Turks want talks, Turks want diplomacy.
After years of stalled negotiations, 61.1 percent still say Turkey should be an EU member. This ratio last year was 55.1 percent. Prof Dr. Mustafa Aydın who lead the team that conducted the research says, as Turkey is becoming more isolated, people start feeling the need to approach the EU.
Although only 32 percent think that Turkey will ever join the EU, 53 percent think the accession talks should continue nevertheless. Apparently, Turks still see the EU membership as a valuable anchor in shaping the system.
I wonder if all those EU funds to support free Turkish press paid off in the end. 90.5 percent say they are getting their information about foreign policies from internet portals and social networks. Considering the increasing influence of networks like DW Türkçe, BBC Türkçe, and +90, Turks might be seeing less anti-Western and ant-EU rhetoric that is the staple of national TV channels and newspapers, which are now almost all pro-government.
PYD/YPG is Still “The Issue”
62 percent of those polled think Turkey should improve her relations with other countries. 29.7 percent thinks Turkey is conducting a successful foreign policy whereas 38.8 percent thinks the opposite. There is a sharp decline here as a year ago 41.7 percent had approved of Turkey’s foreign policies in general. Mustafa Aydın says the public supported Operation Olive Branch but once the hype died down, people started seeing the results of the foreign policy. Aydın points out that AKP voters started to complain about the direction Turkey’s foreign policy was taking.
Perception towards the US is however is another bumpy issue. Soli Özel says, although Turks do not see the US as an ally, they do not want Turkey to be in a clash with the US.
5.4 percent thinks US is Turkey’s friend. Still, people recognize and respect the military cooperation between the two countries. And the approach towards YPG/PYD still seems to be a core problem.
26.1 percent believe there is strategic cooperation between Russia and Turkey. 13.4 percent further think that the cooperation is a close one. However, when asked about the specific areas of this cooperation, people did not mention the military aspect but instead mention tourism, energy and trade.
20.3 percent thinks Russia is Turkey’s ally. Turks overall believe that Azerbaijan and Turkic Republics are Turkey’s true ultimate friends and Turkey should be cooperating more with them. However, 44.9 percent think Turkey should be prioritizing cooperation with Europe -a number that was just 35 percent last year.
50 percent think NATO is helping Turkey.
It Seems Like People Actually Don’t Know Much About S400 And F35s
And we arrive at the main question: Should Turkey buy the S400s? A decent 44 percent says, in spite of possible US sanctions Turkey should go ahead and buy them. Both AKP and CHP voters think Turkey should be going for the S400s. It is interesting that there seems to be no national divide on this topic as there is in others. Still, there is serious doubt about whether people actually know what S400s are. 19 percent says they recognize S400 to be missiles with 10 percent naming them as a Russian missile system. 22.9 percent know F35s to be war planes, but only 3.4 of those polled correctly name them as an American vehicle. And only 1.4 percent can correctly state that it is the war plane that was produced in cooperation with the US. 37.4 percent say they have never heard of s400s; 41.1 percent say they have never heard of F35s.
20 percent think the most important issue in Turkish foreign policy is the relations with the US. 12 percent believe it is the civil war in Syria, 10.5 percent name the existence of PYD/YPG in Syria. 4.8 percent think that the purchase of the s400 systems is the most important issue in Turkish foreign policy.