The roots of Turkish mistrust

Mustafa Akyol writes: A poll by the Pew Research Center in October highlighted a trend in Turkish society with foreign policy implications: Turks hold deeply unfavorable views of other nations. The most disliked nation proved to be Israel, with only 2% of Turks expressing any sympathy for the Jewish state. The United States also turned out to be highly unpopular, with only 19% of polled Turks expressing sympathy. Similarly unpopular were the European Union, China, Brazil and Russia.

One could suspect that Turks’ views of other nations are based on a distaste for all non-Muslims, as Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia — fellow Muslim nations — proved to be unpopular in the same poll, too. “In fact,” the Pew researchers concluded, “it is hard to find any country or organization the Turkish people really like, except, of course, Turkey itself.”

Yet, one could doubt this conclusion as well, because other polls have shown that the opinions of Turks of one another are not terribly positive either. Different surveys about levels of global “interpersonal trust” have repeatedly shown Turkey is one of the most extreme examples of a distrustful society. In a 2008 poll by World Values Survey, for example, Turkey was at the bottom of a list of 60 different countries rated according to interpersonal trust. Only 4.9% of Turks agreed with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” equaling the answers from Rwandans, who suffered a genocide 14 years prior to the poll. (In contrast, the highest levels of trust turned out to be in Norway and Sweden, where around 70% of citizens agree with the same statement.) [Continue reading…]

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