The Economic Development Foundation IKV conducted a comprehensive survey on public perception of the European Union. According to the results of the survey conducted with the support of Türkiye Exporters Assembly TİM, the rate of those who support Turkey’s EU membership has increased to 66 percent. Among those who favor EU membership, 69 percent say “our welfare will increase”, 47 percent say “democracy and human rights will improve” and 43 percent say “we will have the opportunity to move, settle and study in Europe”.
The 2023 study of the “European Union Support and Perception of Europe Survey”, which has been conducted by IKV since 2015 but was last conducted in 2019 due to the pandemic, draws attention with its striking results.
The rate of those who do not support membership was 29 percent. Despite the high rate of support for EU membership, the rate of those who believe that Turkey will one day become a member of the EU remains at 44.6 percent. The rate of those who would say “yes to the EU” in a referendum tomorrow is 64.6 percent.
According to the data compiled by EKONOMİ daily from the report prepared with more than 2 thousand people in 23 provinces, the rate of those who are informed about the EU is 67.7 percent, while the rate of those who are not informed is 32.3 percent. When the information sources of those who have information about the EU are analyzed, the internet and social media come first with 60.5 percent. Traditional media tools rank second with 53.3 percent, while family and close friends rank third with 45 percent. It is noteworthy that the activities of public institutions and civil society organizations are ranked last in the ranking of the information sources of the society in the EU.
When we look at the rate of those who support Turkey’s EU membership, there is a significant increase compared to 2019. While support for EU membership was 60.4 percent in 2019, this rate increased to 65.9 percent in 2023. While 28.9 percent of the respondents did not support EU membership, this rate was 35.2 percent in 2019. It is noteworthy that the rate of those who have no opinion on supporting Turkey’s EU membership is 5.2 percent.
Concern that ‘membership could undermine our sovereignty’
When the reasons for supporting Turkey’s EU membership are analyzed, the most prominent answer is ‘our country’s welfare and economic development level will increase’ with 69.1 percent. The second most prominent reason is ‘democracy and human rights will come to our country’ with 47.1 percent, while ‘citizens of our country will have the opportunity to move, settle and study in Europe’ is the third-strongest reason behind the support with 43.1 percent.
What are the reasons for those who do not support Turkey’s EU membership? More than half of the respondents, 50.9 percent, believe that EU membership would harm Turkish culture and identity. The rate of those who believe that EU membership would undermine national sovereignty and independence has increased to 36 percent. In 2019, the first reason for opposing EU membership was again the damage it would cause to Turkish culture and identity, with 54 percent believing this. Only 18.2 percent thought that EU membership would harm national sovereignty and independence. It is noteworthy that the rate of those who are concerned that EU membership will undermine sovereignty and independence has increased by 18 points. The third-strongest reason for not supporting EU membership is the belief that EU membership would weaken Turkey’s relations with other countries, with 25.2 percent. “The EU has no future, it will fail” is another reason that stands out with 23.1 percent.
How much do we believe that we will become a full member in the continuation of the 60-year adventure between the EU and Turkey? According to the survey, the rate of those who believe that Turkey will become a member of the EU is 44.6 percent, while the rate of those who do not believe that Turkey will become a member is 50.4 percent. Although the public’s belief in membership remains weak, it is seen that there is more optimism compared to 2019. In 2019, the rate of those who believed that Turkey would become an EU member was 21.8 percent, while the rate of those who believed otherwise was as high as 73.6 percent.
“Yes to the EU” rate in a referendum 64.6 percent
One of the most critical questions in the survey was “If there was a referendum tomorrow on whether Turkey should become an EU member or not, how would you vote?”. Accordingly, 64.6 percent of the respondents said they would vote ‘yes’ in the referendum, while 29.9 percent said ‘no’.
Regarding the obstacles to Turkey’s EU membership, prejudices based on religious and cultural differences are the most popular belief among the public, with 43.8 percent. However, this rate was 74 percent in 2019. The second most prominent reason is Turkey’s level of economic development and economic problems. Forty-one percent of respondents cited economic problems as the biggest obstacle to Turkey’s EU membership. Turkey’s performance in the field of democracy and human rights is the third-biggest obstacle in the eyes of the public, with 34 percent. The free movement of Turkish citizens in the EU also stands out as one of the obstacles to EU accession in the eyes of the public. While the rate of those who consider the right to free movement as an obstacle was 5.8 percent in 2019, this rate increased to 22.3 percent four years later.
The rate of those who believe that Turkey has done its part to become a member of the EU has decreased by 10 points compared to 2019 to 45.6 percent. The rate of those who think that Turkey is not doing its part increased by 2.3 points compared to 2019 and reached 44.4 percent. What is most striking at this point is that the rate of those who have no opinion on this issue increased from 2.2 percent to 10 percent.
Regarding the contributions that EU membership will bring to Turkey, ‘new job and education opportunities’ ranks first with 26.8 percent. This is followed by the opportunity to benefit from EU budgets and funds with 15.5 percent, while participation in EU institutions and the EU decision-making process ranks third.
One-third of participants: Turkey cannot become a member
Regarding when Turkey will become a member of the EU, 14.6 percent of the respondents think that Turkey will become a member within 5 years, while 22.7 percent of the respondents believe that Turkey will become a member within 10 years. While 11.9 percent of the respondents think that Turkey will become a member of the EU within 15 years, 31.7 percent of the respondents answered ‘Turkey cannot become a member’.
65 percent say “We need the EU”
While the rate of those who think that Turkey needs the EU economically is 65 percent, the rate of those who think that Turkey does not need the EU is 29.6 percent. However, in the 2019 survey, 52.5 percent of the respondents who think that Turkey needs the EU economically were 52.5 percent, while the rate of those who think that Turkey does not need the EU economically was 45.1 percent. When asked about the most appropriate type of relationship between Turkey and the EU, Turkey’s membership to the EU stands out at 31.8 percent, followed by maintaining and updating the Customs Union with 19.2 percent. The third most prominent type of relationship is the development of a privileged partnership.
President Erdogan is the most important actor in relations with the EU
When asked “What are the most important actors and institutions that are decisive in Turkey’s relations with the EU?”, the answer of the Presidency and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most popular answer with 55.7 percent, while the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights stand out as the second most influential institutions. The rate of those who think that the legislative body, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, is decisive in this process is 11.8 percent.
Visa issues stem from security concerns
The survey also included a question on visa problems. Accordingly, 27.2 percent of the respondents cited the EU’s security concerns as the reason for the problems experienced in the Schengen visa process, while 24.8 percent of the respondents believe that visa problems are experienced due to the high number of refugees and migrants in Turkey. Meanwhile, 18.9 percent of the respondents believe that visa problems are experienced due to discriminatory practices of EU member states.
6 out of 10 people do not know about the Green Deal
One of the critical questions of the survey was about the European Green Deal. Accordingly, only 32.5 percent of the respondents are informed about the European Green Deal, while 55.6 percent are not informed at all. It is noteworthy that while 64.7 percent think that the European Green Deal is beneficial for Turkey, the rate of those who think that it is not beneficial is 17 percent.