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Approaches to and Perceptions of Foreign Policy in Turkey 2022

Dr. Pınar Sayan, Dr. Cihan Dizdaroğlu

The ‘Approaches to and Perceptions of Foreign Policy in Turkey’ research project is led by the Foreign Policy team at Istanbul Political Research Institute (IstanPol). Within the scope of the project, overall perceptions and attitudes on Turkey’s foreign policy among voters of the ruling and opposition parties are analyzed.

(You can find the executive summary of the reserach and access the full report above in PDF-format)

The research was conducted through a qualitative method via focus group discussions, with a total of 48 participants who were divided in eight focus groups, each with six participants. The research company AKADEMETRE conducted the discussions in a face-to-face format in İstanbul, by using the set of questions designed by IstanPol. Within the scope of the research, participants’ views on Turkey’s major problems, overall perceptions on foreign policy, favored solutions to problems, cross-border operations of the Turkish Armed Forces, Turkey’s EU and NATO membership, and the Russia-Ukraine war were investigated and analyzed.

Major Problems

During the focus group discussions, voters of both the ruling and opposition parties raised the economy, inflation and migration among the major issues facing Turkey. Particularly on the subject of economy, all participants were, unlike last year, more likely to describe the problem with tangible examples. It should also be underlined that voters of the ruling Cumhur İttifakı (People’s Alliance) stated that the ruling coalition may struggle to get votes from young people in the 2023 elections.

Only one of the six focus groups raised foreign policy as one of Turkey’s major problems, while asylum-seekers/migrants, as in the previous year, emerged as a hot topic in all groups as a matter of domestic and foreign policy. Voters of opposition parties particularly raised problems related to poor management, injustice, nepotism, etc.

Overall Perception of Foreign Policy

An analysis of the approval for Turkey’s foreign policy among the focus group participants has revealed that voters of the People’s Alliance, the ruling block, believe that Turkey’s foreign policy is successful, while the voters of the opposition have a rather negative view of foreign policy. Successful areas of foreign policy, according to participants, include advances in the defense industry, developments in armed and unarmed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) technology, and Turkey’s strong and respected position in the international arena. Voters of the İYİ Parti (Good Party) in particular frequently and distinctively mentioned advances in the realm of defense industry.

All groups considered migrants/asylum-seekers as a failure of foreign policy as last year and main concerns raised in relation to this subject were essentially based on cultural, economic and security issues. Participants refer to migrants/asylum-seekers as a problem mainly because of economic reasons, such as the impact of hosting a considerable population of migrants/refugees, the disturbing behaviors of asylum-seekers/migrants, uncertainty about how long migrants/refugees might stay in Turkey, risk of demographic change, increasing rent costs in housing, and unemployment.

Similarly, increasing foreign dependency and property sales to foreigners are other striking areas that participants considered as failures. Voters of both the ruling block and opposition parties shared similar criticisms and recommendations to address these issues. Women participants, in particular, criticized Turkey’s isolation in international politics and its increasing external dependence.

Perceptions over whether Turkey has a ’strong’ stance in foreign policy is a fundamental issue that differentiates voters of the ruling block from those of opposition parties. Voters of the ruling party Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP) in particular claimed that Turkey has a robust and respected position in international politics, although some voters of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of the ruling AKP, rejected this claim, as did voters of opposition parties. These groups instead described Turkey’s style in foreign policy as aggressive.

Solutions to Problems in Foreign Policy

The most frequently cited recommendations to address the question of migrants/asylum-seekers, that participants considered as the most fundamental problem in both foreign and domestic policy, were improving relations with the Syrian government, closing the door to new migrants/asylum-seekers, returning migrants/asylum-seekers currently living in Turkey and boosting border security. Participants in focus group discussions also highlighted that property sales to foreigners should be subjected to specific preconditions.

Voters of opposition parties also recommended adopting a more cautious stance in foreign policy, ensuring economic growth and reducing foreign dependency.

Perception of Friends and Enemies

In parallel to last year’s findings, participants in the focus group discussions stated that Turkey does not have any friends but has many enemies in the international arena. The most cited enemies included the US, Israel, Russia, and Greece; however, several participants also recognized that Turkey must also forge close ties with these countries at times, despite the fact that they are considered as threats or enemies.

Participants listed Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Qatar among the friends of Turkey, but they also admitted that the relations with these countries are based on self-interest.

Cross-Border Deployment of Turkish Armed Forces

The majority of the participants, primarily voters of the ruling block, were supportive of cross-border military operations of the Turkish Armed Forces when it comes to border security.

Several supporters of opposition parties believed that the military has lost its strength or criticized the deployment of troops to regions which do not share borders with Turkey.

It should be emphasized that women participants had a more negative and critical opinion on military operations.

Accession to the European Union and NATO Membership

Participants in the focus group discussions had positive opinions about Turkey’s potential EU membership because of the chances it offers of better living standards and a higher level of development. However, some participants were critical of the delay in full membership. There were also some participants who were opposed to joining the EU, arguing that Turkey must be an independent country.

In contrast to our 2021 research, many participants shared positive opinions about NATO, which was a hot topic on Turkey’s agenda after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While participants had negative or no comments about the organization last year, a striking change in general opinion was observed this year. In fact, the majority of participants were supportive of Turkey’s membership of NATO.

Russia-Ukraine War

Participants in the focus group discussions shared concerns about Russia. The majority argued that Turkey must remain neutral and act as a mediator in the conflict. Some participants saw the war as an opportunity for Turkey in foreign policy, while others, particularly voters of opposition parties, believed that the ruling block was using the conflict to serve their own interests.


As was the case last year, some focus group participants, particularly voters of the ruling alliance, expressed misinformation and conspiracy theories about foreign policy, mainly including false information about the Russia-Ukraine war, NATO and the Lausanne Agreement.