It's no secret that relations between Turkey and Germany are very strained at the moment. Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Berlin of "Nazi practices" for refusing to allow Turkish politicians to campaign in Germany. Furthermore, Ankara continues to hold several Turkish-Germans in custody, including journalists, and has lobbed threats at Berlin. And last week, Erdogan urged Turkish-Germans to boycott a trio of top German political parties in upcoming parliamentary elections, including Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.
No wonder, then, that the German population has begun viewing Turkey with a significant amount of skepticism, as shown by a new survey conducted by the German public opinion research organization Civey and seen by ZEIT ONLINE.
In response to the question as to whether they could imagine taking a trip to Turkey, 70 percent of respondents answered: "Definitely not." An additional 15 percent responded, "likely not." Only around 6 percent remain completely open to spending a vacation in Turkey. The tourism industry is one of the most important economic sectors for the country and vacationers from Germany had long represented the greatest share of travelers to Turkey. That, though, now appears to be changing – and the German Foreign Ministry's recently issued travel advisory for Turkey in response to Erdogan's behavior likely won't have helped the country's standing in the eyes of Germans.
Two Turkish-German journalists, Meşale Tolu and Deniz Yücel, are currently being held in Turkey, as is human-rights activist Peter Steudtner. The seemingly arbitrary arrests, along with recent terror attacks on tourist destinations in Turkey, appear to have had their effect on security-conscious Germans.
Despite all of Erdogan's recent verbal transgressions, the German government still views Turkey as an important ally. In addition to being a member of NATO, Turkey also plays a key role in efforts to prevent a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis. But a majority of Germans would like to see Berlin chart a tougher course in its dealings with Turkey. Sixty percent of survey respondents are in favor of "clear dissociation" from Ankara while an additional 27 percent support a course that "tends toward dissociation." Only 6 percent are in favor of remaining on the current path, a tiny minority.
The Turkish president has called on all Germans with Turkish backgrounds to avoid voting for the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens in the German general election on Sept. 24. The parties, he says, are "enemies of Turkey." But the Civey survey shows that supporters of the remaining parties – the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), the far-left Left Party and the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) – are actually more critical of Turkey than the parties Erdogan singled out.
AfD voters are particularly skeptical of Turkey, with around 74 percent of the party's potential voters saying they are in favor of a "clear dissociation" from Turkey, a higher rate than among supporters of any other party. Among Left Party supporters, 66 percent would like to see "clear dissociation" while that opinion is shared by 57 percent of voters who say they support the FDP.
Among the parties Erdogan criticized, 57 percent of Merkel's conservatives would like a clear dissociation from Ankara while supporters of the Greens are the least skeptical, with 49 percent in favor of more distance to Turkey. When compared to supporters of other parties, those respondents who back the Greens were most likely to be in favor of a course that "tends toward dissociation" when questioned about how the German government should approach Ankara. The results make it clear that skepticism of Turkey is widespread across the entire German population, regardless of political affiliation.
A majority of Germans believe that the AfD is the party best positioned to take advantage of the current tensions between Germany and Turkey, with 37 percent holding this viewpoint, though only 32 percent in eastern Germany. Only 16 percent, by contrast, believe that Merkel's conservatives can profit from the strained relationship with Ankara. Around a quarter of respondents believe that no German political party will benefit.
Translated by Daryl Lindsey and Charles Hawley
About This Survey
The survey values shown here were collected by the Civey public opinion research institute. Only answers from registered and verified users were included in the representative results. Civey corrects for distortions by way of a multilevel weighting system.
Representative surveys are momentary snapshots and are always subject to error. In general, the value given is at least 2.5 percentage points higher or lower than the actual value. This so-called "margin of error" is noted by Civey and is listed in our graphics.