The Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy’s (ELIAMEP) Turkey program conducted a public opinion poll on Greek and Turkish issues.
The poll ran simultaneously in Greece and Turkey.
Greeks and Turks answered the same questions about how they see themselves, how much they know about each other, where they agree and disagree on issues of bilateral relations, how similar they, how different they are, etc.
The research presented by the two scientific bodies was run by MRB in Greece and KONDA in Turkey.
The conclusions below are signed by the Head of the Turkey Program of ELIAMEP and Associate Professor at Bilkent University in Turkey, Giannis Grigoriadis, and the CEO of MRB Dimitris Mavros, who ran the research in Greece.
Five conclusions by Giannis Grigoriadis
2020 was the most difficult year for Greek-Turkish bilateral relations since the Öcalan crisis of February 1999.
Therefore, capturing the perception of Greek and Turkish public opinion is now more interesting and more relevant than ever.
The polls took place between 19 and 21 February 2021, with the participation of 1,022 Greeks and 1,163 Turkish citizens.
At the same time, twelve in-depth interviews were conducted with Greek experts on Greek-Turkish relations.
The main findings of the polls can be summarised as follows:
Turkey remains present in the Greek public debate in a much more intense way than Greece in the Turkish public debate.
Greece remains out of sight for the average Turkish citizen.
Few claim to have grown up hearing negative reports about Greeks, but few have visited Greece.
Only 3% of Turks state that they have visited Greece compared to 37% of Greeks who have visited Turkey.
47% of the surveyed Greeks state that they have met a Turk, while the corresponding percentage of the surveyed Turks who have met a Greek is only 14%.
A strong majority in both countries (but stronger in Turkey) say they could have each other as a friend: 60% of Greeks and 74% of Turks.
It is worth noting here that only a small part of the Turkish population has a passport or the financial means to travel abroad for leisure.
On the other hand, the average Greek citizen is more extroverted and learns more about Turks within their family, but also through media and social networking.
Often however, the information received is negatively charged.
Question to the Greeks – have you personally met a Turk?
46.9% said no.
Question to the Turks – have you personally met a Greek?
85% said no.
Question to the Greeks – how informed would you say you are about Turkey, ie politics, economy, society, etc.?
56.7% said they know a lot.
Question to the Turks – how informed would you say that you are about Greece, that is, about politics, economy, society, etc.?
42.7% said they know a lot.
Bilateral disputes in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean are emerging as the most serious problem in bilateral relations.
This is not surprising given the events of the last year, but it also emphasises the need to consolidate the strategy that will prioritize the settlement of disputes under international law.
The majority of the experts who participated in the in-depth interviews agree with this.
What is the most serious problem between Turkey and Greece?
58.1% of Greeks and 57.8% of Turks said the issue in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, while 11.3% of Greeks and 12.6% of Turks said the Cyprus issue.
Both polls show that Greek and Turkish citizens favor resolving bilateral disputes through peaceful means, although they disagree on the diagnosis of responsibility for the lack of a solution.
58.7% of Greeks and 70.1% of Turkish respondents believe that Greek-Turkish disputes can be resolved more easily through dialogue and conciliation.
68% of Greeks and 73% of Turks believe that Turks/Greeks are neighbours and a way of friendly coexistence with them must be found.
Question to the Greeks and Turks – Can Greek-Turkish disputes can be resolved more easily through dialogue and conciliation?
While the majority of citizens in both countries appear to be worried about the possibility of a hot episode, this concern is reflected more strongly in Greek than in Turkish public opinion.
This is also explained by the overexposure of Turkish public opinion to news of Turkey’s military invasions of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
How worried are you about a possible military incident between Greece and Turkey?
70.2% Greeks and 41.9% of Turks believe a conflict can occur.
In both countries there is distrust as to the mediating role that the international community (international organizations and major powers) can play in resolving Greek-Turkish disputes.
The prevailing perception is that mediation will be discriminatory in favor of the other side.
This distrust remains strong along the left-right axis.
Remarkable is the galloping distrust of Turkish public opinion towards the United States, but also that of a capable part of Greek public opinion towards the European Union.
Nevertheless, Greek public opinion favors dialogue mediated by international organizations, while Turkish public opinion prefers bilateral contacts without the mediation of third parties.
Numbers and conclusions by Dimitris Mavros
Throughout time, the relationship of the Greek world with the East was dual.
The East was and is a source of cultural and material wealth but also a source of suffering.
Greek-Turkish relations are no exception to the above principle.
For more than 1,000 years the course of the two worlds was interconnected.
During the 200 years since the beginning of the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the creation of the modern Greek state, the relations between the Greeks and the Turks have gone through successive phases of tension, recession and cooperation.
The general conclusion of the two surveys is that:
“The size, the geostrategic position of the two countries, the historical development of the two peoples and the problems that each country faces in the international environment largely determine the views and attitudes of the majority of citizens in each country with a great deal of realism.
The twin research program highlighted the differences that exist but also highlighted many points of convergence as well as the majority tendency for peaceful coexistence of the two peoples.”
Both the Greeks and the Turks, in their majority, characterise the current situation of their country as negative (52.1% of the Greeks and 62.5% of the Turks) while their forecasts for the course of their countries in the next 12 months remain negative (57% of Greeks and 49.9% of Turks).
As for their personal/family financial situation in the next 12 months, Greek citizens predict stagnation (49.6%) with the Turks showing greater polarisation in terms of improvement (21.2%) or deterioration (40.6%) of their personal finances in the near future.
More Greeks have visited Turkey (36.9%) and have come in contact with Turks (46.9%) compared to the corresponding percentage of Turks who have visited Greece (2.7%) and met a Greek ( 14.4%).
On the other hand, more Greeks have heard from the family environment something negative about the Turks (32% and 6.3% respectively).
Greeks say they are more informed about the developments in Turkey (56.7%) than how informed the Turks are about the developments in Greece (42.7%).
Both peoples are equally possessed by national pride (83.9% of Greeks and 80.6% of Turks) which is the dominant emotion, while Turkish citizens believe to a greater extent in the superiority of their culture (75.8%) in relation to 49.6% of Greeks.
In both countries there are similar percentages in terms of acceptance of mixed marriages, Greek with Turks or vice versa (from 32% to 38%), while Turks appear more tolerant in creating a friendly relationship with a Greek (74%) than the Greeks (60.6%).
Both peoples believe almost to the same extent that there are more cultural differences (39.8% Greeks and 33.6% Turks) than the common elements (11.2% and 11.8% respectively).
The right-left ideological axis seems to be predictive of the views of citizens in both countries regarding bilateral relations.
Citizens who identify themselves ideologically to the left of the center are presumably more moderate in their views of bilateral disputes and are more positively oriented towards their fellow citizens.
Dispute resolution framework
Regardless of the differences, both Greeks (68.1%) and Turks (73.5%) argue that a way of peaceful coexistence must be found between the two peoples.
In this context, 36.1% of Greeks and 31.6% of Turks consider that the reconciliation of the two peoples is difficult and there should always be the possibility in the defense of the country.
“Dialogue and conciliation are favored by the majority of the two peoples regardless of the reservations expressed about success.”
As for Greek society, the above views have a clear ideological sign with those who self-identify as right expressing more absolute and uncompromising positions.
As we move away from the right-wing political spectrum, views are softening.
Voters on the left and center-left are more tolerant.
In the way of resolving the differences, there is a difference of opinion between the two peoples, reproducing the prevailing proposal of the political leaderships.
Greeks support solutions through international organizations and recourse to international arbitration (49.1%) while Turks support bilateral negotiations (62.4%).
37.6% of Greeks and 25.1% of Turks want military and diplomatic sanctions against the other side.
Of particular interest are the views of the participants in the research regarding the appropriate directions of solutions for the Cyprus problem.
In Greece, citizens are enlisted behind the national and international line.
56.5% of Greeks consider the bi-zonal bi-communal federation (DDO) as the most appropriate solution, while in Turkey this direction is marginally majority (42.8%) with 40.5% in favor of the solution of the two states.
The solution of the two states is also supported by a respected minority in Greece: 27.5% with increasing tendencies among those who identify themselves as right-wing or without a political identity.
“The long-established framework for the solution of the Cyprus problem – a bi-zonal bi-communal federation (IBR) is in the majority in both countries, but in Turkey the percentage that favors the solution of the two separate states is respected.”
Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU)
53.6% of Turks want to join the EU with the percentage of those who oppose it being 18.5% and 21.5% being neutral about this perspective.
In Greece, 51.8% are negative about Turkey’s EU membership prospects and 20.2% are positive.
24.8% of Greeks are neutral.
Both peoples believe that the EU discriminates in favor of the other country and wrongs them.
64% of Turks share this view, while in Greece, despite being an EU member, 53.7% agree.
As for the other superpowers, there is a relative balance in terms of Russia’s position where 46.9% of Greeks believe that they support Turkey and 42.7% of Turks believe that they support Greece.
Relations between Turkey and the U.S. are problematic, with 62.8% of Turks believing that Washington supports Greece.
The corresponding percentage of support of Turkey from the U.S. in terms of its differences with Greece amounts to 43.2%.
Both peoples are skeptical of the role that the international factor could play in their relations, with the Turks believing to a greater extent (70.3%) compared to Greeks (53.4%) that the international factor will favor the other side.