How widespread is Turkish support for increased aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh?

By Mercedes Fogarassy

As regional and global superpowers express alarm at the rapidly evolving conflict in the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as the Republic of Artsakh), Turkey’s Erdoğan manifests significant influence on the extent of bloodshed and destruction that will ensue. 

To gauge the potential risk of more bellicose Turkish manoeuvres, RIWI conducted a rapid-response assessment in Turkey from October 8-13, 2020. RIWI randomly engaged over 3,000 respondents in Turkey from diverse backgrounds and across all regions of the country on questions related to the recent escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and on general perceptions of Erdoğan and of the United States’ position in the world today. The risk we foresee is Erdoğan leveraging this growing support among citizens for military action – amid a perceived weakening of US influence in the world – in order to justify his expansionist militancy toward Armenia, and, in turn, raise even more support for his aggression. We report a few top-level findings from the data set in this brief. 

There is extremely high support for Turkey to continue supporting Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh (85% of respondents say support should stay the same or increase), a widely-held belief across various demographic segmentations including age, gender, ethnicity and education. Further, 55% of respondents believe Armenia is responsible for the recent escalation in conflict in the contested region. These findings reaffirm the notion of deep-seated tension between Turkey and Armenia that continues to transcend generations, and holds throughout the country regardless of ethnicity, gender, or educational attainment.

Nearly half of respondents believe the United States’ global position is getting weaker. This view of the US as a receding global power potentially gives Erdoğan space to stoke the conflict, not only with the support of the Turkish population, but also without fear of reprisal from the United States. Erdoğan’s militant stance toward Armenia appears to be rising despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent condemnation of the targeting of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Misinformation and disinformation are rampant in Turkey’s information ecosystem, and while citizens are aware of this, the majority of people approve of Erdoğan’s handling of his job as President. Sixty-one percent of respondents, and 64 percent of self-identified ethnic Turks, express approval for Erdoğan. Notably, fifty-nine percent of Kurdish respondents also approve of Erdoğan, even as he conducts operations to quash self-determination efforts outside Turkish borders. While the level of support for Erdoğan may be surprising  given the well-known and widely-held sentiment of distrust in traditional information sources inside Turkey, the data may be illustrative of Erdoğan’s tactical use of a brand of authoritarian populism to reinforce narratives that resonate with large portions of the Turkish population. 

For more information on this dataset, please contact Mercedes Fogarassy at mercedes@riwi.com


About the Author

Mercedes Fogarassy leads RIWI’s business and program development in the international development and humanitarian space, developing creative solutions and applications of RIWI’s innovative technology for various clients seeking accurate, ethical, and timely data in response to the world’s most pressing crises – such as food insecurity, corruption, forced labor, violence against women and girls, and online hate and extremism in all parts of the world. She advises on best practices related to ethical data collection in hard-to-reach environments to ensure safe, secure, and meaningful data-based solutions.

About our Methodology

RIWI gathered these data using a robust and unique technology that engages the broadest possible swath of the Turkish population in real-time – Random Domain Intercept  Technology (RDIT). RDIT draws randomly from the entire Web-using population in any region of interest on a continuous, 24/7 basis. Unlike traditional or online survey approaches, the technology’s algorithms ensure that anyone on the Web in the region of interest has an equal chance of being randomly exposed to the questions. Also, unlike government and private sector surveys, all data are gathered anonymously, reducing social desirability bias and eliminating a potential barrier to participation. Further, respondents are not incentivized to participate in any way – in order to adhere to data anonymity and to increase data quality, especially when measuring topics that may be seen as controversial.

We randomly engage a new set of unique respondents each day, with no repeat respondents throughout the period. Results were consistent across the most recent data collection period, despite a unique set of fresh respondents each day.

The questions asked are as follows:

Q0: What is your age and gender?
Male, Female 
Ages: 14+
Q1: Should Turkey support Azerbaijan more or less in the current Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A lot more
A little more
Same
A little less
A lot less
Q2: How do you view the United States’ position in the world today?
Getting weaker
Getting stronger
Staying the same
Q3: Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way President Erdoğan is handling his job as president?
Approve
Disapprove
Q4: Who is most responsible for the recent escalation in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh? 
Azerbaijan
Armenia
Turkey
Another country
Q5: Should Armenia withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh?
Yes
No
Q6: Why is Turkey supporting Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Access to natural resources (for example, oil)
Historic rights
Defence against Armenia
Other reason
Q7: What ethnicity are you? 
Turkish
Kurdish
Arab
Other → see question Q7b
Q7b: Specifically, what ethnicity are you? [only shown if Q7 = other]
Circassian
Armenian
Bosniak
Georgian
Albanian
Other
Q8: What is the highest level of education you have completed?
Less than primary
Primary
High school
Post-secondary vocational training
Bachelor’s degree
Master’s degree or higher 

About RIWI 

RIWI stands for “real-time interactive world-wide intelligence”. We provide access to continuous consumer and citizen sentiment in all countries. RIWI breaks through the noise to find the truth about what people really think, want and observe – by reaching the most diverse audiences, including the disengaged and quiet voices who do not typically answer surveys or express their views on social media. RIWI technology rapidly collects data in every country around the world and displays the results in a secure interactive dashboard in real-time. We only collect anonymous information: 229 countries and territories, over 80 languages and 1.6 billion interviewees and counting. For more information, please visit www.riwi.com.

Additional examples of past RIWI work in Turkey:
World Food Programme: Social Cohesion in Turkey: Refugees and the Host Community. August, 2020. 
Didem Tali, Freedom House: Perceptions Towards Freedom of Expression in Turkey. March, 2020.
Laurie Mylroie, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs: Special Edition: Turkey’s Election Turmoil. October, 2015.