Swimsuits, Gays, and Christians: Survey Sheds Light on Values, Trends in Turkey

A recent survey in Turkey highlighted a decrease in people’s confidence in the Turkish Armed Forces, an increased trust in the government, and revealed intolerance towards ethnic, sexual, and other minorities.

“If need be, I would fight for my country,” is a statement fewer Turks will say today than five years ago, the survey showed; the percentage of those who agreed with the statement dropped from 97 percent in 2006 to 86 percent in 2011.

The level of trust towards the military was at the lowest recorded since the first survey was conducted in 1990, with 75 percent reporting confidence in the institution. That number was 90 and 86 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. In this latest survey, the overall confidence level in southeast Anatolia was particularly low.

Trust in the police also stood at 75 percent, while the press enjoyed the trust of a mere 41 percent of respondents.

In contrast, confidence in the government was at a high—at 61 percent. At its lowest in 1991, it was at a mere 29 percent.

“If need be, I would fight for my country,” is a statement fewer Turks will say today than five years ago, the survey showed; the percentage of those who agreed with the statement dropped from 97 percent in 2006 to 86 percent in 2011.

Only 15 percent of respondents agreed that “there is great regard and respect towards human rights in our country,” while 16 percent believed that there is no respect for human rights in Turkey.

However, the more discussed revelation was the low level of tolerance Turks have towards certain groups and people. Topping the list of those deemed intolerable were gays and lesbians (with 84 percent of respondents saying they do not desire a gay or lesbian neighbor), followed by individuals infected with AIDS (74 percent), couples living together out of wedlock (68 percent), atheists (64 percent), proponents of Sharia (54 percent), Christians (48 percent), followers of other faiths (39 percent), immigrants and foreign workers (39 percent), women who wear shorts (26 percent), those who do not fast (20 percent), and those voting for a competing political party (17 percent).

The percentage of interviewees who said religion is important to them was around 92 percent, a reality that has not changed in 15 years. Eighty-one percent considered themselves devout; 87 percent said they fast; 61 percent thought it a sin for women to wear bathing suits; 79 percent believed theirs is the one true religion; and 85 percent said they believe in creationism, not evolution.

The survey also revealed that the level of trust Turks have towards others—including family and friends— was low. Only 15 percent said they trusted others, while 61 percent said they do not trust people from other nationalities.

The survey underscored significant gender issues in Turkey: 30 percent of those surveyed said some women deserved to be beaten by their husbands—and 27 percent of women agreed—which is a stark increase from 19 percent in 1996. The survey also showed that men were deemed better politicians than women (71 percent agreed), that males were fit to head the family unit (74 percent), women ought to obey their husbands (62 percent), and men can have more than one wife (23 percent).

The survey was conducted in 54 provinces and 128 districts from June 6 to July 11, 2011, under the directorship of Bahcesehir University professor Yilmaz Esmer. The data was collected through face-to-face interviews with 1,605 randomly selected individuals aged 18 or older.

The first World Values Survey was conducted in 1981 with the participation of 25 countries. (Since then it has been repeated a number of times, with more than 400,00 people interviewed, during the periods 1996-98, 2000-01, and 2005-07.) The survey was first conducted in Turkey in 1990, giving researchers data documenting shifts within the past 20 years.

The survey report (in Turkish) can be downloaded here.


Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).


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  1. I think we can also say intolerance in Armenia ALSO exists! My experience last summer in Yerevan regarding how Armenians view homosexuality was that there is 0 tolerance.

  2. You mean that Turks virtually wiped out it its indigenous Christians and yet Turks have still not learned anything from that and they’re still intolerant?  My goodness, I’m shocked – SHOCKED.

  3. So, there’s 26 percent intolerance for wearing short shorts. Well, I suppose this would mark the end of Erdogan and Davutoglu wearing SPEEDO in public.

  4. craigprophet(interesting name to be chosen for a screen name)..one BIG different between ARmenia and Turkey.. You are right.. Gayism and Lesbianism is not a standard living situation that ARmenians are accustom to and I personally do not agree with such lifestyle; however Armenians don’t prosecute, ban or harass these people..even if there is 0 tolerance as you stated.. Not sure if I can say the same thing about Turkey though… If they are hysterical about a woman wearing short shorts, I can imagine what will appen if a Gay or Lesbian moves in next door…


  5. I have come to learn that none of us, any humans, were able to choose to become born either as a male or a female;
    I have come to learn that, too, none of us were able to make this choice, too, of whether or not to become born as, what is labeled as ‘gay’; 
    I have learned, meeting/knowing during my lifetime many who are ‘gay’ – yes,  human beings – so many whom I considered to be great citizens, great friends, highly intelligent, highly talented, and offering much to the advancements of our nation. But yet, too, some were not.  But  is not this true of all our humans on our planet??
    Today, and over the years, there are those who have opposed any genocides on our planet… Today, there are those whose goals include continuing genocides to gain their own despicable goals – still.  
    Obviously, those who oppose the existence of ‘gays’ apparently are of the same mentality as those who seek to ‘eliminate’ innocent peoples via genocides – to reach their own evil goals via discrimination and elimnations…. What is the goal of  peoples who seek to ‘eliminate’ ‘gays’? Actually, this is just another extension of the inhumanity to humans.  Such as  the Armenian peoples have suffered from generations of the  Ottoman Turks – still into today – whose abuse of the Christian Armenians continues now – still into the fledgling nation (now, of 20 years) still bearing the hatred (denials/lies) of the muslim Turks – who cannot remember what the world can remember… the Turkish Genocide of the Christian Armenian nation – abused… still today.
    Thus, to face our ‘gays, thus, to face genocides… we are, in effect dealing with the issue of the inhumanity of humans to other humans.  Actually, are we as yet, the world over – are we, or are we not yet become – as they say – civilized.  If not, why not??



  6. Gayane, interesting you mention that Armenians do no prosecute gays, but, for your information, while I was in Yerevan last year, there was a round-up of gays by the police. Apparently, since gays have no place to meet, they meet outdoors regularly then agree on a place to congregate for the evening. Well, wasn’t it a coincidence that the day after that round-up of Armenian gays by the Armenian police, there was a meeting of the CIS presidents in Yerevan??? Some “clean-up” right?
    They did the same thing in Barcelona to the prositutes right before the ’92 olympics.
    Another incident happened while I was in Yerevan. During one of my conversations with a young man who worked at a supermarket, he said “we treat gays like this”, and he gestured by stamping out something on the floor.
    As I said, for now, from my perspective, Armenia is 0 tolerant.

  7. Craigprophet- i am sorry.. just because you saw few incidences (that I can’t really prove because it is your word against those of us who did not see it) does not mean Armenia will torture, sentence, and harass those who are gays… again.. read it carefully.. we may NOT AGREE with such a lifestyle but it does not mean we are going to torture these individuals… 0 tolerance or not.. we are not discussing that.. my point was and is: WE as ARmenians DO NOT torture gays because they are gays… or stone them to death…and guess what??? police can gather anyone they need to.. that does not mean anything…

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