Elections in Turkey
Turkey’s Generation Z: “A product of society”
Hype Over Youth
The youth has been the talk of town in Turkey for a while now. Rightly so. The sheer size of the youth population has wide ranging implications. The median age in Turkey, a country of 82 million, is 32.4. Of these, 13 million are between the ages 20 and 30 and almost twenty million are in the age group between 18 and35 years.
If general elections are held as planned in 2023 it is estimated that a little over 5 million new voters will join the electorate. That is roughly 10% of the whole electorate - A mouth-watering share for any politician, old and young. That is why there is much discussion over the first time voters, Generation Z and the youth in general. Everybody is doing their best to understand this group and find innovative ways to appeal to them.
What makes them different?
There is a wide misconception which argues that these young people are very different, a brand new generation that will sweep the political scene with their new-age ideas as they are exposed to much more information than their parents. This is not entirely true. It is likely that the difference between the younger and older generations today is the biggest in all of history. The technology that the young people have witnessed today is vastly different from what their parents experienced back in their days. Indeed, this gives them a different perspective of the world but at the end of the day the young adults of today are the product of our society. They are not that different.
Who are they likely to vote for?
As they are not that different than the society in which they grew up in our research reveals that they do not lean towards any political party. It is true that compared to 10 years ago President Erdoğan is less favoured by the young voters. The vote share of AK Party fares around 10-15 per cent lower among the youth compared to its support among the entire population meaning that the political parties are yet to make a convincing case in order to mobilize the youth in their favour. If a political actor succeeds to organize and mobilize the youth in one direction, they can become a serious agent of change in the upcoming elections.
What motivates their voting behaviour?
In the course of focus group interviews we conducted in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara, Adana and Mersin prior to the March 31, 2019 municipal elections it was confirmed that economic voting is a major strand in the voting behaviour of the young people. The focus groups dealing with young adults and young parents revealed that their decision-making process is very utilitarian.
Younger generations are keen to vote for whomever they think can deliver even if that entails being at odds with their parents or neighbourhood. Until recently, young voters largely voted in line with their parents' political inclinations. This is no longer the case. Increasingly, young urbanites harbour their own opinions which is reflected in their political preferences.
A recent research by Habitat Derneği revealed that Generation Z is much more sensitive to issues such as gender equality, global warming and exclusion. The research also reveals that, as they are more interested in politics compared to other generations, their interest transcends ideology. This was well reflected in the Boğaziçi University protests during which students from all walks of the political spectrum came together to protest the antidemocratic process that regulates the appointment of university rectors. In a limited survey that we undertook with 236 students that physically took part in the protests, an overwhelming majority indicated that they expected the protests to result in a change in the above-mentioned legislation. In other words their objective was not centred around protesting the AK Party or President Erdoğan but on changing the legislation.