The Turkish Diaspora in Europe and the Euro-Turks Barometer Survey

Germany is home to more than three million of the five million people of Turkish origin in Europe. How do they integrate into the German society? How do they identify themselves? And what are the differences in their voting behavior in Germany and in Turkey? Dr. Murat Erdoğan, Visiting Fellow of the AICGS and Director of Hacettepe University’s Migration and Politics Research Center (HUGO), used these questions to examine the political and social profile of Turks, including the challenges they face and their attitudes toward a range of political issues. On September 17, 2014, he presented his findings from the Euro-Turks Barometer Survey and further research on the German Bundestagswahl (German Parliamentary Election) 2013 and the Turkish Presidential Election 2014 at the AICGS event “The Turkish Diaspora in Europe and the Euro-Turks Barometer Survey – Implications for German-Turkish Relations.”

Dr. Erdoğan explained how Turks began emigrating in the 1960s after Western European countries, which were in need of additional work force for their growing economies, signed labor agreements with Turkey. Now, being in the third generation, five million people of Turkish origin live in the European Union. About a third of the three million Turks in Germany are German citizens. Due to restrictive German immigration policies, only 100,000 people of Turkish origin acquired the dual citizenship. Additionally, less than one million Turks have the right to vote in Germany.

The HUGO’s Euro-Turks Barometer, modelled after the well-known European Commission’s Eurobarometer, identifies socio-political and economic conditions of people of Turkish-origin in the European Union. The findings revealed that people of Turkish origin are an integral part of the European society with more than 91 percent of them either being born in the European Union or having lived there for more than eleven years. Also, 82.5 percent believe that they have integrated into their host country’s society. However, only 1 percent identify as German and a vast majority consider themselves Turkish or Turkish-Muslim.

The voter turnout for people of Turkish origin in the German Bundestagswahl (German Federal Election) 2013 was relatively high, with 600,000 of 900,000 eligible Turkish voters participating. In total, people of Turkish origin favored Germany’s social-democratic and green parties. Thus, 64 percent of Turkish voters in Germany chose the SPD (Social Democrats), 12 percent voted for Die Linke (Left), and 12 percent for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Green). Surprisingly, if Turkish people in Germany had voted in Turkey that day, 58 percent of them would have voted for the rather conservative AKP (Turkish Justice and Development Party). At first glance, this constitutes a dual political identity. Yet, considering the social-democratic elements of the AKP’s policies, the voting pattern becomes more comprehensible.

The Turks’ votes in Europe favored Erdoğan in the Turkish Presidential Election 2014 even more than the outcome in Turkey. However, only 18 percent of eligible people of Turkish origin in Europe participated in the election. A possible explanation for this might be that this has been the first time that Turks living abroad were given the opportunity to vote for the Turkish president from their host countries. Comparing the high participation of Turks in the German Bundestagswahl with the low participation in the Turkish presidential election, Dr. Erdoğan explained that this could be interpreted as a further sign of integration and interest of Turks in German politics.

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Associate Professor Dr. M. Murat Erdoğan is Director of Hacettepe University’s Migration and Politics Research Center, Deputy Director of the University’s European Union Research Center, and Advisor to the Rector of the University. He is the director of the “Euro-Turks Barometer” surveys, and, since July 2014, an AICGS Visiting Fellow. He was scholar of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and a Junior Fellow at the Center for European Integration at the University of Bonn. His fields of interest are EU-Turkey relations, Turkish migrants in Europe, Turkish domestic and foreign policy, Germany, Islamophobia, European public opinion, and political cartoons. His latest books are “Turks Abroad: Fifty Years of Migration and Integration” and “Fifty Years, Fifty Cartoons: Turks in German Cartoons.” In addition to his academic career, Professor Erdoğan worked for the Press Department of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin (2001-2003). Professor Erdoğan received his undergraduate and M.A. degrees from Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences, in the Department of Politics. Professor Erdoğan received his PhD in political science from Ankara University and Bonn University.

September 17, 2014