The Dynamics of Support for EU Membership in a Candidate Country: The Case of Turkey



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Turkey has been an associate member of the EU since 1963 and became a candidate country for the EU membership in 1999. It is only recently that empirical studies focusing on the Turkish attitudes towards the EU membership have emerged. The existing literature fails to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of Turkish public opinion on the EU. Hence, this study examines the determinants of Turkish public support for the EU membership over the past decade. Using Eurobarometer and Transatlantic Trends surveys, I test whether theories of support for EU integration that were developed to study attitudes in Western Europe and Eastern Europe are applicable to explain the Turkish case. In particular, I emphasize three major factors: economic considerations (Eichenberg and Dalton 1993; Gabel 1998), domestic political considerations (Anderson 1998), and identity (McLaren 2002; Hooghe and Marks 2004). The analysis of longitudinal data shows that while economic evaluations are good predictors of attitudes, the effect of sociotropic evaluations is not static since they change character over time, and that human capital variables do not play a role in the formation of attitudes. The results show that attitudes towards EU are strongly shaped by proxies rooted in domestic policies, such as trust in national government and party cues. The results also suggest that in the presence of elite consensus, the support for the EU membership was high while when the elite consensus decreased, the level of public support also decreased. Finally, this analysis demonstrates that Turks’ concern about the potential loss of their cultural identity has a significant impact on their attitudes.



Turkish Public Opinion Towards EU, Support for EU membership