Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekly Hurriyet Column: Loyalty and conscience in the referendum

Below is the unedited version of my column for this week. You can read the final version at the Daily News website, but since I have been editing my columns myself on the Daily News website since March, you won't see much of a difference between the two. As for the title, the original title in my mind was simply "Loyalty and Conscience"- I have always dreamed of a Jane Austen title:) But a search engine optimizer I once met told me that in order to be get more clicks from search engines, I needed to use titles that are right to the topic; for example, if I am writing about the fiscal rule, "Dead before it was born" would not be a good idea, "Fiscal Rule: Dead before it was born" would be better, and " Turkish Fiscal Rule: Dead before it was born" would have been the best. At the end, I submitted the title as above to appease my literary and Machiavellian sides at the same time. But as twist of fate, this title turned out to be too long for the hard copy, with the copy editors publishing it simply as "Loyalty and Conscience". So I got my Jane Austen title after all:)...

By the way, there are a few other interesting questions in the survey other than referendum and control questions. My favorite are the ones on personal hygiene such as how often the subjects bath or wthether they use toilet paper. I am planning to use factor analysis to come up with a simple Recep Ivedik index. Then, I could look at the education, income and of course, voting preferences of the Recep Ivediks. That would make a light summer Hurriyet column, but I am scared of being called a white Turk for that, so it may just make it to the blog. We'll see... 

Anyway, on to the column:

Polling firm KONDA’s decision to devote the latest edition of their monthly Barometer survey to the upcoming referendum allowed me to continue with my study from last month.

Confirming last month’s results, there is a very strong relationship between voting in the referendum and political party affiliation. In fact, the results continue to hold once you control for subject characteristics, including views on the constitutional amendment package, or package for short.

Kurdish voters continue to defy their party: Despite the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP’s, cold feet towards the constitutional amendments, or at least the party pushing for the package, they are more likely to vote “yes” in the referendum than any other self-described ethnic group. Again, the results are much more than simple cross-tabulations, as they don’t disappear after controlling for party affiliation and view of the package.

One of the biggest surprises of the survey is devoutness. While subjects who describe themselves as pious or who support the controversial headscarf are more likely to vote “yes,” the relationship weakens considerably once you control for party affiliation and opinion about the package. The mirror image of this result holds true for the naye-sayers as well, hinting that not piety per se, but party affiliation and political polarization are the deciding factors in the referendum.

These results might be enough to convince you that neither the ayers nor the nayers are likely to change their vote. It almost convinced me, at least until I noticed a considerable amount of “flexibility” in both groups: Although my agreement with KONDA prevents me from divulging actual numbers, a considerable share of the two camps are saying their vote can change or that they are still undecided.

As a result, although the difference between yes and no votes is a statistically significant gap difficult to close in a month (note that I am not revealing who is ahead), the continuing lead of the undecided in the polls, along with the presence of the closet undecided, means that the referendum is far from being in the bag for the group ahead in the polls. It therefore makes sense to study the flexibles in more detail. Besides, the large number of the closet undecided could be a direct result of political polarization and the reluctant voting that comes with it, so there is an intellectual case for such an inquiry as well.

After a simple statistical analysis, the following results emerge: The flexibles are more likely to be women than men. There are also important regional differences. For example, a flexible is much more likely to come from Thrace than anywhere else, but the factor driving that result turns out to be political polarization, with Thrace shining as the least polarized part of the country.

Another interesting result in the non-linear relationship with education: While the least and most educated subjects seem to have made up their minds for good, there is quite a bit of flexibility in the ones in between. Finally, the flexibles look more to TV debates and the dailies to form their opinion than to their parties, party leaders or family elders, highlighting the importance of impartial and honest reporting in the media.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the factors that would make the flexibles switch their votes on Sept. 12. But I have learned something much more valuable: There is a sizable population in Turkey, in both camps, struggling with the dilemma between their beliefs and sense of duty as a voter.

Unless this fight between loyalty and conscience can be resolved in favor of the latter, Turkey cannot be a true democracy even if you change the Constitution twice over.

*Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at

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