HDP Voters Living in Istanbul

Executive Summary

Presidential election and general election in Turkey will be held in June 2023 under normal circumstances. On the other hand, ‘early elections’ debates always remain as the top item in the agendas of Turkish politics since 2019 Local Elections. Being repercussion of political uncertainty and social and economic instability in Turkey, such situation causes political parties handling the election agenda in different ways besides keeping public interest for the elections alive.

The call for early elections voiced by HDP has recently increased with the reiteration of the same request by Republican People’s Party (CHP), Good Party (IYI Parti), Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) creating a widespread expectation in the society. Although the People’s Alliance frequently states that the elections will be held on the regular date, the government is commonly believed to wait for development of favourable conditions for a possible early election. Existing multiple crises in economy and politics is doubtless to say the most important variable that feeds such an opinion. 

Both the Nation Alliance and People’s Alliance will heavily continue their efforts to consolidate their supporters until to the dawn of the Election Day. People’s Alliance maintains its strategy to discuss indirect relationship of Nation Alliance with HDP, and thus to conceal governmental crisis becoming apparent with the issues of political uncertainty, economic crisis, issue of immigrant-refugees, forest fires and floods and thus to avoid discussing real agenda of the country. Thus, it aims to disfavour the Nation Alliance in the eyes of certain voter groups and to manipulate the Kurds against the Nation Alliance in case the Nation Alliance excludes HDP from the alliance.

Istanbul is an important projection of the country in terms of the number of voters, socio-political character, combining different identities and social segments, and its power to influence the core of Turkish politics.  In this respect, it is a very important metropolis in that it sheds light on both local and general election results. March 31 and June 23 elections became a very important moment for both Erdogan’s central politics and the local government memory of Istanbul and the results of the respective elections still maintain their originality and actuality.

One of the most important factors for the opposition having favourable results in March 31 and June 23 elections was the explicit attitude of HDP and the Kurdish voters against the government. In spite of being not included in the Nation Alliance, HDP mobilized its voters to support the opposition candidates with the strategy of “causing the government lose in the West”, and thus HDP helped the opposition enjoying significant numerical and psychological advantage as well as strengthening its key position. HDP put also significant contribution to the favourable results in respective elections by channelling not only its own voters but also pro- HDP voter groups that are aloof to the Nation Alliance to vote for the opposition’s candidate.

More than two years have passed since the two elections in 2019. What happened during this time has the potential to change political preferences in both individual and social aspects. As Spectrum House, we tried to measure the opinions, level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and expectations of HDP voters living in Istanbul to see if there is any change in their standing point. The public opinion surveys conducted also aimed to measure how HDP voters interpret the local governments experience, their overall satisfaction with special focus on local services, their priorities, expectations and possible attitudes in the event of an early or ordinary election.

Method and purpose of the survey

Spectrum House Research Center carried out a survey with the participation of 770 people between 30 July and 15 August 2021 on the agenda of Istanbul and Turkey under three main topics. The survey conducted partly face-to-face and partly over the CATI system is a focus group study covering 30 districts of Istanbul.

This survey was conducted only among HDP voters residing in Istanbul who declared that they would vote for HDP and/or Selahattin Demirtaş in 24 June 2018 general elections and/or in 2019 local elections. The survey consists of three parts aiming to understand the preferences and expectations of the citizens on early elections and possible new alliance expectations voiced frequently in past recent weeks, the main problems of Turkey with special focus on Istanbul and probable solutions to respective problems.

The first part consists of demographic questions focusing on the socio-economic positions of the participants while the second part consists of questions aiming to measure the perception on Istanbul and Turkey’s priority local problems, municipal services and the mayor himself/herself and the third part consists of questions to measure the factors that may have an effect on possible voting patterns and candidate preferences of HDP voters in general and presidential elections.

While some of the questions were nominal and open-ended, some of them were prepared according to the Likert scale. The important points to be considered in both scales are to determine the statistical evaluations according to the scaling level of each item. While the nominal indicator chart is considered as statistical input according to the sampling data, individual data in the Likert scale are generally considered within the scope of analytical values. From a statistical point of view, the application of the mean is permissible only because the Likert scale is formulated symmetrically and the scale interprets the true nominal equally spaced for all participants. Consequently, these data were obtained by using the data-set parameters of the sample group.

The fact that the sample consisted of only the voters of one political party and that such a survey was conducted only among this voter group living in Istanbul for the first time made it impossible to compare it with previous data and to measure situations such as transitivity. However, examining the result obtained in this very comprehensive survey presented here, it is seen that the sample is quite strong in terms of representing the population from which it was selected. The details of the survey are included in the report together with the tables and graphics.


A.1. Distribution by District

The participants in the survey group were asked about the district where they reside.

A.2. Household Income

The participants in the survey group were asked about the household income.

The majority of our interviewees are economically in the lower income group. It was seen that 35% of the participants had an income range of 0-3,000 TL while 17% of them had an income between 3,000-4,000 TL, 19% with income range of 4,000-5,000 TL and finally 8% with an income range of 5,000-6,000 TL. Since there are 5 people on average living in HDP voters’ households, it is clear that their income levels are very low. 

A.3. Response on Mother Tongue

The participants were asked their opinion on the native language issue.

81% of the participants gave the answer “Kurdish to the question “What is your mother tongue?” The fact that high percentage of voters in Istanbul declares Kurdish as their mother language indicates the level of politicization regarding identity awareness.

A.4. Occupation

The participants in the survey group were asked about the occupational status.

When we look at the occupations of HDP voters living in Istanbul, it is seen that they are mostly workers, employees and irregular workers. It is also seen that HDP voters have similar occupational status in terms of income and job security and they are mostly in most vulnerable group in terms economic aspects. On the other hand, it is also noteworthy that the rate of HDP voters employed in public institutions is very few. 


B.1. The question “What is the major problem of Istanbul?” was asked to the participants in the survey group.

The section about Istanbul firstly asked the participants to rank top 3 problems of Istanbul by choosing from among the options provided.

The main problem of Istanbul according to the responses of the participants:

It is seen that HDP voters considers transportation as the major problem in Istanbul with 22.63% rate in their responses. These data are also important in terms of reflecting the expectations of HDP voters in daily life such as local governments and municipal services, apart from their political priorities.

The 2nd major problem of Istanbul according to the responses of the participants:

It is seen that the voters consider expensiveness as second major issue in Istanbul following the transportation problem. This situation is correlated with the framework depicted above. This result also indicates impossibility of evaluating the political and cultural preferences of HDP voters separately from their expectations about local governments.   

The 3rd major problem of Istanbul according to the responses of the participants:

Lack of green spaces was considered as third biggest problem in Istanbul by the voters participated to the survey. This result demonstrates the demands of HDP voters, most of whom have settled in Istanbul with forced migration, for the city to become more habitable and to have more developed urban culture.

B.2. The answers given by the participants to the question “Do you approve the Canal Istanbul project: (Likert scale question)

While 93% of the participants do not approve of Canal Istanbul Project, 5% seems to be indecisive about the project. Some of indecisive voters explained that they remain indecisive about project as they are not fully informed the project for the time being. Only 2% of the voters preferred not expressing any opinion on the question.

B.3. The participants were asked , “How satisfied are you with Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu in general. (Likert Scale)

68% of the participants states that they are satisfied with IMM Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu while 16% states that they are very satisfied. Thus, it is seen that the total of those satisfied in general reaches to 84% of the voters. 

B.4. The participants were asked “What factor determines your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. (OPEN ENDED QUESTION) 


27% of the participants is happy with Major Ekrem Imamoğlu as they thinks he works well while 18% states they are satisfied as they feel that he is blocked all the time by the central government. There seems to be a perception among the voters that Ekrem İmamoğlu is very willing to work but he is continuously blocked by the central government and this is somehow reflected on the results as a satisfaction factor.

The memory of HDP voters regarding the trustee management practices started in heavily Kurdish populated provinces since 2016 also shows its reflections in Western provinces where Kurds live.


C.1. The question “What is the major problem of Turkey?” was asked to the participants in the survey group.

Majority (89%) of the participants chose the option “All of them” for the question asking primary problems of Turkey. When asked to rank the problems in order of priority, it is seen that the Kurdish issue is considered as the most priority problem. Participants believe that solution to Kurdish issue will also help resolving both economic and other problems. In addition, HDP voters have highlighted the fundamental rights and freedoms and the Kurdish issue as the most important issue especially in a time of economic bottleneck and increasing financial difficulties the country suffers.

The answers given by the participants to the question of “Turkey’s major problem:

It is noteworthy to mention that 29.04% of the participants consider the Kurdish issue as Turkey’s major problem. Following the Kurdish issue, the problem of justice and freedoms followed by the problem of unemployment are listed other leading problems in the country. 

The answers given by the participants to the question of “Turkey’s 2nd main problem:

It needs to emphasize that 20.24% of the participants consider the problem of justice and freedoms as the second main problem of Turkey. The problem of justice and freedoms in the second largest category is followed by the Kurdish problem.

The answers given by the participants to the question of “Turkey’s 3rd main problem: 

It is striking to see that 18.40% of the participants consider the problem of justice and freedoms as the third main problem of Turkey. The issue of Presidential System is followed by the unemployment problem in the third main problem category.  We can conclude that HDP voters associate the issues of justice and freedoms and inequality within the framework of the Kurdish issue.

C.2. The participants in the survey group were asked “Which of the following parties would you vote for If there were an election this weekend?”

75.9% of the participants answered this question as HDP and 8.7% as CHP. 6.9% avoided to answer the question while 3.8% stated that they are indecisive.

C.3. The participants in the survey group were asked “Which candidate would you vote for in the 1st round, if there was a presidential election this Sunday?”

It is seen  they would vote for Selahattin Demirtaş with 76.02%, followed by Ekrem İmamoğlu with 9.62% in the first round election. It is seen that both mayors are preferred more than the opposition party leaders.

The participants in the survey group were asked “Which candidate would you vote for in the 2nd round, if the candidate you voted for in 1st round could not qualify?”

It is seen that Ekrem İmamoğlu achieves highest rate with 48.02% in second round of the presidential election. 13,04% states they would vote for the candidate to be proposed by HDP and Ali Babacan stands out as the party leader to receive most votes among the opposition party leaders. It is noteworthy to mention that the participants stated they would vote for anything even to a “jacket” or a “tie” to emphasize their opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

C.4. The participants in survey group were asked “Do you think early election is needed?”

89% of the participants thinks that early elections should be held while 7% of the participants believes that the elections should be held on their scheduled due dates. All of those opting this choice expressed that the election would be an economic burden for the country. It is also seen that there is a lack of confidence for the elections and some of the participants do not believe that the elections are solutions for the problems in the country.