Americans don’t have a positive opinion of Turkey – or of its President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But as the Turkish leader visited Washington and President Donald Trump this week, a few respondents in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll may be reassessing their opinions.
American opinion of Turkey was affected by its takeover of part of Syria from the Syrian Kurds, allies of the United States in the battles against the Islamic State, ISIS. Turkey moved into Syria after President Trump ordered American troops to leave the disputed area. It was a withdrawal that the public overall opposed 51% to 30%, while Republicans supported by nearly three to two. Still, last month Republicans saw Turkey as an unfriendly nation. They still do, but by a much narrower margin. The 22-point difference in October is now a difference of just six points.
But the improvement in opinion of Turkey among Republicans doesn’t mean they like Erdogan. Overall, those with an opinion of Erdogan (45% of the public) are more than five times as likely to have an unfavorable opinion of him as a favorable one. Republican opinion is also negative by more than three to one.
Erdogan does fare better in public estimation than Russian President Vladimir Putin does. Two-thirds of the public have an unfavorable opinion of Putin. However, like Putin, whom a majority of Americans have seen as a strong leader in previous Economist/YouGov Polls, Erdogan is also viewed as a strong leader.
More say Erdogan as a strong leader than characterize President Trump that way. In this week’s poll, 49% call President Trump a strong leader, but 51% disagree.