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Innumeracy in Turkey: Misperceptions of an Emerging Immigrant Population

With Turkey’s recent transition from a nation of net emigration to one of net immigration, it becomes important to understand how the country is adapting to an increasing presence of foreigners. The current study contributes to this end with a focus on the knowledge level of ordinary Turkish respondents regarding their immigrant population. Quantitative analysis of the 2013 Transatlantic Trends Survey indicates a high level of immigrant population innumeracy in Turkey, such that the typical citizen overestimates the foreign born population size by up to 20 percentage points on average. This innumeracy is also associated with various attitudes toward immigrants, but in the opposite direction as has been observed in the U.S. and Europe. Misperceptions are more often associated with positive assessments of immigrants, suggesting that while innumeracy exists in Turkey, as of now, it seems to be of little consequence.

Innumeracy in Turkey Misperceptions of an Emerging Immigrant Population
Syrian youth, who escaped to Mersin, a Turkish city in the South of the country, from the Syrian civil war, thanks Turkish people for their hospitability. AA PHOTO / SEZGİN PANCAR
 

Introduction

The World Bank estimates that after 2007, the nation of Turkey transitioned from experiencing levels of net emigration to net immigration.1 Turkey thus follows Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Finland, which underwent similar transitions during the 1980s and 1990s.2 In a recent issue of Insight Turkey, Franck Düvell describes these changes as ushering in a paradigm shift of “enormous social, economic and political relevance,”3 which will require an increased research focus. Indeed, the transition from receiving more immigrants than it sends makes Turkey an interesting research context, not only locally, but for the study of immigration in general. I heed Düvell’s call for a greater focus on Turkey as a recipient of immigrants by analyzing how accurately Turkish respondents perceive their immigrant population and whether misperceptions are connected to anti-immigrant attitudes.

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