Correction: This post originally indicated that the Pew poll had been taken after protests began. In fact, it was taken in March, before protests started.
A recent Pew Research poll confirms that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Islamist-leaning party has been elected to power three times in a row, is popular among Turkish voters, with 62 percent saying they have a favorable view of him as of March, when the poll was taken. It's possible that the backlash against his recent crackdown on protests in Istanbul (where he receives only 46 percent approval) may have reduced this number. But as of the time the poll was taken, he enjoyed remarkably broad public support, especially outside Istanbul.
This poll put Erdogan way above many Western leaders in turns of popular support. President Obama has a 47 percent approval rating among likely voters. United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron recently put up a 32 percent approval rating and French President Francois Hollande, according to one poll, has only 29 percent support.
This highlights two important differences between Turkey's protest movement and, for example, Egypt's in 2011. First, Erdogan and his party were democratically elected with the help of its grassroots support base, unlike Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who seized power and attempted to force it from the top-down. And though Egypt's revolution turned on mass protests in the country's largest city as well, one in four Egyptians live in the greater Cairo area, the country's center of gravity. Only about one in seven Turks live in Istanbul.
Even in Istanbul, the Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum found neighborhoods that enthusiastically support Erdogan. People there cited improving public services, a religiously conservative government that reflects their values, better opportunities for women and, perhaps most important of all, a growing economy.
“Ten years ago we couldn’t find water to wash ourselves,” said Ermis, 55, a driver, as he watched friends play a clacking tile game called Okey. ...
Economic issues have also drawn support from businesspeople and investors. New skyscrapers stud Istanbul. Public transportation has greatly improved. Unemployment stands at 8.3 percent — the envy of many European countries — and the economy grew by 8.5 percent last year, compared with 2.2 percent in the United States.
None of this is to suggest that the opposition to Erdogan among Istanbul's protesters isn't real or doesn't matter. But, unless something changes dramatically in Turkish public opinion, don't count on a popular movement to oust him from power.