Turks like leaders but worried about economy

Unlike people in many other countries of the Middle East, Turks actually like their government and their leaders. But they still don't like the way their country is headed.

About 54 percent of the Turkish public has a favorable opinion of the increasingly high-profile Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a new AP-GfK Poll. Majorities also trust the military, the judiciary, the presidency and the Grand National Assembly to do the right thing at least most of the time, a faith in political institutions that is lacking in much of the region.

However, most Turks still say their country is headed in the wrong direction, with the economy as their top concern.

A broad majority call unemployment is an "extremely serious" problem in Turkey, despite economic growth of about 7 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate in October was about 11 percent, but it almost doubled for those between the ages of 15 and 24 at 21 percent. The majority of Turkey's 74 million people are young, and the country's social net is still relatively weak.

About half of Turks see "a high level of economic growth" as an extremely important as a goal for their country. Thirty-eight percent call the country's economy "poor" or "very poor," and just 34 percent expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next five years.

Negative perceptions of the country's economy appear to drive Turks' outlook on their nation and even their home life. Among those who describe the economy as "poor," 87 percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and only 34 percent say they are generally happy with how things are going in their lives. Likewise, this group is less apt to trust the nation's institutions and leaders to do what is right.

Still, Turks are conflicted about whether a shift toward greater government control of business would improve things. Most say incomes should be made more equal and that they prefer more government ownership of business and industry. At the same time, a majority see economic competition as a positive, for stimulating "people to work hard and develop new ideas," and prefer business owner or employee autonomy.

Beyond the economy, terrorism rises as another widespread concern, with 66 percent calling it an "extremely serious" problem, about on par with unemployment.