Regional (demographic) characteristics
Based on questions regarding the place of residence, place of birth, the features of the place of residence (either metropolitan city, city, or town), and the socio-economic status (monthly individual income) of the respondents, two issues came to the fore. Firstly, a large majority of the participants lived in metropolitan cities (89.9 percent of VB participants, 100 percent of AV participants). For place of birth, the data was representative of the seven main regions of Turkey. Secondly, in terms of socio-economic status, they seem to represent the urban middle or upper-middle class of Turkish society based on the information they provided on their monthly income. Although these results cannot be generalized specifically to the western coastal electorate, previous survey data illustrates that in comparison to the entire society, the secular western-coastal regions have a higher ratio in terms of: i) people who live in metropolitan cities, and ii) their proportion of middle-class people within the general distribution of diverse social classes.32
Participants’ perceptions of political behavior in their social environment
Even though the neighborhood effect is a contentious area within the field of electoral geography (Johnston et al., 2004, pp. 369-71), the researcher included some questions that were not directly related to neighborhood effects, but rather focused on the participants’ perceptions about the political party preferences of their social environments. The questions inquired about whether or not the participants’ perceived neighbors’ and relatives’ voting behaviors were considered close to their own. The questions were deemed important since, as Ellis argued, not only geographical but also “contextual effects are significant and that the process of day-to-day personal communication and social interaction in the community—or in a variety of communities—influences voting patterns” (2011, p. 747). The perception of a neighborhood’s political preferences may be one of these contextual effects.
The Figure 7.4 below indicates that according to data obtained, 40.4 percent of informants (of a total of 42 participants)33 thought that most of their neighbors held similar political views to their own, while 28.5 percent thought that very few of their neighbors had similar political views, and 16.6 percent reported that some of their neighbors entertain similar political views. Only
Figure 7.4 Perceived similarity of neighbors, family, and friends’ views
4.7 percent of the informants said that none of their neighbors had similar views to them. Nine percent said that they had no idea or don't know about the situation.
When asked a similar question about their close social circle (family, relatives, and close friends) and this circle’s political party choices, 73.8 percent of total participants stated that they know/think that the closest people to them voted for the same party as themselves. Taking this quite high rate into consideration, we can ask if there could be a possible relation between the closed circuit of news sources one gets, and the belief in the homogeneity of political ideas or choices around them. As we discussed previously, the data results on the media use characteristics indicated that 74.7 percent of all participants receive news by social media—either from their close circle’s newsfeeds or from other various channels on the Internet. Since there were many that expressed a belief in homogeneous political views within their social environment, and this environment is one of the main sources of getting news and information, a further inquiry might reveal further interesting connections. Likewise, Ugur-Cinar and Gunduz-Arabaci provide similar results in terms of homogeneity and the like-mindedness of these people in their research on public forums in the western coastal region, which most conspicuously appeared in the post-Gezi environment, that these public forums “encourage more socialization with like-minded people’ in terms of their ideological leanings” (2018, pp. 20-2).