Syrian refugee inflow and risk perception in Izmir, Turkey: Understanding Turkish attitudes through the evaluation of cultural cognition [thesis/dissertation]


Since early 2011, Syria has been undergoing a brutal civil war, displacing millions within the country and forcing others to seek protection in adjacent countries. Turkey, amongst other regional refugee-hosting countries, has taken in the bulk of Syrian forced migrants. The impact of these refugees on Turkey, still developing as time goes on, is largely undocumented amidst the development of Turkish attitudes towards this group of over two million migrants. This exploratory research sought to investigate these attitudes, utilising cultural cognition as a theoretical sounding board. Delimited to the city of Izmir, the aims of this research were to ascertain what perceived risks Syrian refugees pose onto Turkish society, how these perceptions relate to worldview adherences amongst Turkish citizens and what psychological processes may explain the development of such perceptions.

Utilising a mixed-methods approach, triangulation of both news article and focus group content analyses identified five commonly percieved risks relating to Syrian refugee entry into Turkey: employment, inflow, social, political and security. This information informed the design of a survey instrument, of which was used to compare worldview adherences to perceptions of said risks and demographic characteristics. Results showed that egalitarians, for two of the five risks, perceived the refugees as a higher risk than those with hierarchist identities. It was also found that individuals with higher education and employment were more likely to perceive Syrian refugees as a risk to Turkish society. As a starting point to explore the development of such perceptions of risk, the processes of identity-protective cognition, reactive devaluation, self-censorship and optimism bias were utilised to explicate the data.

In conclusion, as very little research of this kind has been undertaken within academia, this was an exploratory research that provided a well-needed foundation for future research on refugee inflow and host country perceptions of risk.

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This thesis/dissertation was produced for the MSc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management at the University of Leicester. By both the review board and the Board of Examiners, this thesis was graded at “Distinction” level.