‘Yes’ To More Power For Turkey’s Erdogan Leads Online

Polls have closed in the historic Turkish referendum, which would grant the president sweeping new powers

A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Turkey on April 16. — REUTERS
Apr 16, 2017 at 11:10 AM ET

Voters in Turkey are heading the polls today in order to determine whether or not to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vast new executive powers. The outcome of the referendum, a simple ‘yes or no’ vote, would mark one of the most significant changes to Turkey’s government in decades. And Turkish people on both sides of the issue are loudly expressing their intentions online.

Vocativ analyzed over 1.2 million tweets posted in the week before today’s referendum including hashtags both opposed to and in support of the new executive powers. The analysis revealed that ‘yes’ hashtags, those supporting the new measures, outnumber No hashtags by over two to one. Of the tweets posted between April 9 and April 16, more than 833,000 used a variety of Yes hashtags, including #evet (yes) and #TabikiEvet (of course, yes).

About 386,000 posts featured ‘no’ hashtags, opposed to granting Erdogan new and expansive powers. The most prominent was #Hayir, meaning No.

Traditional polls ahead of the referendum show ‘yes’ holding a slight lead at 51.5 percent. A reason for the major discrepancy between real-world and online sentiment may be the presence of dedicated activists mass-tweeting hashtags. We found individual users on both sides of the debate sending out hundreds of tweets containing pro and anti-referendum hashtags. The most prolific of these accounts were tweeting out ‘yes’ hashtags at a rate of over 1,200 tweets in one week.

The 100 most prolific tweeters supporting the referendum composed over 38,000 tweets over the course of the week, making up some 4.5% of all pro-Erdogan hashtags used. The 100 most prolific anti-Erdogan posters put up 26,555 posts containing hashtags, making up about 6.8% of the chatter.

It would not be the first time that Erdogan and his ruling AKP Party have leveraged online activist networks to boost their message. During last year’s attempted military coup, supporters of the government were incredibly effective at blasting hashtags and  calls to action across different social media networks.