Here to stay?: Understanding positive and negative attitudes towards Syrian refugees in Turkey

Şenay Yitmen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


The world has witnessed a large increase in the number of refugees in the last decade. Today, the highest number of refugees, mainly coming from Syria, live in Turkey, which raises questions about how host society members react to this group of newcomers: whether they offer help and support or whether they reject them. Şenay Yitmen aims to understand and describe attitudes towards Syrian refugees in Turkey by considering the role of various social psychological constructs that might be associated with these attitudes. Based on survey data collected among self-identified Turkish adult citizens, she shows that although feelings towards non-Muslim minorities and Syrian refugees are quite similar, the processes are somewhat distinct as different group identifications - national and religious identification - play different roles in people’s feelings towards these two communities. In relation to attitudes towards Syrian refugees, stronger Turkish national identification is associated with more negative feelings towards these refugees and in addition plays a moderating role in the association between endorsement of multiculturalism and these feelings. Also, Turkish people who have stronger national identification perceive more outgroup threat and as a result have more negative and less positive behavioural intentions towards Syrian refugees. However, perceived threat is translated into less negative, and interestingly, also less positive behavioural intentions among those who endorse humanitarian concerns, which shows that Turkish people make a distinction between positive and negative behavioural intentions towards Syrian refugees and that the processes behind these intentions are different. Additionally, perceived threat is translated into more negative emotions and in return to less support for Syrian refugees’ rights. Further, when Turkish people perceive strong descriptive norms then perceived threat is associated with more negative emotions and less support to Syrian refugees. However, frequency of contact and perceived similarity with Syrian refugees are associated with more social acceptance through lower perceived threat. Yet, perceived similarity is associated less with social acceptance for those who perceive Syrian refugees as permanent settlers in Turkey. Overall, this dissertation illustrates how a very vulnerable group of migrants (Syrian refugees) is perceived and evaluated in an understudied yet geopolitically relevant (Turkish) setting; that similar negative attitudes do not imply similar processes; that positive and negative attitudes are not simply the two sides of the same coin; that key social psychological constructs can be associated directly or indirectly with attitudes towards Syrian refugees, and that these associations may depend on various beliefs and considerations.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Verkuyten, Maykel, Primary supervisor
  • Martinovic, Borja, Co-supervisor
Award date28 Oct 2022
Print ISBNs978-94-6458-586-5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2022


  • Attitudes
  • Syrian refugees
  • norms
  • contact
  • multiculturalism
  • Turkey


Dive into the research topics of 'Here to stay?: Understanding positive and negative attitudes towards Syrian refugees in Turkey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this