In this paper, we study the effects of turbulent atmosphere on the degree of polarization of a partially coherent electromagnetic beam, which propagates through it. The beam is described by a 2 × 2 cross-spectral density matrix and is assumed to be generated by a planar, secondary, electromagnetic Gaussian Schell-model source. The analysis is based on a recently formulated unified theory of coherence and polarization and on the extended Huygens–Fresnel principle. We study the behaviour of the degree of polarization in the intermediate zone, i.e. in the region of space where coherence properties of the beam and the atmospheric turbulence are competing. We illustrate the analysis by numerical examples.