The Stabilized Center – Right-Wing Extremist Attitudes in Germany 2014

Sharp decrease in approval of right-wing extremist attitudes in 2014
The study of 2014 reports right-wing extremist attitudes across the population and for all social sub-groups and thus identifies the “center” of society as carrier of antidemocratic attitudes. As in previous years, xenophobic statements have the highest approval rating: every fifth German is still xenophobic. Chauvinistic statements gain the second highest approval ratings with 13.6 Prozent. and 5 Prozent agree with all three antisemitic statements.
However, approval ratings in 2014 went down considerably compared to the previous “center”-studies. The portion of participants who showed a firm right-wing extremist worldview (average approval to 18 items) decreased considerably from 9.7% in 2002 to 5.6% in 2014. The decline is apparent in all six dimensions: In East and West Germany approval of dictatorship, chauvinism, xenophobia, antisemitism, Social Darwinism and downplaying of National Socialism were less accepted than in 2012. “Germany is, metaphorically speaking, in an island position: the economic situation is very positive compared to the last years,” Oliver Decker explains, who has been in charge of the study together with Elmar Brähler since 2002. “We know about the strong connection between economic performance and political attitudes. Now the contrast to the other European countries is considerable as well: this appreciation stabilizes the center of the society.”

Many are undecided in face of right-wing extremist Statements

Between 12% and 30% of the participants did not approve the statements but answered with “partly so, partly so”. “This indicates a potential readiness of many to actually approve these statements,” stresses Professor Elmar Brähler. The content of the statement receives some approval, but the scaling in the questionnaire allows for a mitigated answer.

Education is key against right-wing extremist attitudes

Participants holding at least a high school degree (Abitur) rejected the questions asked in the study significantly more often than persons with a low level of education. The difference is considerable: for example 6.8% of the participants holding a high school degree are xenophobic but among the ones without a high school degree this is true for 20.8%.

People with right-wing extremist attitudes vote for democratic parties

Again, this year’s results show that voters of the conservative CDU, the social-democratic SPD and also the smaller democratic parties are not immune to right-wing extremist attitudes. “Still, voters of the new ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ show xenophobic, antisemitic and chauvinistic attitudes more often, only topped by the few people voting for parties on the extreme right,” Johannes Kiess explicates, who is involved in the conduction of the “center”-studies since 2008.

Still differences between East and West

Chauvinism and xenophobia still have a higher prevalence in East Germany. 28.7% of the East Germans think that Germany should “get back the power and influence it deserves” – compared to 15.9% in West Germany. The same goes for xenophobic statements which all have a higher approval rating in East Germany. “In places with only few immigrants living there, discrimination of ‘ foreigners’ is much more common,” Elmar Brähler explains, “contact reduces prejudices.”

The European Union is still viewed with skepticism

The EU is still seen with mixed feelings. After euphoric expectations in the beginning, the excitement calmed down over the years. “Our findings conducted in spring 2014 show a stable approval of the EU of some 40 to 45% of the population,” says Johannes Kiess. “For about 50%, the EU does not have a positive image.” The study shows that EU-skepticism correlates strongly with the anti-democratic orientation of the participants: “We observed that people with anti-democratic attitudes and the willingness to discriminate others reject the EU significantly more often,” Johannes Kiess concludes.

Strong discrimination of asylum seekers, Romany people and Muslims: secondary authoritarianism

“There is a positive message indeed in 2014: the approval of right-wing extremist attitudes went down,” Oliver Decker concludes, but, he goes on: “There is a negative message, too: specific groups of immigrants are discriminated against even stronger.” In 2014, some 20% of the Germans are xenophobic, but asylum seekers, Muslims and Romany people are targeted with discrimination much more often. In East Germany, 84.7% of the participants discriminated against asylum seekers (73.5% in West Germany). More than half of the participants have negative feelings about Romany people and almost half of the German population has resentments against Muslims. “The predisposition for an ideology of non-equality is still there,” says Oliver Decker. “We can observe an authoritarian dynamic here: not immigrants in general are discriminated against, most Germans now think: yes, we also benefit from immigration. But those who trigger the imagination of being fundamentally different or having a good life without working hard attract discrimination. We call this secondary authoritarianism. This also goes together with the importance of the economy in Germany: the economy is something like an unquestionable authority. If the economy is strong, people are happy. But they still have to obey and this produces aggression which then is turned against people that appear to be different or weak.”

PD Dr. Oliver Decker
++49 (0) 176/24821940

Prof. Dr. Elmar Brähler
++49 (0) 151/52737886

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