Germany’s middle-class is shifting rightwards, according to a study by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, finding Eurosceptic AfD’s followers in particular supporting right-wing extremist and chauvinist ways of thinking. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Right-wing, extremist attitudes have lost considerable ground in Germany compared to previous years. But a study released on Thursday (20 November) by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation (FES), reveals a troubling new trend.
Moderates in German society are increasingly likely to choose more subtle forms of misanthropic and racist thinking; right-wing ideas that are hiding in the mainstream and are suitable for casual dinner conversation.
Researchers are concerned about the shift. Isolated right-wing extremist and racist ideas are met with significant support.
36% of those surveyed in the study indicated that Germany should have more courage for national pride. More than 10% said Hitler’s dictatorship also had good aspects.
11% answered in agreement with the statement: “We should have a Führer, who will govern Germany with a strong hand for the benefit of all.”
This type of argumentation is especially similar to followers of the euro-critical Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the study says, a finding that is crucial when the party’s top members deny advocating any form of right-wing ideology.
In the ranks of the AfD, right-wing extremist voices have been heard a number of times lately. In October, a party member said the gas chambers in Dachau have been built by the Allied occupation.
“The AfD’s followers harbour above-average sympathies for nearly all facets of right-wing extremist ideology”, the study’s author, Andreas Zick, indicated.
This includes so-called national-chauvinism, which defines a mentality that Germans are superior to other national groups (41.2%). It also covers downplaying the period under the Nazi regime (14.3%). The polling numbers are higher than the number of Germans who support the neo-Nazi NPD party.
The research also indicated a stronger tendency among moderates leaning towards a market-oriented logic of misanthropism – a derivative of social Darwinism and a “survival of the fittest” mindset. The result is systematic abasement of certain non-established minorities, such as asylum-seekers and the unemployed.
“Extremely efficient thinking is closely related to right-wing extremist ideas”, the study explained. More than 44% of respondents considered refugees a problem for society.
Here as well, AfD-supporters differ considerably from those of other parties. For example, Eurosceptics often feel “that in society – just as in nature – the stronger ones will prevail; that there is valuable and worthless life”.
“Through its own political megaphone, the AfD is channelling the connection between fears of being threatened, and market-oriented extremism,” explained Andreas Hövermann, an author of the FES study.
“Germany should show strength”
Another outcome in the study is that right-wing extremist ideologies go hand-in-hand with a critical attitude toward the EU and degrading citizens from European neighbour states. These attitudes are openly admitted in the study: 24% of those surveyed said they believed Germany would be better off without the EU. As a result, 51% were convinced Germany should assert its strength opposite Brussels. And 38% said Germany should focus on itself more.
“The model for a European identity has failed. It is not a model that erases the significance of inequality. The image of European unity with a common identity and support for heterogeneity and diversity does not work,” Zick explained.
“Modern anti-Semitism” takes hold
After EU-wide protests against the Israeli military occupation in Gaza, the authors conducted a follow-up survey.
The findings of the later data indicated a particular increase in so-called secondary, “modern” anti-Semitism. Just over half of those surveyed said they were angry that “crimes against Jews were still being held over Germany’s head”.
And 50% said they are tired of hearing “about the German crime against the Jews again and again”.
Although classical anti-Semitism has decreased compared to 2004, it increased again after the summer of Gaza protests. Over 15% in the survey accused Jews of having too much influence in Germany and 18% said that because of their behaviour, Jews are partially responsible for their persecution.
The study’s authors were quite worried about the future, according to their findings. Although 87% of respondents see a clear threat in right-wing extremism, almost 50% are convinced the phenomenon should simply be ignored.
But this kind of thinking, “opens the door to right-wing populism”, Zick warned.
The study is based on a representative survey of 1,915 people between the ages of 16 and 95. They were surveyed from June to September, 2014.