Study: Right-Wing Attitudes Held by Cross-Section of Germans | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.11.2008
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Study: Right-Wing Attitudes Held by Cross-Section of Germans

According to a new study, 15 percent of Germans have right-wing extremist attitudes while a fifth say they feel hostility towards foreigners. A person's religious belief also seems to play a role.

Swastikas and other Nazi symbols are seen on headstones at a Jewish cemetery

Far-right attitudes, hostility to foreigners and anti-Semitic feelings are felt across Germany

The study, undertaken by the University of Leipzig on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, also shows that a number of those petitioned agreed with broad anti-Semitic attitudes.

Carried out between May and June, the study asked 2,426 Germans --1,921 in the west and 505 in the east -- between the ages of 14 and 91 years. The respondents were chosen from all social groups and from both urban and rural areas.

"A right-wing extremist attitude is not a fringe phenomenon, but is once again at the center of society," Elmar Braehler, one of the social scientists responsible for the report, told a press conference for its presentation in Berlin Thursday, Nov. 27.

He added that although the figures show that far-right attitudes are still entrenched, most of those who admitted to agreeing with extremist beliefs said they would never openly act on them.

No east-west divide say social scientists

Two policemen walk past antisemitic signs painted on the back of a Jewish school and Kindergarden in Berlin

A number of those polled admit to anti-Semitic ideas

In terms of geographical data, 39.3 percent of respondents in Saxony-Anhalt said they had a hostile attitude towards foreigners. Bavaria was second in the list with 39.1 percent, followed by Brandenburg (34.6 percent) and Mecklenburg-Pomerania (32.2 percent).

Bavaria had the highest number of people agreeing with anti-Semitic ideas while Mecklenburg-Pomerania had the highest number of people who were in favor of a dictatorship.

Anti-Semitic attitudes in the east of Germany were shown to have increased from 3.7 percent in 2006 to 7.9 percent.

The authors of the study stressed that there was no east-west divide when it came to right-wing extremist attitudes, saying that to suggest such a divide ignored the "social-spatial differences" like education and employment status as well as different "historical environments, educating ideals and understanding of democracy."

"West Germany is not an island," stressed Leipzig University's Oliver Decker, the second of the report's editors.

Church groups harboring far-right sentiments

The reports also showed that far-right attitudes were more likely to increase with age and that those who marked their religion as protestant were more likely to have a hostile attitude towards foreigners than Catholics (22 percent to 17.6 percent).

Protestants were also more in favor of a dictatorship (3.9 percent to 2.8 percent) while more Catholics admitted to having anti-Semitic feelings (9.6 percent to 8.5 percent). The study polled 951 Protestants and 813 Catholics.

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