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Study: Stable racism stats, but 'new right' ideas permeate Germany

A new study suggests a strong base for "new right" ideas in Germany. It found that more than a quarter of Germans believe they no longer really enjoy free speech, and that "establishment" parties cheat the public.

The research by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) found a stable or even slightly reduced proportion of "classical" racist, xenophobic or homophobic views in its two-yearly attempt to gauge the public pulse on a range of issues. Less than 10 percent of respondents classified themselves as racist, only 6 percent as anti-Semitic, 9 percent as sexist, 10 percent as homophobic, and 39 percent as skeptical of newcomers to Germany from abroad. 

On the issue of receiving refugees, even, more than two-thirds of participants "strongly agreed" with the statement, "Germany should let people in who are fleeing wars." Just  2.8 percent strongly disagreed, according to the study, released on Monday evening. 

GMF Logo Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

The FES is named after Germany's first president following the First World War, a former leader of the Social Democrats

Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed strongly supported the idea of putting an upper limit on the number of asylum requests approved, however, while almost one quarter believed that Germans' quality of life might suffer as a result of the new arrivals in 2015.

New focus on 'new right' ideas

The political foundation - which is independent but has close ties to Germany's center-left Social Democrats - investigated what it called "new right" ideologies for the first time - apparently a response to developments like the so-called refugee crisis and the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Almost 40 percent of the people surveyed were of the opinion that Islam was undermining German culture. Meanwhile, 28 percent agreed with the statement: "You cannot freely voice your opinion in Germany without getting into trouble." A similar quota agreed that: "The ruling [political] parties are betraying the people." Again, just under 30 percent agreed either generally or very strongly with the statement: "It is time to show greater resistance to modern-day politics." 

The foundation described such ideas as a more "subtle form and intellectual guise" with which to propagate nationalist positions.

Deutschland Berlin Pressekonferenz AfD Petry und Holm (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

The report found clear connections between AfD support and "new right" ideas

The FES report found that voters were more likely to agree with these "new right" ways of thinking if they also supported more right-wing political parties, saying that 84 percent of the professed AfD voters they surveyed supported such positions. Take this same sub-group and look towards the more "traditional" racist values, and further correlations emerge - with 68 percent supporting xenophobic positions, 64 percent opposing Islam, 59 percent opposing Roma, 88 percent opposing asylum-seekers and 68 percent voicing disdain for Germany's long-term unemployed. As a national percentage, such views echo only with a small minority. 

Reversing Reagan - the vocal minority

Presenting this rather divided portrayal of the public pulse, FES even saw fit to highlight one segment's of the report's summary, beginning: "The population's fundamentally positive attitude, its calmness and its willingness to engage on refugees' behalf is underestimated. It stands against a small, tough minority, which does not just reject refugees, but rather recoils from other social groups as well and tends towards extreme-right ideologies." 

According to the researchers' conclusions, the refugee issue had become an "exemplary" one for a country with a tolerant but silent majority and a vocal, dissatisfied minority.

The telephone study, researched at the University of Bielefeld on the FES' behalf, called on just under 1,900 participants with an average age of 50.3 years, with a slight majority of the participants women. People are asked to respond to a series of statements on a scale of 1-5, 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree."

msh/tj (dpa, epd)

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