A new study shows that a worryingly high proportion of Germans agree with statements expressing anti-foreigner positions. Islam and Muslims are met with particular reservations.
The study says Germans are suspicious of Muslims
The study released Wednesday called "Right-wing extremism in Germany 2010" argues that extreme views have penetrated to the heart of German society.
But, although between 10 and 20 percent of the population approve of traditional far-right positions such as the need for a dictator, or say that the Nazis weren't so bad after all, policy makers will be more alarmed at the high levels of approval given to statements expressing disapproval of foreigners in Germany.
For example, 32 percent approve of the statement that "When there's a shortage of jobs, foreigners should be sent back home;" 34 percent agree or strongly agree with the statement that "Foreigners only come here to exploit Germany's social welfare system;" and 35 percent think that "Germany has a dangerous level of foreign influence as a result of the many foreigners in the country."
In each of these cases, approval was considerably higher in the former East Germany than in the former West.
Majority critical of Islam
It's not only neo-Nazis who hold extremist views
The survey, which was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Leipzig for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is linked to the Social Democratic party, also found high levels of chauvinism across the board, with some 27 percent of the population thinking that the main task of the German government should be "to ensure that Germany gets the power and influence it is entitled to."
But extreme views turned into majority opinions when it came to Islam, with 55 percent saying they could understand that people find Arabs unpleasant, and 58 percent saying that the practice of the Muslim religion should be "considerably restricted."
Indeed, an absolute majority of those who otherwise did not hold extremist views agreed with these two statements.
The survey was carried out in April, before the latest controversy over the role of Islam in German society.
The researchers have carried out a similar survey every two years since 2002, and, after the figures for 2008 (during an economic boom) turned out to be considerably lower than those of the years before, this year's figures have returned roughly to the norm.
Although the researchers argue that the survey proves that right-wing extremist views have reached the "middle" of society, their own figures show that such views are far more prevalent among the elderly, the poorly educated and the unemployed.
Author: Michael Lawton
Editor: Rob Turner