Study finds views of German voters shifting to the right

21.09.2023, 15:39

By Anne-Béatrice Clasmann, dpa

According to a new study, far-right extremist attitudes have increased sharply in Germany since 2021, with the researchers determining that one in 12 adults now hold an extreme right-wing worldview.

The study, conducted by researchers at Germany's Bielefeld University, was commissioned and published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is closely tied to the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

The survey, which is conducted every two years, examines right-wing extremist attitudes among German voters.

The latest study, released on Thursday, found that the proportion of Germans with far-right extremist views is now 8.3%, a substantial increase from the 2% to 3% found in previous years.

The study's authors said that extreme right-wing attitudes were found across the political spectrum and not only among supporters of far-right politicians.

"Among those who clearly position themselves as 'left-wing,' there are more people who share an established right-wing extremist worldview (12%) than is the case in the political centre (7%)," noted the researchers, who were led by social psychologist Andreas Zick.

The telephone survey, conducted between January 2 and February 28 by the Duisburg-based UADS Institute, asked 2,027 to position themselves in response to various statements, such as whether they would support a dictatorship.

Based on the total sample, the authors said the survey carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

The study's authors define the central characteristic of right-wing extremism as "an ideology of inequality and violence or the approval of violence to implement the ideology."

Polls of German voters have found a similar shift toward the right, with the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) surging in support while the SPD and Greens tumble.

Study co-author Beate Küpper said the results suggest that the AfD is succeeding in winning over "particularly xenophobic non-voters."

Compared to previous years, significantly more survey respondents said they felt their freedom of expression has been curtailed.

The study also found more people sharing the far-right view that "different peoples should not mix with each other."

The survey also found more Germans now consider themselves politically right-of-centre, rising to 15.5% from just under 10% in the most recent survey.

Voters who back the centre-right CDU/CSU bloc, the party of former chancellor Angela Merkel, are comparatively unlikely to support far-right views. Küpper said pundits in mainstream debate in Germany seem to underestimate the commitment of CDU/CSU voters to democratic values.

The survey found that 30% agreed with the statement, "The ruling parties are deceiving the people" - almost twice as many as two years earlier. The proportion of those who approve of political violence more than doubled from 5.3% to 13.2%.

This year's survey also asked Germans what worries them most in connection to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The study found that while concerns about an expansion of the war are relatively dominant (62%), worries about rising energy prices top the list (66%). Women were generally more concerned about the effects of war than men.

There are also significant differences between people living in the former West Germany and the former East Germany. According to the data, around 45% of people in the former West Germany fear that they will not be able to maintain their own standard of living in the long term as a consequence of this war.