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"Wir sind das Volk"

Two current investigations into the supporters of the AfD

"To hell with the right-wing populists. But - unfortunately- -they win elections." The Bertelsmann-Stiftung and the German Insttute for economic research analyse the causes.

  Jürgen Castendyk | 29.10.2018

There are right-wing and leftist populists in Germany. But the right-wing populists, like the AfD, dominate the headlines. Despite democratic taboos, xenophobic slogans and verbal derailments, the number of AFD voters is increasing. The AfD has become the largest opposition party in the Bundestag and represented in almost all national parliaments. Now in Bavaria. Extra-parliamentary support the Identitären, the Reichsbürger*innen and the Pegida and more and more clearly the AFD. A distinction must be made here between the conservative supporters of the AfD, the national and national right-wing extremists, as well as the right-wing extremists appearing militantly at demonstrations. Despite all differences, a common populist ideology has emerged with the aim of initiating a "conservative revolution". With supposedly moral values of the West in their baggage, right-wing populists claim exclusive representation: only they have recognized the true will of the people. Only they are the ones really entitled to speak for the entire people. "We are the people". Foreigners, migrants and refugees are not part of the German people ("integration is a lie"). As "non-Germans" they have to be deported. This exposes the aspired conservative revolution as a national racist policy.

With pitchforks against the elites
To make their undemocratic goals a success, right-wing populists are fighting the "system", meaning the democratic order and its representatives. It is their conviction that they are the "corrupt elites" who strive for a "rearrangement" of Germans through unrestricted immigration. Thus they betray the people's will for a uniform German culture. The elites include elected politicians of the "old parties" and journalists of the "lying press". The Pegida activist Tatjana Festerling rushed to a rally in Leipzig on January 11, 2018: "If the majority of citizens are still clearly in their right mind, then they would resort to pitchforks and these folk-betraying, inciting ethnic elites from the parliaments, from the courts , beat them out of the churches and out of the press houses. "They, who used the word" incitement to the people "for the first time for Pegida (Legida) as a fighting term against the" system ", was charged with incitement.

Populism Barometer 2018 Bertelsmann Foundation: "Populism has arrived in the middle of society."
The annual study, published this year in April of this year, recorded a further increase in populism compared to 2017, the year of the general election. The authors of the barometer say: "More than three out of ten eligible voters in Germany (30.4 percent) are populist. At the same time, the share of explicitly unpopular voters has decreased by a good 11 percent. Much of the increase in populist attitudes among voters is explained by the increasingly populist centre. "
The representative empirical investigation is based on eight given statements (items) on the dimensions of "anti-establishment", "pro-people sovereignty" and "anti-pluralism." A concrete statement on immigration policy is not found in the items. In the barometer only those were classified as populist, who more or less agreed to all relevant requirements. The focus of the barometer is on the question of how often populists find themselves among the supporters of the parties. It is not surprising that the percentage of populists in the AfD is highest. It is the lowest among the Greens.
The interesting question is why populism is constantly spreading in Germany. The author explains: "Social division, social disintegration, new cultural and social conflicts and the still unfinished unity are only keywords." Added to this is a "self-referential cosmopolitan elite discourse". As a solution no less than a general policy change is required.
German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), German Socio-economic Panel:
The panel has been an annual survey of the German resident population for 25 years. The results provide a situation analysis describing social change in society. The last panel appeared in July of this year and highlights in particular the supporters of the AfD. A weighted factor analysis of answers to the questions posed identified the likelihood of respondents supporting AfD.

"AFD voters are not deposed, but xenophobic."
The results of the panel contradict the assumption that especially the socially disadvantaged people are close to the AfD. So it says in the panel: "If one draws conclusions from the above results, it is misguided to see behind the AfD supporters social losers. Neither are they objective nor do they feel that way. "Even a privileged person with a university degree and a secure job can be xenophobic, even if he is more than satisfied with his social and economic situation. The evidence for the above-average xenophobia of the privileged person are their negative answers to the questions "... whether refugees make Germany a better place to live, are good for the economy, enrich Germany culturally, and measured by the concern about immigration". For the authors of the panel, it suggests that "AfD supporters are not necessarily concerned about the general economic situation, crime and social cohesion, but that they fear negative consequences from refugees and immigration." living in an urban upper rural area, has no influence after the panel. However, if respondents indicated that they "feel completely German," there is a "fourfold increase in the probability of supporting the AfD." The author concludes in the summary of the results of the panel: "To put a fine point on the matter one can therefore say that AfD supporters are hostile to foreigners, but otherwise hardly differ from other Germans. "

Does the reality of xenophobia look different?
Both representative studies show the limits of quantitative empirical analyzes. They do not sufficiently capture the emotions of respondents. But xenophobia is characterized by personal emotions, resentments and conspiracy theories. Spaces are also visible within empirical studies. The Populism Barometer does not define what populism means. It also does not answer the question of who is classified as a political centre. Data on the educational, income and age structure of respondents are not shown. The panel makes no distinction between supporters of the AfD and right-wing extremists who fundamentally reject the democratic foundations of the constitutional state. The question of why the bourgeois middle class continues to radicalize can not be answered convincingly. Despite these limitations, these studies are important because they show few signs of the development of real-world right-wing populism.

We must become clearer and louder against right-wing populism.
Major demonstrations, such as those in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, are politically important as protests in order to make it clear that the so-called centre of society is resisting right-wing populism and xenophobia. In Hannover, the flash mobs of the initiative "Pier - Create Safe Harbours!" have led to political changes. The regional assembly has already approved the request for additional reception of boat refugees. It is expected that the council of the state capital Hannover will join. The migrant self-help organizations should actively participate in further actions. Equally important is the rejection of legal arguments and demands in the professional and private sphere. One should clearly and clearly contradict and do not shy away from conflicts. The acceptance of an invitation from right-wing populists to public discussions may be useful to clarify counter-positions.

Translated from the German by D.Roscoe B.A.hons

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