Study: Right-wing extremist attitudes on the rise in East Germany

Typical right-wing extremist attitudes are on the rise in East Germany. That emerges from a study presented on Wednesday by experts from the University of Leipzig. According to this, the proportion of people with a firmly established, clearly right-wing extremist view of the world there has increased from eight and a half to nine and a half percent since 2018, while in western Germany it fell from 5.2 to three percent within this time, according to the survey.

According to the large-scale regular investigations carried out by the Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research at Leipzig University, comparable patterns were also found in numerous other dimensions that depict anti-democratic and right-wing extremist attitudes. The proportion of people in the East who support a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship increased from seven to 8.8 percent. In the west it fell from 2.7 to 1.8 percent.

Fundamental satisfaction with democracy fell in the east from 95.2 to 92.5 percent within two years, and in the west it rose slightly from 92.8 to 93.2 percent. Conspiracy mentalities and authoritarian attitudes were sometimes much more widespread in the East than in the West. "We can see very clearly that there is a gap between East and West Germany," said Oliver Decker, Director of the Competence Center, at the presentation of the study in Berlin.

According to the researchers, this also applied to xenophobia, although there was generally a decline there. The share of xenophobic people in the east fell slightly from 30.7 to 27.8 percent according to their results in the past two years. In the west it fell sharply from 21.5 to 13.7 percent.


The experts at the Leipzig Competence Center have been monitoring the development of right-wing extremist and anti-democratic attitudes in Germany since 2002 through regular surveys. Surveys are held every two years. Around 2500 people took part in this year's survey in May and June. You fill out questionnaires that have been the same since 2002. The investigations run under the name Leipzig Authoritarianism Study.

According to the researchers, a trend that has continued since 2014 with the recent rise in right-wing extremist attitudes has continued in eastern Germany. Overall, they were concerned. Their latest research points to "still high levels of xenophobia and far-right attitudes," they said, despite improvements in xenophobia. Authoritarian, anti-democratic attitudes are a "constant threat" to an open liberal society.

They were also particularly alarmed by an increase in anti-Semitic and conspiracy-ideological elements in the thinking of many people. These often had a "hinge function" and thus linked supporters of different milieus and political directions, emphasized Decker. Belief in conspiracy myths has spread among the population since the previous 2018 survey.

Accordingly, the proportion of German citizens with affinities for a conspiracy mentality rose from 30.8 to 38.4 percent within two years. According to the study, there was also a pronounced east-west difference. In eastern Germany the value rose from 34.4 to 51.4 percent during this period. This picture was also repeated in the conspiracy stories queried by the experts, which specifically referred to the currently rampant corona pandemic.

In the east, more than 60 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the corona crisis was talked about so big that a few can benefit from it". In the west it was significantly less, but even there the value was over 40 percent.

Decker warned that conspiracy myths could generally be considered "as a kind of gateway drug for an anti-modern worldview". They are at the same time a "bridge" that can connect extremely different social and cultural milieus with one another. This also applies to anti-feminism and Israel-related antisemitism.

Source: wochenblatt