European Interest

Populism on the rise in Germany

Flickr/Stephan Dinges/CC BY-NC 2.0
A demonstration of the far-right AfD in Frankurt, Germany.

The latest “Populism Barometer” – a new study published on October 1 – has warned that populist attitudes in Germany are on the rise, particularly from within the political centre.

The study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a think tank, in conjunction with the Berlin Social Science Centre, found that one in three voters now sympathises with populist policies.

What’s more, the number of sampled voters who identify as politically centrist has decreased by four percentage points, to just 32.8%.

As reported by Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster, the survey, which sampled 3,400 voters in May and August, measured populist attitudes around an individual’s tendency to sympathise with three core factors: anti-establishment attitudes, anti-pluralism and the desire for more “sovereignty”.

Curiously, around one in eight voters with populist sympathies still identify as part of the political centre. According to the study, such a trend could benefit the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has leveraged its populist tendencies to mobilize traditionally centrist voters.

“Right-wing voters support the AfD because the party is right wing. But voters in the middle will also vote AfD because the party speaks to their populist sympathies,” write the study’s authors, Robert Vehrkamp and Wolfgang Merkel.

The survey also found that as many as 13% of voters who identify as part of the centre refused to rule out voting for the AfD in the next election.

“Like a Trojan horse, populist policies are being deployed by the AfD to infiltrate the political centre,” said Vehrkamp and Merkel. “Supposedly centrist AfD voters will vote in favour of populism but will ultimately end up choosing an ideology that is actually far further right than their actual beliefs. This is because populism is a ‘bare-bones ideology’ has been fleshed out with far-right policies.”

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