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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02328

Climate of hate: similar correlates of far right electoral support and right-wing hate crimes in Germany

  • 1Bielefeld University, Germany
  • 2University of Münster, Germany

Since 2015, far right parties drawing heavily on radical anti-refugee rhetoric gained electoral support in Germany while the number of political hate crimes targeting refugees rose. Both phenomena – far right electoral support and prevalence of right-wing hate crimes – have theoretically and empirically been linked with socio-structural and contextual variables. However, systematic empirical research on these links is scattered and scarce at best. We combine official statistics on political hate crimes targeting refugees in Germany and far right electoral support of the far right party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) in the German national elections 2017 with socio-structural variables (proportion of foreigners and unemployment rate) and survey data collected in a representative survey (N = 1,506) in 2016. We aggregate and combine data for all German municipalities except Berlin which were the level of analysis for the current study. In path analyses, we find socio-structural variables to be unrelated with each other but significantly correlated with both criterion variables in a systematic fashion: proportion of foreigners was negatively while unemployment rate was positively linked with far right electoral support. Right-wing crime was linked positively with unemployment rate across Germany and positively with proportion of foreigners only in East Germany while proportion of foreigners was unrelated to right-wing crime in West Germany. When including survey measures into the model, they were linked with socio-structural variables in the predicted fashion – intergroup contact correlated positively with proportion of foreigners, collective deprivation correlated positively with unemployment rates, and both predicted extreme right-wing attitudes. However, their contribution to the explained variance in outcome variables above and beyond socio-structural variables was neglectable. We argue that both far right-wing electoral support and right-wing hate crime can be conceptualized as behavioral forms of political extremism shaped through socio-structural and contextual factors and discuss implications for preventing political extremism.

Keywords: Right-wing extremism, Populist parties, Intergroup Contact, collective deprivation, socio-structural variables

Received: 12 Jun 2019; Accepted: 30 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Rees, Rees, Hellmann and Zick. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jonas Rees, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany, jonas.rees@uni-bielefeld.de