The phenomenon is already known from Austria: ultra-right parties like the FPÖ are not only elected by old gentlemen with loden coats, but also by a large proportion of voters with a migrant background. Here it is particularly citizens with a family background from the Balkans and Hungary. The first figures now suggest that the Alpine country is not a unique selling point. The situation is similar in Germany.
A study that examined the voting behavior of migrants in the 2017 federal election came to the conclusion that hardly any people of Muslim origin voted for the extremist AfD. The Islamophobic attitude had a deterrent effect on them. Perhaps this no longer seems to apply. “Because they’re cleaning up here” is often cited as the reason for the cross by the right-wing extremist AfD in Germany. The quote does not come from an East German protest voter, but from a voter who describes himself as an Arab and immigrated to the country decades ago. He is bothered by immigration and crime, both of which are too high in his view.
Political education experts who are in direct contact with people with a migration background have noticed in recent years that voters from Muslim families often express the intention of voting for the AfD. On average there are only around two percent of migrants, but it is clearly a growing group. A distinction is made between two groups that show sympathy for the AfD: The first group consists of people who do little to question their prejudices and conspiracy ideas, for example prejudices against Sinti and Roma, racism against black people. The conspiracy theories about Corona that were spread on Arabic-language social media during the pandemic also had an impact. These attitudes are also widespread among migrants and coincide with the positions of the AfD.
The other spectrum of Arab voters for the right-wing extremists cannot be so clearly addressed, because they feel rejected by the majority of society and therefore want to do damage to the state. So they are the typical protest voters that election research knows more than well from the majority of society. Here, the voters are not concerned with individual positions of the AfD, but with the fact that they want to expose or disempower the establishment to some extent. Recent studies on the voting behavior of migrants who are frustrated with the system confirm this thesis: they feel in good hands with the AfD.
Election research has long agreed that voters with a migration history cannot fundamentally be distinguished from voters without a migration history. The convergence has been going on for decades. The fact that the Social Democrats were significantly stronger among people of Turkish origin had to do with the fact that parties to the left of the center were perceived as more open to the problems of immigrants. In addition, the so-called “guest workers” from Turkey were, sociologically speaking, part of the workers in Germany. It made more than sense that they would vote Social Democratic even after receiving German citizenship. However, its dominance over the SPD has been steadily declining for years. The conservative CDU has also recognized this, so far not exactly the classic party for the migrant milieu, which is trying harder than before to attract middle-class Muslim voters who have conservative positions.
At the same time, voters are also becoming more similar in their extreme positions. Xenophobia and racism are just as widespread among migrants as in any other population group. In this respect, it is not surprising if AfD positions are adopted by the Islamic electorate in Europe. There have been frequent reports in Germany about Germans from Russia voting for the AfD. The above-mentioned study on the 2017 German federal election showed that around 15 percent of them voted for the AfD, a fifth more than the general population. “The fact that the party rejects immigration is not a problem for its Russian-German voters. Some Germans from Russia see themselves as the ‘real Germans’ who had to defend their identity as resettled people,” said the head of the study. In the group of people from Russia, there was distrust towards refugees from Syria. The respondents were not bothered by the fact that the Syrians did not spoke German and received a lot of benefits from the state.
This form of competitive thinking is also evident in other migrant groups who came to Germany decades ago. The accusation: The new immigrants quickly achieve the status that previous immigrants had to acquire over the years. This can lead to a rejection of immigration, which can lead to the AfD. However, there is currently a lack of reliable, more recent studies on the topic.
The pandemic has certainly led to an increase in this tendency towards right-wing extremist parties. Among migrants, as in the rest of the population, there were people who were susceptible to conspiracy ideas and refused to be vaccinated. In these circles, the AfD’s protest also received support from migrant groups.
The AfD has also recognized this voter potential. An association close to the party was founded precisely for this target group. The group goes to schools and promotes right-wing ideas, including among migrants. The club is not expected to play a particularly important role in upcoming election campaigns. The AfD association is more concerned with a long-term signal, not an election campaign trick. The right-wing FPÖ has already had similar success in Austria, including among migrants. The AfD is trying to use a tactic here that it is already trying with the Jewish community: it is not an anti-Semitic party, after all there is a group called “Jews in the AfD”. Is that supposed to be an argument for a party whose leader once said that the National Socialists were just “bird shit in German history”?
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