Study: Anti-Immigrant Beliefs Persist in Germany After 2015 Refugee Crisis

An election campaign poster of Germany’s AfD party, short for Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), is displayed Monday beside a road in Berlin. The poster for the European Parliament elections shows the painting ‘Slave Market’ from 1866 by the French artist Jean-Leon Gerome. Plastered across the art is the slogan: Top slogan reads ‘So that Germany does not become a ‘Eurabia!’ The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., owner of the painting, has asked the German far right party AfD not to use the picture any more. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

(CN) – Rising anti-immigration sentiment in Eastern Germany has largely been unaffected by the increased presence of refugees, according to a new study released Saturday.

The study, presented at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., examined data from over 200 German municipalities to better understand how and why Germany has been experiencing an uptick in political support for anti-immigrant policies.

The issue has become increasingly topical given that since 2015, refugees displaced from local war-torn nations such as Iraq and Syria have begun to settle in Germany in significant numbers.

The study observes that after refugees began arriving in Germany, anti-immigration platforms have picked up remarkable steam. The past four years alone have seen poll numbers increase in support for Alternative for Germany, a German anti-immigration party, from 6% to 16% on the national scale and from 7% to 27% if specifically examining Eastern Germany.

Delia Baldassarri, sociologist at New York University and co-author of the study discovered that individuals who support anti-immigration policies are virtually unaffected in their beliefs when living in communities with high amounts of actual immigrants.

“Our survey and behavioral measures show widespread anti-immigrant sentiments, but these are entirely unaffected by the presence of refugees in respondents’ hometowns,” according to the study.

This suggests that an individual’s anti-immigrant leanings can be practically unshaken by first-hand exposure to immigration populations, regardless of one’s proximity to them.

The study reports, however, that the simple presence of refugees is not enough to cause a person to develop anti-immigration feelings when no such feelings were felt before.

“Our findings suggest that in times of national economic stability, even in cases where immigrant arrivals are sudden, large and highly politicized, natives do not necessarily become more anti-immigrant or anti-refugee in their political opinions or behavior as a consequence of local exposure,” the study said.

Researchers also noted that as refugee populations increase, support is likely to go up for more right-wing German political parties and positions. The study reports conducting a survey that found more than a third of individuals polled agreed with the idea that refugees only come to the country to experience welfare benefits, and that German child support should only be offered to those native to Germany.

The study observes that while support for these ideas were bolstered, the support was seen increasing at completely equal rates in communities with high levels of refugees compared to communities with low levels of refugees. Researchers find that this further supports the idea that direct exposure to immigrants has a shockingly nonexistent effect on people’s feelings towards immigration itself.

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