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Bielefeld researchers notice significant increases in hostile sentiments against outgroups

Published on 16. Dezember 2011, 15:43 h

Results of the longitudinal study on 'Group Focused Enmity'

Germans increasingly claim that politics is unable to handle their problems. Feelings of disintegration increased during times of economic crisis. This negative estimation of their social settings leads to a variety of hostile sentiments against a range of minorities. These are main findings of the ten-year longitudinal study on 'Group Focused Enmity' (GFE, German: 'Gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeit') published by Bielefeld University's Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG). On Monday, 12th of December, Professor Dr. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Professor Dr. Andreas Zick, and their colleagues summarized their research and presented the tenth and final volume of the series 'Deutsche Zustände' [The state of Germany] in which the results are published.

The researchers explored a syndrome of Group Focused Enmity which consists of inter-related prejudices and hostilities against minorities in Germany. During the previous years contempt for the homeless, unemployed people, and handicapped person but also hostility towards immigrants increased significantly. Additionally higher status groups, like people with a higher income are distancing themselves more and more from the poorer members of society. Commitment to social norms and solidarity is determined by economistic social attitudes which value people and groups by costs and values.

The idea behind the concept Group Focused Enmity is that people denigrate other people because they belong to specific groups, for example, when these come from another country, practise another religion, are physically challenged, or economically better or worse off. The researchers in Bielefeld assume that prejudices towards different groups contribute to forming a syndrome of Group Focused Enmity centred on an ideology of inequality – that is, the basic idea that a person's value as a member of a certain group increases when that person considers members of other groups as being of less value. The research project is the largest study of prejudice in the world – not only because it has been running for ten years, but also because of the precise differentiation of various prejudices and their causes. A representative sample of the German population has been surveyed by telephosune every year since 2002. In May and June 2011, 2,000 people were asked about their opinions and judgments.

In their final analysis of these data from the last ten years, the researchers in Bielefeld examine how prejudices among people living in Germany have developed during this period. For example, they have analysed which factors are decisive for explaining prejudice among the Germans. They examine the political intentions of people with rightwing populist attitudes, and they try to explain how far high youth unemployment in Germany leads to disorientation and hostility towards foreigners. In addition, the new book addresses current problems and mechanisms that relate to the denigration and discrimination of weak groups.

In summary, the researchers at the IKG describe the last ten years as lacking in security, direction, or stability. The loss of security can be experienced in all major walks of life: politics, society, the economy, and religion – but also in lifestyle domains. The researchers consider that this state of uncertainty has become the new normality. In light of the consequences for Group Focused Enmity, it could well be described as an 'explosive situation as the permanent condition' (Wilhelm Heitmeyer). According to the researchers, a series of events have acted as a signal for these changes: the 11th of September 2001 with its consequences for Islamophobia, the introduction of the Hartz IV reforms of financial support for the unemployed in 2005, or the crises since 2008 (financial, economic, fiscal, and debt crises).

The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) is part of the Human Development, Conflict, and Violence profile of Bielefeld University. It focuses on the complex processes of social conflict and violence by examining, among others, the social frameworks and institutions that shape human existence and human development in various societies and contexts.

For further information in the Internet:
www.uni-bielefeld.de/ikg/

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Heitmeyer
Bielefeld University
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG)
Telephone: 0521 106-3164 (Office: 106-3162)
Email: ikg@uni-bielefeld.de

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick, Universität Bielefeld
Bielefeld University
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG)
Telephone: 0521 106-2442 (Office: 106-6917)
Email: zick@uni-bielefeld.de

Posted by JHeeren in General
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