Europe & the World

Return to the politically abandoned: Conversations in right-wing populist strongholds in Germany and France

2018 | Johannes Hillje

Why are more and more Europeans supporting populists? The significant gains made by these parties in Germany, Italy and Sweden underline the urgency of understanding the causes and appeal of populism. To uncover those, the study “Return to the politically abandoned: Conversations in right-wing populist strongholds in Germany and France” has applied a groundbreaking approach.

Return to the politically abandoned-Conversations in right-wing populist strongholds in Germany and France_Das Progressive Zentrum_Johannes Hillje_CoverThe study team has knocked at more than 5,000 doors in twelve structurally weak regions with a high proportion of right-wing populist voters, holding 500 conversations of averaging 25 minutes while asking open questions.

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Key takeaways of the study

The study found that current socio-political conditions – and not factors such as xenophobia – are often the drivers for anger and anxiety about the future. It has revealed a considerable discrepancy between the challenges that people face in their everyday lives (precarious working conditions, worries about money and declining social infrastructure) and the issues that they view as the ‘biggest problems’ facing their country (which are immigration and the economy).

Johannes Hillje, study author and Policy Fellow at Das Progressive Zentrum, summarises the results: “Many interviewees feel politically abandoned. They think that neither politics nor media take their worries seriously enough. These are primarily socio-political rooted, such as low wages and a declining social and transport infrastructure.”

The author has translated these and other findings into recommendations aimed at regaining the trust of those people who live in these areas. He has outlined five relevant fields of action:

  • solidarity with the resident population is essential if solidarity is to be expressed with newcomers;
  • infrastructure as a means of promoting equal opportunities;
  • strengthening structures through the presence of political parties at the local level;
  • make structural change compatible with society;
  • and confidence and assertiveness in the face of right-wing populist narratives.

Partners of the English version of The politically abandoned.

Johannes Hillje

published on

18 October 2018