Cultural divide and the new radical right-wing party in Germany (AfD)

Contributors:
  1. Steffen Huck

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Description: It has been argued that the support for the new right-wing party, AfD, in Germany is not driven by socio-economic factors (Lengfeld 2017; Schröder 2018). On the basis of data from the German socio-economic panel Schröder (2018) concludes that AfD support can be found in all social milieus and that the single most explanatory variable is resentment against migrants. Wilde et al. (2019) argue that the divide between AfD supporters and the mainstream reflects the cultural divide between communitarianism and cosmopolitanism: support for the populist is seen as a response to the elite’s embracement of cosmopolitanism. In this study, we conjecture that this cultural divide manifests itself in the degree of familiarity with “modernism” which shapes the aesthetic language and semiotics of the elites. In order to study this presumed link we create an index measuring familiarity with modernism, beginning with Bauhaus aesthetics and reaching into elements of postmodernism in TV entertainment. Below we describe how we will create this index. Our main hypothesis is that the index will correlate with support for the right-wing AfD and that this relationship will survive after controlling for measures for general education, socio-economic status and authoritarian leanings. Notice that we focus on familiarity with modernist aesthetics and not preference – as we believe that disenfranchisement with the elitists stems from a feeling of being left behind that is triggered by lack of understanding. Also, disliking the elite’s form/design language could be endogenous to political preference while it appears unlikely that knowledge/familiarity is. We also check for familiarity with low-brow culture and state as a somewhat more speculative secondary hypothesis that such familiarity may also correlate with AfD support (simply because we conjecture that people’s desire to enjoy some type of cultural output does not vary in political leanings – so, this is a cultural replacement hypothesis.) We also examine a whole range of cultural milieu questions. The main purpose here is to use these questions, together with our modernism index and questions relating to the everyday world for a cluster analysis in the spirit of Bourdieu (1979). For that analysis we will exclude preferences for political parties, measures for authoritarianism, racism, and socioeconomic variables. Rather we want to explore whether the main cultural and lived-in world clusters that emerge differ in levels of authoritarianism and support for the AfD. We conjecture that they will. While our study is largely explorative in its nature we do have one central ex ante hypothesis which, given the large space that we explore, requires pre-registration for ex post credibility.

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