Supposedly open-minded, highly-educated people with above average incomes exhibited similar levels of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia as the less well-off, the research found.
The recent financial and economic crisis is largely to blame for this “freezing of the social climate,” said researchers from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) at Bielefeld University.
“During the crisis many high earners experienced for the first time what financial losses mean,” study leader Wilhelm Heitmeyer said.
With this realisation, carefully learned social norms and values were quickly forgotten, and ideas of so-called social Darwinism, or survival of the fittest, increased. Feeling threatened by the financial crisis also lead to a creeping “radicalising of the middle class,” with levels of anti-Islamic sentiments up significantly among political moderates and liberals, while this actually dipped slightly among conservatives.
Every fourth study participant agreed to the statement, “Muslims should be prevented from immigrating to Germany” – an increase of five percentage points from last year’s results.
Anti-Semitic sentiments were also more socially acceptable among wealthier respondents.
Negative feelings toward the homeless or jobless increased only among those who earned a net monthly income of more than €2,500 per month.
The long-term study of group-oriented misanthropy in Germany began in 2002 and focuses on how different social, religious and ethnic backgrounds are received in by the country's citizens.