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Os abandonados | Les Oubliés…

Estudo em redutos populistas de direita na Alemanha e na França
 

Este estudo demonstra que muitas pessoas que vivem em regiões estruturalmente fracas, com uma alta proporção de eleitores populistas de direita, sentem-se abandonadas pela política. As 500 entrevistas de porta em porta que foram conduzidas para o estudo destacam os desafios que os entrevistados enfrentam em sua vida cotidiana e demonstram que as condições sócio-políticas atuais – e não fatores como a xenofobia – estão frequentemente na raiz de sua raiva e preocupações sobre o futuro. Este estudo usa as visões autênticas dos entrevistados para decodificar as maneiras pelas quais eles pensam. O objetivo é permitir que os pontos de vista dessa parte da população sejam empregados no desenvolvimento de recomendações de ação que ajudem a reconquistar sua confiança. O estudo foi o primeiro de seu tipo a ser realizado sobre as eleições que ocorreram em 2017 na Alemanha e na França.

The most important results from Germany and France

There is a considerable discrepancy between the issues that people view as the ‘biggest problems’ facing their country (which are immigration and the economy) and the challenges that they face in their everyday lives (precarious working conditions, worries about money and declining social infrastructure). Media and politics at the national level are criticised for not having properly adopted this ‘citizens’ agenda’. This problem also results in a sense of unfairness and disadvantage. As such, when people in these regions devalue others, especially migrants, they do so as a reaction to their own experiences of devaluation (this follows the ‘logic of comparative devaluation’). Importantly, the interviews demonstrated no intrinsic patterns of xenophobia.

The central narratives employed by the populists are far less prevalent in their strongholds than is generally assumed. When people are asked to describe political contexts in their own words, issues such as Islamisation, Euroscepticism, sweeping criticism of the media and the emphasis on national identity hardly ever crop up. Instead, more often than not the European Union, for example, tends to be viewed as part of the solution, not the problem.

Nationalist clamouring or demands that include a ‘Germany first!’ approach, are ultimately based on the view that politics sets the wrong priorities and focuses on issues that do not reflect the realities of people’s everyday lives. However, the interviewees did not necessarily view measures aimed at tackling the refugee crisis, or foreign policy commitments, as fundamentally wrong. Nevertheless, the interviewees often believed that a focus on immigration and foreign policy tended to result in less investment and fewer policy measures at the local level that would help tackle the tangible challenges that these people face in their everyday lives. This includes increased economic pressure faced by people on low incomes and the gaps in public services. Finally, many interviewees believe that politics has withdrawn from certain social and geographical areas. Importantly, this feeling has led to a strong sense of abandonment.

Conclusions

Areas now exist which are marked by ‘political abandonment’. To regain the trust of the people who live in these areas, it will be necessary to establish a local presence, provide recognition and resolve the problems that they face. This study outlines five relevant fields of action as a means of contributing towards this aim:

  • 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.


A film team (snice movie production) has accompanied the study process and created the short film “Les Oubliés – The politically abandoned”. The movie was supported by Alfred Herrhausen Society. English and French subtitles available via the small wheel at the bottom right.


About the study “Return to the politically abandoned”

Das Progressive Zentrum and its French partner Liegey Muller Pons conducted 500 door-to-door interviews in structurally weaker regions of Germany and France that are also characterised by a high proportion of right-wing populist voters.

In line with ‚cultural intelligence‘, the study is aimed at strengthening mutual understanding between Germany and France through social narratives as part of a pilot project. The interviews were conducted with people who are often spoken about but whose voice is rarely heard in public debates. They took place in three regions in eastern and western Germany and in northern and southern France. The respondents were asked general questions about their situation, their living and social environment and their country. This included questions such as ‘What is going well/badly in the area in which you live?’ and ‘What would you change if you went into politics?’.

This open approach enabled a discourse analysis to be undertaken of the information gathered during the interviews with the aim of identifying the ways in which people genuinely think about their own lives and their country. The results contribute to the debate about the response to the shift to the right and offer a qualitative supplement to the representative studies that have been published elsewhere in this field.

About the author

Johannes Hillje, Policy Fellow Das Progressive Zentrum_sw

Johannes Hillje is a political and communications consultant working in Berlin and Brussels. He works for institutions, political parties, companies and NGOs. In 2014, he managed the EU election campaign of the European Green Party. Previously he also worked for the UN in New York and as a journalist for ZDF. Johannes authored the book “Propaganda 4.0” (Dietz Verlag), which was published in 2017. He holds a Master’s degree in Politics and Communications from the London School of Economics.

The study project was led by Philipp Sälhoff, former Head of Programme at Das Progressive Zentrum.

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