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“An Acceptable Scandal? A Study of Public Response to Xenophobic Political Rhetoric in Germany” by Melis Tusiray

A man was sent to the hospital after being attacked by two men who called him a “dirty foreigner,” police said on Saturday. The man suffered head injuries and bruising after his attackers struck him with a bottle in a street of the Lichtenberg ward in the east of the Berlin

This did not occur during the height of Nazi power.

Nor did it occur after World War II as a result of Neo-Nazi backlash.

This occurred in 2007, over 50 years after Germany began trying to overcome its troubled past. Many argue that incidents such as this one are the result of a minority of violent extremists, that such groups will always have a niche in a pluralist democracy. However, when one examines Germany’s governmental efforts to integrate immigrants, there is evidence of institutionalized racism there as well. According to the 2006 report from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), which measures and compares migrant integration among 28 European countries, Germany scored about 50 percent for immigrant integration, doing the worst in access to nationality.1


As Germany continues its European Union (EU) integration process, and negotiations are opened for Turkey’s entrance into the EU, it becomes increasingly important to study attitudes toward immigrants in Germany. Despite the fact that Germany describes itself as a modern, secular and pluralistic democracy, its sociopolitical landscape suggests that there are significant shortcomings, especially when it comes to institutionalized racism and discrimination against immigrants. The question that this paper asks is: with a long history of discrimination against immigrants, is there a shift in public opinion away from xenophobia and toward a more moderate multiculturalism, or is the German public still willing to allow the discrimination to continue?

In the last 50 years, immigrants have been moving to Germany and Germany has had difficulty accepting this aspect of its national identity. Shortly after World War II, Germany actively recruited immigrants to provide much-needed labor during the Economic Miracle. These immigrant workers of the 1950s were labeled as “guest workers,” implying that they would eventually return to their home countries. After official recruitment ended, various laws were implemented throughout the 1960s and 1970s to encourage the guest workers to return home. Although some workers went home, the majority found ways to remain in Germany, eventually comprising the first generation of Germany’s approximately eight million immigrants.3

Germany has developed two mainstream responses when it comes to immigration. The political left supports integration, placing emphasis on improved education and easier access to citizenship for guest workers. The political right continues to endorse a Leitkultur (leading culture) in Germany, pushing to make it easier to deport immigrants and harder for them to gain/maintain citizenship.4 When the left-wing parties such as the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)5 and the Alliance ’90/Green6 are in power, the laws are liberalized. This liberalization includes making it easier for immigrants to remain in Germany, attain legal status and have dual citizenship When right-wing parties such as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)7 and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU)8 are in power, these laws are changed to prevent dual citizenships or to make it more difficult for immigrants to remain in Germany.

In the 1980s, the CDU came into power under the leadership of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Kohl set forth three points of official policy regarding immigration: end the flow of migrants coming into Germany, motivate current migrants in Germany to return to their, and fully integrate migrants who had been in Germany for a longer time.9 Kohl’s campaign emphasized his second point – encouraging immigrants to go home – and this strategy is recognized as the reason why the CDU won the elections that year.10

The CDU has a long history of utilizing xenophobia to win elections and pass legislation. According to Peter Lösche, former professor of political science at the Georg-August University in Göttingen, “The CDU is a highly pragmatic party that doesn’t shy away from using the anti-foreigner card to reinforce prejudices and appeal to right-wing elements in the population.”11

Most recently, the CDU premier12 of Hesse, Roland Koch,13 centered his re-election campaign on stricter laws against criminal youth, with an emphasis on foreign criminality. Koch proposed harsher punishments for offenders and easier ways for officials to deport immigrant criminal offenders. The comments he made during his presentation were declared racist and xenophobic by minority organizations and opposing political parties.14 Some have accused Koch of using those comments as a tactic to manipulate the public and gain support from more conservative voters. Many journalists have drawn parallels between this and tactics used by Koch in 1999, right before a state election where he eventually won a majority.15 In 2008, however, Koch ended up losing support in the state elections and is now struggling to remain in power.

Through the lens of the 1999 and 2008 political campaigns of conservative politician Roland Koch, I hypothesized that the difference in the political polls between 1999 and 2008, as well as the increase in intensity of the protests, demonstrated that public attitudes had changed in the past ten years. I further contended that an analysis of the situation through scandal theory would illustrate that in, 1999, the society found anti-immigrant rhetoric acceptable but nearly a decade later, in 2008, this was no longer true, reflecting a changing public attitude toward immigrants. Finally, I argue that the reactions against Koch’s campaign in 2008 reflect a larger national trend away from extreme politics based on xenophobia and racism, toward moderate politics based on open dialogue and intercultural exchange.


In order to consider public attitudes toward immigrants in Germany, I chose to conduct a case study of two similar scandals to compare differing public attitudes over the last 10 years. I chose to focus on Roland Koch because it was the same politician, in the same state, from the same party, with a similar campaign message and presumably the same general electoral population.16 This prevented confounding variables, such as different voting patterns and different party platforms from influencing the outcome of the case study and undermining the validity of the analysis. I employed two political scandal theories reviewed in Esser and Hartung17 to frame my assessment of the situation: Carl Otto Hondrich’s two-step development of a scandal and Manfred Schmitz’s labeling of incidents as “scandal” (1981).18 I combined these two theories to create a new theory that argues that the creation of a political scandal, and the public’s reaction to this scandal, reflects the cultural attitudes of society as a whole.

Using this new theory, I questioned whether the 1999 incident and the 2008 incident should be considered “scandals” or not. After this, I compared the responses to the 1999 campaign to the responses to the 2008 campaign, considering which groups chose to respond and what their responses were. I ran into difficulties here with my research because it was difficult and time-consuming to locate articles from 1999. Nonetheless, the responses that I could find indicated a clear difference between 1999 and 2008. I then found statistics from opinion polls and election outcomes to compare the empirical evidence with my observations. Applying the scandal theory, I discussed what the responses from the public reflected about societal norms as a whole. Lastly, I tried to take into account external factors, such as national opinion polls about immigrants/immigration reform, to assess how applicable my analysis of two incidents within the state of Hesse was to Germany as a whole.

Scandal Theories

Frank Esser and Uwe Hartung wrote a review of scandal theory in their 2005 study, “Nazis, Pollution and No Sex,” about political scandals as a reflection of political culture in Germany.19 In their article, they discuss scandal theories as a way to understand how the manifestation of scandals reflected the particular political culture in Germany. I took two of the theories that they discussed in their review of existing scandal literature, one by Manfred

Schmitz and one by Karl Otto Hondrich, and altered them to create a new hybrid theory. My new three-part theory sets the foundation for the identification of a particular political incident as a scandal, and then argues that due to the nature of “scandal,” the public’s reaction reflects the norms and attitudes of that particular society.

The first theory on scandal has to do with labeling. In general, theories on labeling concern a situation when a society determines the rules of its community and then applies labels to people who do not adhere to these rules. For example, when a person is killed, the rule against murder is broken and the perpetrator is given a label of “murderer.” This negative label is then permanently associated with that person. Schmitz took labeling theories that have to do with how the process of labeling secures power for the ruling elites, and applied it to the notion of scandal. Schmitz determined that deviant behavior is labeled as a “scandal” in politics when this misbehavior has to do with a question of power. His selection criteriaare therefore “the instrumentality of misbehavior, defects in the struggle for power, or the distribution of power at a certain time.”20 In other words, it is a scandal when the labeling is used as a tool to bring about a change in the current balance of power.21

Hondrich’s theory saw scandal as a function of disseminating societal values through the discovery of “misbehavior,” which is then followed by public outrage confirming the scandalous nature of the action. He saw scandal as occurring in two phases. In the first phase, the mass media decides whether or not this misbehavior should be covered. This decision depends on various factors, including news value, personal vendetta (or lack of) and loyalty toward the person or group in question. In the second stage, the public decides if it wants to remain indifferent or express anger. If it expresses anger, then the actors divide into a series of value communities (it usually divides into who is against the accused and who is for them). The crucial selection criterion for scandal is, according to Hondrich, instrumentality: how does this outrage benefit one value community or another?22 This is very similar to Schmitz. In both situations, the characteristic that define whether a situation is a scandal depends on the instrumentality of the scandal for the players involved in the incident.

Esser and Hartung point out that scandal serves as a device in the struggle for power, money and/or reputation, by using the public’s support or opposition as a form of social control.23

The initiation of the scandal is a power play that depends on a particular public reaction. Esser and Hartung used this to analyze political culture through scandal, but I want to apply the same idea to analyze the society’s culture beyond the political realm. I combined Koch and Schmitz’s theories, plus Esser and Hartung’s form of analysis, into one theory of political scandal. The theory provides two criteria to determine if a situation is a scandal or not. If it is, then the third part argues that the public’s response must necessarily reflect social norms and attitudes.

The first criterion is that a potential scandal is brought to the attention of the media, and the media is then faced with the decision of whether to cover the scandal (the first step in Hondrich’s theory). As described by Esser and Hartung, the decision to cover a scandal by the media can be influenced by anything. It may play into the larger power game that is occurring during the incident, but may also be the result of a more basic motive such as the economic gains that result from selling more newspapers. It is usually the latter, which implies that the situation is most likely inflammatory and of a “scandalous” nature. The second criterion is the negative labeling of the accused by his or her opponents (the function in Schmitz’s theory). This is a major part of the power play. Labeling implies that something scandalous has occurred. For example, in the case of Koch, his opponents called his comments “xenophobic”24 and “shameful and scandalous,”25 creating a negative perception of him and his campaign and alerting the public to the scandalous nature of the situation. If a situation contains both of the two criteria, then it should be identified a “scandal.”

Due to the coverage of the scandal by the media, and the prominent positions of the actors in the conflict, the public will be drawn into the debate and forced to take the side of one value community or the other. The public will eventually make a value judgment on the “misbehavior.” For example, manifestations of the value judgment may be opinion polls or election results. Public response acts as a social control, informing the involved parties of what is acceptable in this social situation and what is not. This is the third part of the theory, drawn from Hondrich’s second step. The all-encompassing nature of a scandal (the central characters, the media and the public are all drawn into it) results in a high level of participation and involvement. Due to high media coverage through newspapers, television broadcasts and radio debates, it is now impossible for a member of the public to go anywhere – whether a local bar or a voting booth – without being forced to think about the scandal. Even if someone is not an active political participant, they have heard about the incident and are forming an opinion, which is then revealed through discussion, election results and opinion polls. This opinion is shaped by the norms of the society and reflects the culture in which that person was raised. Therefore, when a situation is a scandal and the public reacts to it, its reaction is an inherent representation of the attitudes of its society. Analyzing a particular situation with this theory not only serves to identify it as a scandal and therefore of importance to the community, but also to use the scandal to identify the norms and attitudes of the society in which the scandal occurs.

The limitation of this theory is that it assumes a democratic political system with freedom of the press and freedom of expression. As a result, it is not applicable to governments such as dictatorships or monarchies. Germany, however, is a liberal democracy and therefore the theory is applicable to this case study.

Koch’s Campaign – 1999

The Social Democrats had formed a ruling coalition with the Green Party and were proposing a new law for the introduction of dual citizenship. It would reduce the required resident period to apply for a citizenship from 15 years to eight and allow younger residents to apply after five years. It would make it easier for married couples where one partner was a German citizen and would grant automatic citizenship to children born in Germany if one parent or the other had been born or raised in Germany. In response to this law, the CDU and CSU started a campaign collecting signatures against the proposed law.26 In Hesse Roland Koch spearheaded this campaign under the slogan “Yes to integration. No to dual nationality.”27

Opponents saw the campaign as being anti-immigrant and relying on scare tactics to drum up political support. For the first time since 1945, xenophobia was openly expressed in the German political realm, a subject that had previously been taboo. The police had to protect CDU activists from the angry public and spontaneous protests, and some groups publicly voiced their opposition. However, the popularity of the CDU rose by four percent while the Green Party dropped from 11.2 percent to 7.2 percent and the SPD gained too little to make up the difference.28 The CDU gained control of the Hessen government in February 1999 and Koch assumed the position of premier.

Although the “misbehavior” was not a well-kept secret but rather an open campaign, the mass media still had to decide whether to cover the issue as a controversial incident or not. It decided to cover the campaign, fulfilling the first criterion of my scandal theory. Once this was established, there were groups who came forward and voiced their opposition to Koch. Although the SPD and the Green Party remained notably quiet on the matter, representatives from the Free Democratic Party (FDP),29 the Federal Advisory Council on Immigrants and Pro Asyl,30 along with a few individual members of Koch’s CDU, criticized his campaign as racist and anti- immigrant. This labeling, in the context of my scandal theory, demonstrates a power play and fulfills the second criterion for a scandal. Since the situation has been classified as a scandal, this legitimizes an analysis of the public’s response as a reflection of social norms and attitudes.

Koch’s Campaign – 2008

Koch, who was facing a tough re-election battle in Hessen, started a campaign for stricter laws against immigrant youth criminals and called for a re-emphasis of German culture in the integration process. He demanded tougher measures against criminal youth and faster deportations of criminal foreigners. To support his new campaign, he said, “We have spent too long showing a strange sociological understanding for groups that consciously commit violence as ethnic minorities… German must be the language in everyday life and it must be clear that the slaughtering [of animals] in the kitchen…run counter to our ideas.”31 He added, “In our country, we don’t get many cultures meeting to form a new one [like Canada or Australia]. Germany has had a Christian-Occidental culture for centuries. Foreigners who don’t stick to our rules don’t belong here.”32

The media decided once again to cover the campaign as a political conflict and drew public attention to the debate, fulfilling the first criterion for a scandal. Then there was a public outcry from opposing groups and a division into value communities, fulfilling the second criterion. This time around, the SPD and the Green Party openly registered their opposition to Koch, along with a multitude of other organizations and personalities, including former chancellor Gerhard Schröder and write Gunter Grass. Chancellor Angela Merkel remained quiet on the issue for some time, but ultimately stated that she supported his plan to make stricter repercussions for violent crimes by youth and said that it was “natural for such an issue that affects people to be discussed in the campaign. We can’t have people avoiding the subway at night because they’re afraid of being attacked.”33

Public Reactions to Koch’s Campaigns

When assessing the outcome of the 1999 campaign, there is a clear support for Koch. The polls had suggested, even as late as the end of January, that the SPD-Green coalition would keep its lead and remain the majority in the state government. In the elections, however, Koch managed to mobilize voters and overcome the SPD-Green lead. There had been public denunciations by the Federal Advisory Council on Immigrants and Pro Asyl, but the SPD and the Greens remained notably quiet. They ignored the debate surrounding Koch’s allegedly anti- immigrant rhetoric and concentrated instead on the purely political aspect of the issue: their bill. They attacked the campaign as a “referendum against dual nationality” and chose not to make a direct comment on the potentially fear-mongering and racist nature of Koch’s campaign. After Koch’s win, the Greens emphasized that they wanted to make it “clear that dual nationality (was) not the aim” of their party.34 This statement was completely contrary to their party platform and to the bill that the party had co-sponsored. Other politicians, who had opposed the campaign before, such as CDU politician Heiner Geissler and Hessian Free Democratic Party (FDP) chair Ruth Wagner, also backed down and made statements rejecting dual citizenship.35The elections demonstrated the advantage Koch gained from his anti-immigrant campaign and other groups realized that continuing with pro-immigrant politics could result in political losses. In a sense, these groups recognized the function of scandal in revealing public attitudes and chose not to continue their campaign at the risk of losing political power.

In 2008 the SPD and the Green were openly opposed to the anti-immigrant rhetoric, a contrast to their stance in 1999. In addition, the Coalition of Turkish Communities in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, the Islamic Council, former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Germany’s Protestant Church, award-winning author Gunter Grass and several members of the CDU voiced their opposition.

Current Chancellor Angeles Merkel (CDU), after a period of silence, supported Koch, along with the National Democratic Party (NPD), the Republicans and the White Ring. In the polls, Koch’s popularity took a 10-point dive in the weeks after he started the campaign and lost 12 percent of their electoral from the 2003 elections; SPD made major gains, ending in a tie at 36.7 percent for the SPD and 36.8 percent for the CDU.36

Arguably, the news sources from 1999 are not as complete because of incomplete archives.. However, comparing just the opposition of the SPD and the Green Party – for which I could find evidence – there is a clear change. In 1999, the SPD and the Green Party chose not to focus on the racist nature of Koch’s comments and tried instead to debate the law itself. This suggests a desire to avoid losing supporters who agreed with Koch’s anti-immigrant sentiments.

It was in their best interest to stay silent on the issue of Koch’s campaign so that they had a better chance of maintaining the majority after the elections, even at the cost of a bill that would have given immigrants more protection under the law. What occurred in 1999 was a lessening of the scandal by Koch’s would-be power opponents in an attempt to prevent it from becoming a determining factor in the next elections. By contrast, in 2008 the SPD/Green immediately latched onto the issue of racism and xenophobia, accusing Koch of “resorting to panic measures and waging a campaign based on fear”37 and calling his actions a “relapse into unreflected [sic] German jingoism.”38 In a sudden role reversal, Merkel – who has been trying to shift CDU’s politics more toward the center – discounted accusations that Koch was trying to play with the public’s xenophobia at the cost of a civilized discussion about immigration, saying that it was “only natural” that issues such as this one arise during an election campaign.39 This time the CDU, instead of the SPD/Green, were trying to downplay the racist aspect of Koch’s campaign and prevent it from overshadowing the elections. Since his loss, Koch has entirely abandoned discussions on immigration reform and is focusing instead on trying to form a coalition to maintain his majority in parliament.

The actions by the SPD/Green in 1999 and by Merkel in 2008 demonstrate that the politicians were aware of the particular effects immigrant-based campaigns had on the public. In 1999, the CDU realized that anti-immigrant sentiments were high and tried to exploit that to garner votes. The elections confirmed its beliefs and demonstrated that the public did in fact have anti-immigrant attitudes. In 2008, there was a role reversal and Merkel was trying to avoid the polarizing topic. The shift in political tactics supports my hypothesis that the majority of people in 1999 did have some form of anti-immigrant sentiments, but that this had begun to shift by 2008.

After the start of Koch’s campaign in 2008 and leading up to the elections in late January, various political polls showed a decline in the CDU’s popularity in Hessen. According to one poll, the party’s popularity dropped 12 points after Koch’s comments received statewide attention.40 Some journalists pointed out that Koch was already fighting an uphill battle in this election because his opponent in the SPD was supporting a nationwide minimum wage, a major concern during current fears of recession.41 However, the direct correlation between the times when Koch made began his new campaign and when his popularity dropped even further in the polls tempers this argument. Although the minimum wage debate may have provided a boost for the SPD, Koch lost major ground as a direct result of his comments, demonstrating again a shift away from anti-immigrant attitudes.

Finally, if both incidents fulfill both criteria of the scandal theory, then the public reactions to the scandal necessarily reflect social norms and attitudes. In 1999, Koch gained major support after his campaign reached scandal status and ultimately achieved a majority in the state parliament. In 2008, the reaction was the exact opposite. After his campaign reached a large majority of the public and the participants in the scandal began dividing up into value communities, the public came down against Koch. He lost so many electoral votes in the January election that he is now struggling to maintain his majority in the parliament. This is a very clear expression of the public’s judgment and it supports my hypothesis that the German public is slowly beginning to change its attitudes toward immigrants, becoming more moderate and multicultural.

A National Perspective?

During the course of my research, I discovered various sources that indicated a polarization among the public on a national level. Several studies and polls indicated that there is still anti-immigrant sentiment among a large portion of the public, while the rise of two small but fast-growing radical parties give more reason for alarm. Additionally, several Turkish-German women have been gaining public recognition recently for their arguments that too much multiculturalism has in fact allowed for the rise of a “parallel society” of immigrants who refuse to integrate.42

Over a quarter of Germans interviewed for the 2006 MIPEX report stated that they believed all non-EU migrants should be deported, while 40.1 percent said that all unemployed migrants should be deported. Only 45.2 percent of Germans support equal social rights for legal immigrants, a vast contrast to the majority of the EU-27 states and a clear sign of distrust and discrimination toward immigrants.43 Although radical political organizations are most successful in eastern areas of Germany, a 2006 study at the University of Leipzig in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung suggests that hostility against foreigners and immigrants is equally widespread in western Germany.44 Another 2006 study at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence reported that 59.4 percent of Germans either “agree” or “strongly agree” that too many foreigners live in Germany. When asked if foreigners should be sent home in the event of a job shortage, 35.3 percent answered, “yes.”45

This suggests that although the voting patterns have shifted more to the left, it may not necessarily be related to the immigrant debate. It could also indicate that although the public is less accepting of xenophobic rhetoric, there are other overriding concerns that result in an anti- immigrant sentiment. For example, the public could continue to desire the deportation of migrants because of fears of high unemployment rates and recession; this demonstrates a fear that the immigrants are stealing jobs, fears that may be expressed by even those who have more liberal or multicultural inclinations. Parallels can be drawn between this and similar sentiments toward Latinos in the United States of America. Another problem with these sentiments is that the German public often considers even second- and third-generation immigrants to be foreigners, despite the fact that many no longer have ties to the country of their parents or grandparents. This disconnect leads to further polarization and potential clashes between groups that support increased access to nationality and those that do not.

Additionally, there has been the creation of two new parties based on extreme ideologies. One party, the Left, made up of ex-communists and SPD dissenters, formed as an offshoot of the East German communist organizations and gained the required 5fivepercent electoral vote to enter the Hessian parliament in the 2008 elections.46 Another party, the Pro North-Rhine Westphalia (Pro NRW), formed in 2007 in Cologne, already has chapters in five other cities. This party is a right-wing radical party based on anti-Islamic sentiments. Not only is the German intelligence agency concerned about the rise of this party, but so are neo-Nazi parties like the NDP, who have traditionally gained votes from both radical Germans and Israel-hating Muslim groups.47 The irony of the situation is that just as anti-Semitic sentiments are being subdued in Germany, anti-Islamic ones are replacing them.

Lastly, two Turkish-German women have become prominent in the academic and political arena for arguing against multiculturalism. Seyran Ates, an attorney and an author, and Necla Kelek, a sociologist, have become famous for blaming the rise of Islamism and parallel immigrant communities on excessive multiculturalism. They argue that the German notion of multiculturalism since WWII has led to excessive tolerance, allowing the existence of parallel immigrant societies in Germany. They describe these societies as being cut-off from German society, unwilling to integrate and in constant violation of basic human rights (mainly in terms of abuse against women). Although there is some credence to their claims and toleration of human rights violations is always unacceptable, they have also polarized the immigrant community between Muslims and ex-Muslims. They have been particularly prominent in the current debate over the building of mosques in Germany. If Kelek and Seyran are correct, then immigrants are being further polarized from the German community and are contribute to extremism in the political system. If this is not true, then their arguments make integration all the more difficult and feeds into public notions of Islam as a violent and oppressive religion, leading to further xenophobia and discrimination.

Unfortunately, both are probably true. There are some parallel communities rising among the immigrant communities and there are some immigrants who have been integrated quite successfully. Adding to the conflict, Kelek and Seyran are unwilling to compromise when it comes to their position on the topic and that contributes to conflicts regarding immigrants and integration.48

From this perspective, my second hypothesis was not entirely correct. A shift of public opinion in Hesse is not necessarily a reflection of public opinions in Germany as a whole. However, it is still too soon to conclusively state that Germany is moving toward or away from radical xenophobia. The superficial analysis of these three elements suggests that Germany may experience a period of internal political conflict before a general national consensus toward immigration reform is reached. There are too many national factors affecting this trend to be able to come to an accurate conclusion within the limitations of this research paper; a more detailed study of factors such as public opinion, the rise of extremist parties and polarizing public figures is necessary. Although the Hesse study suggests that postwar Germany is approaching its goal of multiculturalism, progress at a national level may be undermined by a growing polarization and therefore it is not possible to make a determination of national social norms and attitudes as a result of the localized Hessian case study.


By applying the hybrid theory on scandal, my findings indicate that both the conflict in1999 and the one in 2008 are clear examples of “scandal.” There is a potential misbehavior brought to the attention of the media, in this case the potentially racist (and therefore controversial) campaign slogans and rhetoric used by Koch, a member of a large and traditionally moderate-right party. The outcome of the analysis supports my initial hypothesis that public attitudes toward immigrants are becoming more tolerant in Hesse. This hypothesis has to be qualified, however, by the demonstration of evidence from a national perspective that there is still widespread anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner sentiment. If the public is in fact moving toward a more open-minded and moderate perspective, then politicians will have to begin modifying their platforms to accommodate this new national mentality. As demonstrated by the Mipex study, Germany has not done an effective job of integrating its immigrants and I would argue that this is a direct result of politics reflecting public anti-immigrant attitudes. If there is a shift, this could prove to be a very positive development for Germany and its residents.

If, however, Hesse is only an exception to the rule, there needs to be a move to address these sentiments in open and civil discussion. Chancellor Merkel, in moving her party toward a more moderate position, has initiated conferences for dialogues between Muslims and Christians and for discussions on integration policies, which is a good first step. Unfortunately, while her party adamantly opposes Turkey’s entrance to the EU and ignores race-based attacks on minorities, it will be difficult for the minority organizations to trust the CDU or its representatives.

For future studies on public attitudes toward immigrants, it will be important to follow the rise and fall of radical parties and polarizing figures such as Ates and Kelek. A comparative study of opinion polls about immigrants is also an important step in accumulating all the available information about public sentiments to provide a more cohesive overview. As the world continues to get smaller in terms of (im)migration, the study of how public attitudes affect politics and immigrant integration will play an important role in developing public policy and achieving a peaceful coexistence.


1Mipex. “Key Findings 2006: Germany”. Accessed February 1, 2008.

2 Ibid.

3 Immigrant statistics have to be estimated because of the vast number of undocumented residents. Different studies have put the immigrant population anywhere from 6 million to 10 million, but I chose 8 million because it is the most widely accepted number.

4 It is important to note that there are radical groups from the left and the right who push for very drastic measures and often resort to illegal or unethical means to achieve their goals. This paper is focusing on extreme positions within a comparatively moderate political party (CDU) that works within the legal framework of Germany’s political structure.

5 Founded in 1963, the SPD is Germany’s oldest political party. Their platform has always centered on the working class and worker’s union, but it has evolved since its formation. Today they maintain their focus on the working class but also emphasize economic modernization to keep up with globalization, immigrant and minority rights and child welfare services. See for more:

6 The Green party started in the late 1970s as a response to the new wave of social movements, including environmentalism and pacifism. It was officially founded in 1980 and is considered the most politically successful Green party in the world. Alliance ’90 was created in East Germany in the late 1980s (along a similar platform as the Greens) and was officially founded in 1990. They merged with the Green party in 1993 to increase their chances of getting 5 percent of the required votes to hold positions in government. See for more:

7 The CDU was formed in 1945 and founds its principles on non-denominational Christian values. They support a social market economy (along the lines of a liberal market economy), traditional family values and are against Turkish accession to the EU. See for more:

8 Founded in 1945, the CSU is CDU’s sister party. Based on an agreement between the two parties, the CSU operates in a coalition with CDU on the condition that the CSU remains solely in Bavaria and CDU operates in the rest of the nation. They work together as a union on the federal level and do not run counter-campaigns. CSU is generally more conservative than the CDU. See for more: and

9 For a very detailed history of Turkish migration into Germany, see: Abadan-Unat, Nermin. Migration Ohne Ende: Vom Gastarbeiter Zum Eurotürken. Kempten: EditionParabolis, 2005.

10 Cf. Hawley, Charles. “When it comes to Integration, Silence is Golden”. Spiegel Online, January 10, 2008.,1518,527694,00.html. Accessed February 7, 2008.

11Phalnikar, Sonia. “Squeezed in State Poll, German Politician Pulls Out Old Tricks.” Deutsch Welle, January 7, 2008.

12 A premier of a German state parliament is similar to the position of the state’s governor in America.

13 Roland Koch is a politician in the CDU. He has been active in the CDU since 1979 at the age of 21. Until this recent debacle, he was considered a “rising star” in the CDU and a potential rival to the current chancellor and CDU member, Angela Merkel. See: “Merkel’s conservatives lose support in two state elections” by Judy Demsey for more information on Koch and Christian Wulff’s rivalry with Merkel.

14 Cf. Deutsche Welle, IHT and Spiegel articles. Please refer to bibliography for full listing.

15 Ibid.

16Admittedly, residents have moved around in ten years and the voters in the 2008 election are not identical to the voter demographic 1999 election. However, there is a higher chance of similar voter patterns and voter demographic when the case study remains in the same state than if I were to compare Berlin to Bayern.

17 Cf. Esser, Frank & Uwe Hartung. “Nazis, Pollution and No Sex: Political Scandals as a Reflection of Political Culture in Germany.” American Behavioral Scientist: 2004; 47; 1040 – 1071. Accessed February 4, 2008 from

18 Ibid. p.1042 – 1043

19 Cf. Esser and Hartung.

20 Ibid. p. 1042 – 1043.

21 For Schmitz’s full text, please refer to: Schmitz, M. (1981). Theorie und Praxis des politischen Skandals. Frankfurt, Germany: Campus.

22 Cf. Esser and Hartung, 1042. For Hondrich’s full text, please refer to: Hondrich, K. O. (1989). “Skandalmaerkte und Skandalkultur”. In M. Haller, H. J. Hoffmann-Nowotny,&W. Zapf (Eds.), Kultur und Gesellschaft (pp. 575-586). Frankfurt, Germany: Campus.

23 Cf. Esser and Hartung.

24 Cf. CGH/DPA/DDP. “Gunter Grass Enters the Fray: Critique Against ‘Xenophobic’ Campaign Heats up.” January 11, 2008. From: Spiegel Online.,1518,528131,00.html. Accessed February 10, 2008.

25Cf. Chambers, Madeline (Reuters). “German Muslims Angry at ‘Anti-Foreigner’ Campaign.” January 2, 2008. From International Herald Tribune. GERMANY-FOREIGNERS.php. Accessed February 10, 2008.

26 Cf. Rippert, Ulrich. “Citizenship and Loyalty to the Constitution: A Critical Look at the Proposed New German Citizenship Law.” January 23, 1999. From World Socialist Web Site. Accessed February 10, 2008.

27 Cf. Reissner, Ute. “State Elections in Hesse: German Political Establishment Shifts to the Right.” February 12, 1999. From World Socialist Web Site. Accessed February 10, 2008.

28 Ibid.

29 The FDP is a liberal party in Germany that believes in individual liberty and as much laissez faire as possible from the government. They support a market economy and a social welfare society.

30 Pro Asyl is a non-profit organization that lobbies on the behalf of asylum seekers.

31 Mentions of “animal slaughter in the kitchen” are references to traditional practices of butchering animals in the Middle East, as well as references to Islamic religious practices of sacrifice. However, for the most part it is no longer practiced, either in Germany or in the countries from which the immigrants originate. There are still some incidents in rural areas of Turkey, but it is not widespread in any way. This is often a symbol used in the debate over immigration in Europe; it acts an indicator that the discussion is intended to have xenophobic overtones and play to the emotions of the audiences by drawing upon alleged exotic and unfamiliar practices to emphasize vast differences between the two cultures and their inherent incompatibility.

32 Cf. Deutsche Welle, IHT and Spiegel articles. Please refer to bibliography for full listing.

33Cf. Crossland, David. “Far-Right NPD Praises Koch’s Tough Talk on Immigration.” From Spiegel Online. January

4, 2008.,1518,526724,00.html. Accessed February 10. 2008.

34 Cf. Reissner, Ute. “State Elections in Hesse: German Political Establishment Shifts to the Right.” Feb 12, 1999. From World Socialist Website. Accessed February 10, 2008.

35 Ibid.

36Cf. Hawley, Charles. “The End of Fear and Loathing in Hesse.” January 28, 2008. From Spiegel Online.,1518,531486,00.html. Accessed February 10, 2008.

37Cf. Chambers, Madeline.

38 Cf. Hawley. “When It Comes to Integration, Silence is Golden.”

39 Cf. Crossland.

40Cf. Williamson, Hugh. “Merkel and CDU Slump in polls.” February 4, 2008. From Financial Times. Accessed February 10, 2008

41 Cf. Phalnikar, Sonia. “Squeezed in State Poll, German Politician Pulls Out Old Tricks.” From Deutsche-Welle

Online. January 7, 2008. Accessed February 10, 2008. Website no longer available

42 Kelek, Necla. Die verlorenen Söhne. Goldman, Oct 2007. &. Die fremde Braut. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Aug 2007. Seyran, Ates. Der Multikulti-Irrtum. Ullstein Hc, Oct 2007. &. Grosse Reise ins Feuer. Rowohlt Tb. Dec 2006.

43 Mipex. Accessed February 1, 2008.

44 Cf. Phalnikar.

45 Cf. Hawley. “When It Comes to Integration, Silence is Golden.”

46 Theil, Stephan. “In the Populist Corner.” February 2, 2008. From Newsweek. Accessed February 10, 2008

47 Brandt, Andrea & Guido Kleinhubbert. “New Front for the German Far Right: Anti-Islamic Party is Playing with Fear.” January 3, 2008. From Spiegel Online.,1518,526225,00.html. Accessed February 10, 2008.

For more information on their ideas, see their books: Kelek: Die verlorenen Söhne. &. Die fremde Braut. Seyran: Der Multikulti-Irrtum. &. Grosse Reise ins Feuer.

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