Institut für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung
Universität Bielefeld

What is group-focused enmity?

Group-focused enmity is a spectrum of prejudices against a range of very different groups targeted by hostile mentalities (social, religious, ethnic, lifestyle groups). Because of the breadth of interconnected aspects we speak of a syndrome with a shared core of ideology of inequality. Which specific groups belong to the syndrome depends in part on social and cultural developments, but we can identify many groups that have experienced prejudice and exclusion over long periods and in different cultural contexts and phases.

Our empirical findings have led us to expand the elements of group- focused enmity in Germany from seven to ten: anti-immigrant attitudes, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim attitudes, sexism, prejudice toward homosexuals, disabled, homeless, or long-term unemployed people, and resentment toward newcomers, asking for more rights for the established. This selection is certainly not exhaustive and may change depending on socio-political developments. In the 2011 survey we will also consider prejudice towards travelers (Sinti and Roma, sometimes labeled as "gypsies").

Figure 1: The elements of the group-focused enmity syndrome

The relationship between the elements of the group-focused enmity syndrome The ten elements of group-focused enmity are, as we have confirmed empirically, closely interconnected. In other words, hostile attitudes are normally directed against several groups so a person who shows anti-immigrant attitudes is also likely to espouse anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic attitudes, etc. Of course this will not apply in every individual case, but it is true at the population level. We are also able to show that these different prejudices are fed from a common core, which can be identified as an ideology of inequality. Our findings underline the thesis that group-focused enmity is a latent construct with a shared core of an ideology of inequality. Although closely connected, the correlations between individual elements vary in strength.

Table 1. Correlations between selected elements of the GFE syndrome elements of the GFE syndrome (GFE Survey 2010; representative dataset without migrants, N = 1700).

Note: The higher the value the stronger the correlation (no correlation = 0, maximum positive correlation = 1). All correlations are significant at least at the 1 percent level. FF: Fremdenfeindlichkeit; RA: Rassismus; AS: Antisemitismus, IS: Islamfeindlichkeit, SX: Sexismus, HO: Homophobie, BE: Abwertung Behinderter, OB: Abwertung Obdachloser, LA: Abwertung Langzeitarbeitsloser.

The relationships between the individual [elements] of the GFE syndrome suggest that at some point the liberal atmosphere may become "poisoned." This process might begin with "traditional" victim groups (often ethnic or religious) or with those more recently subjected to processes of exclusion by the interests of capital or for other reasons (such as the long-term unemployed). In a "poisoned" climate hostile attitudes may then spread to affect other social or cultural groups that were not previously discriminated. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which negative attitudes can "infect" other groups and investigate how the process is encouraged where elites and media openly espouse ideologies of inequality. Prejudiced attitudes are often politely concealed in apparently politically correct terms - for example claiming "only" [priority over newcomers] - that actually involve a massive violation of equality directed against particular cultural or religious groups. Once the climate has been poisoned these latent hostile attitudes can be mobilized if society's elites so wish.