A new generation of far-right, populist movements is growing in Europe, a new report has shown.
The report by the British thinktank Demos (which can be downloaded for free here) for the first time examines attitudes among supporters of the far right online. Using advertisements on Facebook, they persuaded more than 10,000 followers of 14 parties and organisations in 11 countries to fill in detailed questionnaires.
It comes a few months after the mass-murder by Norweigan Anders Breivik of 69 people, the investigation of which showed his extensive connections into this online, Pan-European far-right network - connections which far-right supporters have been keen to disavow.
Parties touting anti-immigrant and Islamophobic ideas have spread beyond established strongholds in France, Italy and Austria to the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, and now have significant parliamentary blocs in eight countries. Elsewhere, although parties haven't gained in elections street movements have, like the English Defence League (EDL) which has grown despite the failings of the nationalist British National Party (BNP). The ideology of parties differes considerably as well - some of the Scandinavian parties being strongly pro-welfare. What unites them is attitudes to Muslims and to multiculturalism and immigration and this describes the men - and almost all were men - surveyed for this report.
The report points out that sucess at the polls and even street demonstrations are like the tip of the iceberg. Underneath and online there is a new generation following these organisations and swapping ideas, particularly through Facebook. For most parties the numbers online saying they support them are much bigger than their actual registered memberships.
The report used Facebook tools to find that of 450,000 supporters of 14 organisations examined, almost two-thirds were aged under 30, against half of Facebook users overall. Three quarters were male, and more likely than average to be unemployed.
Contrary to what normal polling finds, amongst this group it was the younger ones who were most opposed to immigration, which concerned them far more than the state of the economy.
Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University, an expert on the far right, told the Guardian:
The poll was conducted before the Eurozone crisis but that is likely to increase old 'north-south' racism within Europe. Says Goodwin:
Gavan Titley, co-author of the recent book The Crises of Multiculturalism, tells The Guardian that since 9/11 casual islamophobia from mainstream politicians has helped the far-right.