How to choose a leader

43 percent of Austrians want a "strong man" at the top of the state

A study of historical and democratic awareness comes to the conclusion that anti-democratic and authoritarian attitudes have increased sharply over the past decade.

43 percent of Austrians want a "strong man" at the head of the state. And still 23 percent agree with the statement: "You should have a strong leader who doesn't have to worry about parliament and elections."

This was the result of a survey commissioned by the future fund of the republic by the opinion research institute SORA and the association for the scientific processing of contemporary history. For the study, 1000 Austrians were asked about their awareness of history and democracy between February and March of this year and compared with the same study from 2007.

78 percent named democracy - despite possible problems it may bring - as the best form of government. However, it has lost approval over the past ten years. In 2007 the value was still 86 percent. In 2007, only 14 percent longed for a "strong leader" who, in contrast to the "strong man", rules without democratic legitimation.

Austrians increasingly "disaffected with democracy"

"The comparison clearly shows that within ten years the anti-democratic and authoritarian attitudes have increased significantly," said pollster Martina Zandonella to the "Kurier". However, the results would not mean that Austrians are longing for a dictatorship. Many people are "tired of democracy": According to the survey, 41 percent have the feeling that they cannot influence the government. In 2007, only 32 percent saw it that way.

The need for "Law & Order" has also apparently increased: the statement "To maintain law and order, one should take stronger action against outsiders and troublemakers", 61 percent agreed in the survey, in 2007 it was 53 percent.

Opinion researchers see the development in Nazi historical awareness somewhat more positively. Only 26 percent agreed with the statement that Austria was the first victim of National Socialism. In 2007, 36 percent saw it that way. Half of the respondents stated that National Socialism brought "only bad things" or "mostly bad things". However, 33 percent of the under-35s were unable or unwilling to provide any information on this topic. "The youth seem to have a hard time giving a self-confident answer to the Nazi question," said Zandonella. "I think that many people form their political opinions later because they simply don't have the knowledge."

"Political apathy leads to authoritarian systems"

The historian Oliver Rathkolb and SORA opinion researcher Günther Ogris see an urgent need for action in politics and the media based on the survey results. When presenting the results, Rathkolb spoke of a "huge boost" in the authoritarian hardcore potential. Above all, politics must also take care of those who are politically apathetic. "Political apathy, however caused, leads to authoritarian systems," said Rathkolb.

With a view to the 100th anniversary of the republic in 2018, the historian called for educational activities. "In the field of political education, it would be more efficient not to discuss holidays, but to take simple, simple measures." In addition, Rathkolb pleaded for a move away from elitist access in education policy. "We are far too focused on high school, middle school and university education, but leave out the area of ​​compulsory schools, vocational schools and apprentices."

SORA boss Ogris said that politics and political institutions should think about how they can come back into contact with the population and improve trust and image. "The same goes for the media. They are on board in the crisis of confidence." The media would have to question how they evaluate and comment on political discourse, compromises and political negotiations and how they present them to their consumers. Ogris called on voters to ask themselves which system and which democracy they want, how important government and opposition, freedom of expression or independent courts are.

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(Red./APA)