According to a recent IMAS study, 59% of Austrians are ‘somewhat opposed’ to building minarets. There’s a big gap between the public opinion and what is expressed.
Just over 20% of Austrians describe themselves as religious, compared to 30% 35 years ago. The ethnic population differs clearly from the Muslim population. 54% of Austrians – slightly more men than women, older people more than younger – see Islam as a ‘threat to the West’. The respondents have a growing sense that such views can’t be talked about openly. This according to a large-scale study by the IMAS agency on the topic of ‘religion and freedom’, conducted for the Internationalen Instituts für Liberale Politik (International Institute for Liberal Policy) and obtained exclusive by Presse.
Only 4% would agree if a family member would marry a Muslims. By 3% of respondents that was already the case, and in Vienna it was above average.
On the acceptance of minarets: 59% said they were ‘somewhat against’. 51% thought the building of mosques and wearing a headscarf should be banned altogether.
72% of Austrians (compared to 38% of Green party supporters) were critical of the lack of readiness to assimilate among Muslims in Austria. “Austria is a Christian country and should remain such”: said 61% of the respondents. 42% also thought that “the less foreigners, the better”. In particular, this view was held by supporters of the Freedom Party (76%), but also by 39% of SPÖ voters (Social Democrats) and 37% of ÖVP voters (People’s Party).
Only the Greens bucked the trend all across the board. Just 14% of the Greens oppose building mosques, and just over 25% says that Austria should remain a Christian country. On the other hand, almost half of the Green voters see economic and social benefits for Austria from immigration. This opinion was shared by 12% of all respondents, 15% of SPÖ voters, 16% of ÖVP voters and 5% of FPÖ-BZÖ voters (Freedom Party – Alliance for the Future of Austria).
Austrians see increasing pressure on opinions regarding foreigner policy. IMAS asked whether people in Austria can really express their opinion on political, historical and cultural issues without fear. In 2007, 14% said it’s better to keep silent. In Feb. 2010, 24% agreed with this view. Another 20% said it depends on the issue. IMAS researchers say there is major contradictions between the public and expressed opinion.
A large majority – 71% – think Islam is incompatible with Western notions of democracy, freedom and tolerance. Erich Reiter of the Institute for Liberal Policy (and former section head in the department of defense), points out that also atheists see differences between Christianity and Islam. In a Presse interview he says that from a liberal prospective Islam is seen as a threat to Austrian society, and that politicians should take this seriously and respond to it.
As for faith, 60% either believe in a Biblical God (25%) or in a ‘spiritual power over us’ (34%). But Christianity is given only secondary importance in children’s upbringing, followed by ‘European spirit’. The most important educational goal in Austria is to ‘think and act indepenently’.
Asked for a self-evaluation: 63% said they’re ‘people for whom freedom and independence matter a lot’, followed by ‘cosmpolitian’ and ‘orderly’. An interesting point: 7% see themselves as upper-class and high-earners, 4% as right-liberals and 3% as people with ‘strong leftist’ leanings.