In a recent study conducted by the Bonn-based polling group, the Allensbach Institute, researchers asked Germans if they feel they are free to express their opinions publicly. Given that, of course, there are no legal or institutional boundaries to freedom of speech in Germany, the fact that only 45 percent of respondents said they could still openly speak their mind (compared to more than two-thirds in previous decades) demonstrates the presence of certain social sanctions that bar people from saying whatever they want. The study found that due to the rise of political correctness, 44 percent of Germans said that their freedom of speech is limited.
Based on the findings, it is clear that voters of different political parties have different perceptions of freedom of expression. For instance, 62 percent of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) supporters have said that they feel the need to be extra careful around strangers when discussing sensitive topics, while the majority of Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Linke voters made similar observations. In contrast, 62 percent of Greens said that they can speak with zero constraints.
When asked about which topics could be considered “sensitive,” 59 percent of respondents said that questions surrounding Muslims and Islam could easily give rise to conflict, whereas, according to a 1996 poll, only 15 percent held similar views. Meanwhile, the proportion of those who said that the topic of patriotism could be problematic increased from 16 percent 25 years ago to 38 percent today. Emancipation and equality of women ranks third on the list, with 19 percent of respondents identifying it as an issue where their freedom of speech may be limited.
According to the survey, the use of gender-appropriate language perfectly illustrates that political correctness, in fact, goes against the views of the majority: 71 percent of respondents said that using both male and female pronouns to avoid offending anyone is overkill, and only 19 percent considered it necessary. In another survey last year, Allensbach Institute identified similar patterns when asking people whether it is still acceptable to order a Zigeunerbraten (a pork dish that literally translates to “Gypsy’s steak”) or call a chocolate-coated meringue a “negro’s kiss.” An overwhelming majority of Germans had no issue with these terms.
The outcome of the study confirms what Hungary has been saying for years (even a decade): While legal and institutional barriers to freedom of expression may no longer exist in Europe, social sanctions, such as political correctness, could very well be stopping people from freely speaking their minds. And a Europe bound by the debilitating ropes of political correctness is not a Europe Prime Minister Orbán wants for Hungary or Hungarians.