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It's not the economy, stupid! Explaining the electoral success of the German right-wing populist AfD


Schwander, Hanna; Manow, Philip (2017). It's not the economy, stupid! Explaining the electoral success of the German right-wing populist AfD. CIS Working Paper 94, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Right-wing populism is on the rise. Everywhere? Until recently, the resilience of the German party system to such a party has been an exception to this general trend. The establishment of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the wake of the Eurozone crisis put an end to this German exceptionalism. This paper tests the ‘losers of modernization’-thesis, one of the most dominant explanations for right-wing populist voting, for the case of the AfD. Based on district level data from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development and official data on electoral outcomes, we examine whether the socio-economic characteristics of a district yield any explanatory power for the AfD’s electoral success in the federal elections of 2013 and the elections to the European Parliament in 2014. With this data, we avoid problems of representativeness and reliability of survey data with respect to socioeconomically marginalized groups and their voting behavior. Our findings suggest that the modernization thesis bears little relevance for the success of the populist right in Germany. By contrast, we find a strong correlation between the AfD’s electoral success and the success of radical right parties in previous elections in the same district. We explain this intriguing finding with a “tradition of radical right voting” and a specific political culture on which the AfD has been able to draw once the broader political and social context allowed for the creation of a right-wing populist party in Germany.

Abstract

Right-wing populism is on the rise. Everywhere? Until recently, the resilience of the German party system to such a party has been an exception to this general trend. The establishment of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the wake of the Eurozone crisis put an end to this German exceptionalism. This paper tests the ‘losers of modernization’-thesis, one of the most dominant explanations for right-wing populist voting, for the case of the AfD. Based on district level data from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development and official data on electoral outcomes, we examine whether the socio-economic characteristics of a district yield any explanatory power for the AfD’s electoral success in the federal elections of 2013 and the elections to the European Parliament in 2014. With this data, we avoid problems of representativeness and reliability of survey data with respect to socioeconomically marginalized groups and their voting behavior. Our findings suggest that the modernization thesis bears little relevance for the success of the populist right in Germany. By contrast, we find a strong correlation between the AfD’s electoral success and the success of radical right parties in previous elections in the same district. We explain this intriguing finding with a “tradition of radical right voting” and a specific political culture on which the AfD has been able to draw once the broader political and social context allowed for the creation of a right-wing populist party in Germany.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Deutschland, Europawahl, Bundestagswahl, Rechtspopulismus, Wahlverhalten, Politische Kultur, Alternative für Deutschland, Geschichte 2013-2014
Language:English
Date:April 2017
Deposited On:12 Dec 2017 09:09
Last Modified:19 Mar 2018 09:16
Series Name:CIS Working Paper
Number of Pages:55
ISSN:1662-7504
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:https://www.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/cis-dam/CIS_DAM_2017/WP94_A4_v3.pdf
Related URLs:http://www.cis.ethz.ch/research/working-papers.html (Organisation)
https://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod011046324 (Library Catalogue)

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