Apr 212015
 
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I’m guest-blogging over at the Disclaimer Magazine

We live under the impression that the extreme right in Germany is weak. While it is less visible than equivalents in France or the Netherlands, there is a rich undercurrent of rightist dissent that could rise to the surface to enter the mainstream of German politics.

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Photo by opposition24.de

Apr 212015
 
Apr 182015
 

Not yet, but they are working on it.

What’s The Matter with the AfD?

In my research paper on the AfD party’s 2014 EP manifesto, I argue that the AfD will have to face a choice between their current mix of social conservatism/economic liberalism on the one hand and right-wing populism proper on the other. That time is now, and the choice seems to tear apart the party.

Since its inception in early 2013, the AfD has rolled out six campaigns at the federal and state level. It is arguably the most successful new party in Germany since the Greens, but the media coverage of the last three weeks has been nothing but devastating.

afd photo

Photo by blu-news.org

Talking ‘bout a Resolution … or Two

A month ago, the AfD leadership in Thuringia published the “Erfurt Resolution”, which is effectively canvassing for a more rightist profile of the party. The “liberal” wing launched a counter manifesto, the “Germany Resolution”. As of today, “Erfurt” has 1,905 likes on Facebook and more than 1,600 signatories in the real world. “Germany” has 1,403 likes and an undisclosed number of signatories. While these number are low in absolute terms, the AfD has only between 20,000 and 25,000 members, and in most parties, only 10 per cent or less of the membership are actually active, so some 3,000 people taking a stand represent a very significant degree of polarisation.

This polarisation has already split the parliamentary party in Thuringia: One of the AfD MPs (who is still a party member) had the whip removed from him, and two others may still suffer the same fate. In Hesse, the state party has just voted out its leadership while I’m writing this, and might bring back its former leader, who had to resign five months ago because he had kept shtum about his previous membership in the right-wing extremist Republikaner party.

The Colour of Money

In other news, Marcus Pretzell, who is party leader in NRW and one of the AfD’s MEPs, has been investigated by the party’s national exec following financial irregularities. The report recommends that Pretzell should keep his seat in Brussels but resign from the NRW leadership, because he was not able to deal with the demands of his private and political life. Unsurprisingly, Pretzell refused to step down, and threatened to disturb the upcoming election campaign in Bremen.

At the federal level, the party’s HQ is in disarray. The party manager has resigned before he could be sacked, and the treasurer is chasing large sums of money that went missing in 2014.

What next?

The current level of infighting is dramatic, and it is hurting the party. The Greek shenanigans and the current wave of unease about refugees and asylum seekers should help the AfD, but it is hovering at just about five per cent in the opinion polls. That does not bode well for the election in Bremen in May (where the right-wing extremist DVU has done well in the past). But it’s not the end of the road for the AfD yet. New parties tend to quarrel, because they attract all sorts of activist.

The Greens are an interesting point of reference in this respect. They only became a disciplined party when they effectively ejected the leftist wing in the 1990s. The AfD’s national leadership is currently pondering the merits of a referendum by party members on the AfD’s future course. If such a referendum is held and results in a draw, the party might well split, otherwise, an exodus of the losing side and their political marginalisation is the most likely scenario.

Apr 102015
 
Lehrbuch Strukturgleichungsmodelle (SEM)

Lehrbuch Strukturgleichungsmodelle

Mein seit langem geplantes Lehrbuch “Strukturgleichungsmodelle” erscheint demnächst bei Springer VS. Viele politikwissenschaftliche Beispiele illustrieren die Anwendung gängiger Modelle auf Daten aus dem ESS und dem Allbus. Gezeigt wird jeweils, wie sich die Modellschätzung in Stata, MPlus und Lisrel realisieren läßt. Zu allen Beispielen ist die vollständige und kommentierte Syntax für alle drei Programme enthalten.

Ich danke Sabrina Mayer, Benjamin Sack, Jasmin Fitzpatrick, Daniela Herrmann, Daniel Weber und Dagmar McCaslin für zahlreiche Anregungen, Hinweise und Korrekturen. Näheres zum Lehrbuch Strukturgleichungsmodelle findet sich hier (Syntax und Daten folgen bald).

Apr 102015
 
Apr 032015
 
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For an hour or so, even the international press was mildly excited – “resignation of one of Merkel’s senior Christian Democrats from government over Greek bailout” or something along those lines. They got it wrong. Gauweiler is a member of the CSU (not Merkel’s party), and he held no government office. He had a long political career centred around right-wing policies and controversy. He has voted time and again the bailouts, and has made various attempts to stop them via the Federal Constitutional Court. In other words, he rebelled, and he sued his own government.

In return, he was not only tolerated but was made (one of four) deputy chairs of the CSU in 2013 by Horst Seehofer. That maneuver was part of the CSU’s rather transparent “have it both ways” strategy: The party supported Merkel and her policies but nonetheless tried to cover the right and Eurosceptic flank that had come under attack from the AfD. With the federal and European elections firmly behind us, Gauweiler and his (few) fellow rebels have served their purposed. His resignation signifies exactly that: there is no major uprising under way.

Predictably, the AfD have asked Gauweiler to jump ship, but he has already declined. At 65, he will probably focus on his (very lucrative) law practice. Without doubt, his resignation will contribute to the growing disaffection with Seehofer’s erratic style of leadership. But even that will matter only in the medium run, if at all.

Want to read more about this? Here is my interview with Handelsblatt Global on the Gauweiler resignation.

Photo by blu-news.org

Apr 012015
 
Mar 312015
 

Worried about survey bias?

We have updated our add-on (or ado) surveybias, which calculates our multinomial generalisation of the old Martin, Traugott, and Kennedy (2005) measure for survey bias. If you have any dichotomous or multinomial variable in your survey whose true distribution is known (e.g. from the census, electoral counts, or other official data), surveybias can tell you just how badly damaged your sample really is with respect to that variable. Our software makes it trivially easy to asses bias in any survey.

Within Stata, you can install/update surveybias by entering ssc install surveybias. We’ve also created a separate page with more information on how to use surveybias, including a number of worked examples.survey bias

The new version is called 1.3b (please don’t ask). New features and improvements include:

  • Support for (some) complex variance estimators including Stata’s survey estimator (sample points, strata, survey weights etc.)
  • Improvements to the numerical approximation. survebias is roughly seven times faster now
  • A new analytical method for simple random samples that is even faster
  • Convenience options for naming variables created by survebiasseries
  • Lots of bug fixes and improvements to the code

If you need to quantify survey bias, give it a spin.

Mar 282015
 

35 years’ worth of Politbarometer data show that partisan dealignment in Germany has slowed down considerably over the last decade. One reason for this is the increase in average levels of formal education: Somewhat counterintuitively, formal education is now positively linked to partisanship. The other reason is demographic change.

Demographic Change in Germany

To the average German, demographic change is something that will happen in some unpleasant but distant future, preferably to someone else. But the nasty thing about demographic processes is that they are sneaky, slow-running beasts. In Germany, demographic change got underway some 40+ years ago, and its impact is slowly becoming visible.

In my age cohort, there were always too many of us. When I entered secondary school, I was slotted into one of four ridiculously oversized parallel classes of 35+ kids each. When I enrolled in university, it was deemed perfectly normal that I should spend a whole day with hundreds of others in an overcrowded lecture theatre, waiting to be called forward. In between were twenty months of national service which turned into a two year gap in my education, because Germany could not accommodate all those young draft dodgers, and I actually had to wait four months for the privilege to start my spell.

But the reason for my class in secondary being ridiculously oversized was that ours was the first year that they went down to four parallel classes from five. Aggregate fertility feel dramatically in the early 1970s and has never recovered, while life expectancy has edged upwards. Surveys may tell us that Germans are by and large blissfully unaware of these trends, but demographic change is actually visible in the surveys. During the first five years of the Politbarometer series (1977-81), 29 per cent of all respondents were under 35, while 26 per cent of those interviewed were older than 60. For the 2008-2012 period, this balance has been reversed. Voters aged 35 to 59 currently make up 52 per cent of the sample, but their share is now peaking, while the oldest group is rapidly growing and already stands at 33 per cent in the 2012 data.

Demographic Change and Partisanship

My little model of partisanship in Western Germany over time shows that even when education is controlled for, age plays an interesting role. It did not matter much in the late 1970s and early 1980s but quickly became a factor over the course of this decade. Younger respondents (the solid line) were increasingly less likely than their older compatriots to report an identification with a party. Relevant segments of the new cohorts entering the political system either never acquired such an identification or did not retain it at the same rate as their predecessors. Given how steep the estimated decline of their partisanship is compared to the other groups, it seems safe to assume that the dealignment of the 1980s and mid-1990s that reduced the number of partisans by nearly a quarter must have been driven largely by this group.

Partisan Dealignment in Germany over Time by Age Group

Partisan Dealignment in Germany over Time by Age Group

However, once more the estimated attrition rate in this group began to fall appreciably around the turn of the century. Moreover, nearly everyone who belonged to this group in the 1980s had now moved on to the next age band (the dashed line), which exhibits a nearly linear pattern of decline that is currently steeper than that of the youngest group, although levels of partisanship are still noticeably higher.

Finally, the over sixties (the dotted line), who began at roughly the same level as the middle age group, did outstrip them in terms of partisans by the mid-1990s. Levels of partisanship have been essentially stable in this group for more than a decade now. Once more one must keep in mind that by the early 2000s, everyone who was in the middle group in the 1980s had moved on to this upper age band.

Demographic changes imply that the mean age of people belonging to an age group will somewhat fluctuate over time: From the 1940s until the mid-1960s, almost every birth cohort was bigger than the one before, but since then, this pattern has been reversed. Yet, even accounting for this effect and for the rising life expectancy, the changes in the impact of age on party identification are too big to be the result of stable life cycle effects. They point either at massive shift in what it means for partisanship to be young, middle-aged, or old, or, equivalently, at substantial cohort effects.

And so, for the time being, demographic change is helping German parties: The younger, less partisan group is getting smaller and smaller, while the older, largely partisan group keeps growing. Does that mean that parties will (and perhaps should) court the grey vote? Possibly, but not necessarily. The proof is left as an exercise to the reader.

Mar 262015
 
Putsch in the AfD?

Various media report this morning that the AfD caucus in the Thuringia state parliament has asked two of their MPs – Jens Krumpe and Oskar Helmerich – to resign their select committee memberships and/or has withdrawn the whip from them. Both had refused to sign the “Erfurt Resolution” that was initiated by their leader Björn Höcke (heavy Ümlaut alert), but had rather given their support to the competing “Germany Resolution”. Meanwhile, Spiegel Online has unearthed a blogger who claims that Höcke has written pseudonymously for a party paper of the right-wing extremist NPD. The caucus has not made a comment on any of this, but took this golden opportunity to issue a statement on the negative impact of bureaucracy on Thuringian artisans.

In related news, the Erfurt Resolution has now accumulated approximately 1650 signatures (according to them) and 1767 likes. The Germany Resolution has 675 likes and has not yet posted an update on the number of signatures.