Oct 042014

The rise of Germany’s new far right party AfD has been nothing but meteoric. Founded only months before the 2013 General Election, the party came tantalisingly close to the electoral threshold, delivering the strongest performance of any new party since the 1950s. Eight months later, they made it easily into the European parliament (outperforming the Liberals (FDP)), and this summer, they won representation in three East German state parliaments, further startling the establishment.
The biggest problem for any far-right party in Germany is respectability: Any (open) display of extremist language or symbols, any link to the Nazi past will make a party unelectable for the vast majority of the population and may even lead to prosecution under Germany’s anti-Nazi laws.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, the NPD managed to retain a degree of decorum for some years before jumping the shark in the 1970s. Similarly, the Republicans started out as a CSU breakaway but quickly morphed into yet another extremist group in the eyes of the public. Later attempts of the new leadership to return to a more moderate position came too late to remedy the situation. More interesting was Judge Schill’s attempt to create a modern right-wing populist party in the early 2000s, but they never did well outside Hamburg and quickly collapsed due to Schill’s erratic behaviour.
The AfD leadership, on the other hand, has so far managed to keep well-known extremists out of the party (or at least out of the limelight). But recently, the party’s image has suffered two significant blows. A couple of weeks ago, the AfD in Brandenburg was forced to expel a newly minted state MP who had posted an antisemitic cartoon on Facebook, alongside a link to an extremist propaganda site. This week, it transpired that a party leader in the Eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern  has been charged with inciting racial hatred over (anonymous) posts on the interwebs.
Whether this is actually true remains to be seen. Either way, both events in isolation will not hurt the party, which is doing very well in the polls. But they will help to strengthen the cordon sanitaire that Merkel has created between her own Christian Democrats and the AfD, and resonate with the extremism frame that the left is deploying against them.

Aug 162014

Very happy: The folks at Sage have kindly signed a contract with Jocelyn Evans, Michael Lewis-Beck, and my own good self to edit a two-volume tome on Electoral Behaviour in their Handbook series. The final product will have some 50 chapters on all aspects of psephology and should come out in 2016. Cat-herding 50+ academics for the next 18 months. What’s not to like?

Jul 262014

I’ve recently discovered Rfacebook, which lets you access public information on Facebook from R. In terms of convenience, no package for R or Python that I have seen so far comes near. Get yourself a long-lived token, store it as a variable, and put all posts on a fanpage you are interested in into one R object with a single function call. Check it out here.

Jul 092014
emp duck 225x300 One, two, three Excellent Online Surveys

An Imperial Duck. Because.

My wonderful PhD students are running a series of short online surveys, two of them with a slightly unusual and rather intriguing format. If you read German, do them a favour and click on the link. You should be done in 10 minutes or less. And while you’re about it, share the link with your networks to make this a bit less of a convenience sample.

Jun 282014

When I drove home from work a couple of days ago, I noticed a policeman flagging down precisely every tenth car in the other lane and directing the drivers towards a lay-by. He was in uniform, wearing hi-vis gear and his government-issued Walther, so non-compliance was clearly not an issue. The scene was completed by a large billboard, stating that this was no ordinary vehicle spotcheck but rather a road use survey. I badly want these guys on our team.

police 300x275 How to Get a 100 per cent Response Rate

May 242014

Those old enough to remember that Bill Murray had a career before Lost in Translation (or to remember Bill Murray) will instantly recognise this scene: Punxsutawney Phil is predicting six more electoral cycles of political misery for Germany’s Liberal Democrats. Granted that the animal is a bit on the small side, but first, This is not America, and second, the choice of rodent is rather apt: Aren’t we all guinea pigs when it comes to policy making?

rodent e1400933785803 222x300 The Weirdest Campaign Poster Yet (Groundhog Day Edition)

Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more cycles of electoral Misery

The hopeful candidate molesting the furry bugger promises  that he will listen, not ignore (whom?). He might change his mind once the beast sinks its front teeth into that yummy finger.

May 222014

The Pirates are running a rather cheap electoral campaign: No faces (models or not) but only drawings in their trademark orange/blue tones. Their stinginess even extends to the meaning of their slogans. I was a bit thrown off by “Borders are so 80″, then discovered the small “er”, so borders are so 1980s, apparently. Well, yes, I get the implication for Europe. But why is there a “Herzschlag” (heartbeat? or heart attack???) between fear and courage, and why would that make me vote for the Pirates? I have a feeling that Literal Campaign Video Clips might become a thing very soon.

pirates 300x216 Pretty Perplexing Pirates Posters

Pirates Posters: Say what?


May 212014

The local Liberal Democrats never fail to amaze me. Just when I thought it could not get any better, I found another gem for my ever growing collection.

losing grip 225x300 More Silly Election Posters

Local Campaigns: The Hour of Amateurs

“Höhenflug” is the act of (figuratively) ascending to some higher plane (not an imminent danger here) but losing touch in the process. “Bodenhaftung” is literally grip (get one, please!) or traction, so best illustrated by sitting on a tractor. What better way to show that you are down to earth (pun intended) and in no way out of touch than riding this nifty little machine in your best dark suit, as any local farmer would? Bonus points for gratuitous use of “frischer Wind” (a breath of fresh air), quite possibly the most overused phrase in German politics and code for not being incumbent.