Mar 312015
 

We have updated our add-on (or ado) surveybias, which calculates our multinomial generalisation of the old Martin, Traugott, and Kennedy (2005) measure for bias. If you have any dichotomous or multinomial variable 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. 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.

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 have a survey, 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.

Mar 242015
 
5356813191_76063f580d_verfassungsgericht

Banning the NPD – What is at Stake?

Germany’s NPD may be a racist, if not neo-Nazi outfit, but it enjoys the full protection and privileges the German constitution grants to parties. While the party is legal, it is entitled to state funding proportional to its (puny) electoral results. It can only be banned if six of the country’s eight supreme judges agree on a ruling, and only three institutions – the federal government, the federal parliament, and the federal council (the assembly of minister presidents) – can instigate this legal procedure in the first place. The country’s supreme court has only ever banned two parties: the neo-Nazi SRP in 1952 and the communist KPD in 1956.

Banning the NPD: The Story so Far

In 2003, a first attempt to ban the NPD spectacularly collapsed when it transpired that an unspecified number of leading characters in the NPD was actually on the payrolls of various federal and state-level police forces and secret services, who refused to reveal the identities of their informers. A qualified minority of three judges felt that under these circumstances, it was impossible to separate the actions of the party from the intentions of their puppeteers, and so refused to hear the case. Obviously, this was hugely embarrassing for the state, while the NPD predictably claimed that they had won a seal of approval from Germany’s top court.

verfassungsgericht photo

Photo by Prokura

Against the advice of just about everybody, the federal council made a new attempt to have the NPD banned in 2013. The then CDU/CSU/FDP federal government and their majority in parliament refused to support that bid (which led to predictable political backlash), arguing that it would run into the very same problems. But the minister presidents argued that they had “switched off” their sources within the party in time, and that the new evidence was not uncontaminated.

The Trouble With NPD Informers

Since December 2013, the court has been pondering the bid, giving now hint as to when a ruling could be expected. But yesterday, someone discovered a bombshell on the court’s website: On Thursday last week, the judges had ruled that they demand more evidence – evidence for the alleged “switching-off” of the informers, that is. Specifically, they want to see a (written) memorandum between federal and state authorities that is referenced but not included in the bid. More generally, they want proof that the sources were indeed de-activated and have not been contacted since. I have no idea what such negative evidence could look like, and the tone of the ruling, which sets the federal council a two-month deadline, is pretty exasperated. So we might be in for another round of high-profile embarrassment.

Photo by Prokura

Mar 222015
 
Putsch in the AfD?

Strife within the AfD

In my recent West European Politics Article on the AfD (ungated pre-print still here), I argue that the party’s official position (i.e. their EP 2014 manifesto, their website and their social media activities) is soft-eurosceptic and not right-wing populist: For them, the enemy is Athens and the profligacy of the Greeks, not Islam, Turkey, or the Roma. I also argue that this official party line is very much shaped by party co-founder and co-chair Bernd Lucke, and that others disagree, not least because many AfD voters are (or were) not particularly concerned about the Euro and orthodox economics, but very much in favour of restrictions on immigration.

Putsch in the AfD?

The AfD and Bruce Springsteen. You would have to ask @BDStanley what it means.

Like any new party, the AfD is made up of various groups, wings, and tendencies. Christian fundamentalists mingle with economic liberals; disappointed conservative Christian democrats mix with former members of Germany’s extreme right parties (although the AfD tries to enforce a ban on those). A year or so ago, we used to talk about “liberals”, “conservatives”, and a third faction in the middle which tried to build bridges. But now, we’re apparently down to two “wings”: Lucke’s economic liberals (who are also socially conservative), and those who want a tougher, more nationalist party. Incidentally, this split seems to be reinforced by an East-West conflict within the AfD, with the electorally successful Eastern chapters more inclined to play the right-wing populist card.

The AfD Putsch: State of Play

A week ago, the state party in Thuringia drew up the “Erfurter Resolution”, a manifesto that aims to drum up support for a more nationalist orientation of the party. So far, they have collected more than 1,500 signature by party members (the total number is about 21,000), and roughly the same number of “likes” on Facebook. The latter figure seems a bit disappointing, and Facebook’s statistics actually show a rapidly falling rate of new likes. Why the right-wingers chose to call themselves “der Flügel” (the wing, or tendency) when they claim to speak for the centre of the party is anyone’s guess. Once, more, it must have been Amateur Night in Erfurt.

Counterstrike: The “Germany Resolution”

On Wednesday, Arch-Economic Liberal (TM) Hans-Olaf Henkel and three of his MEP colleagues have published another manifesto, the “Deutschland-Resolution” (“Germany Resolution”), which calls for unity, but attacks the Erfurt Manifesto. This is much cleverer framing, as “Germany” embodies unity and refers to the party name. But for all purposes and intents, we are now looking at two wings clustered around two manifestos, with the letter apparently being less popular (just 388 likes so far). They haven’t published anything on the number of signatories yet.

A split in the AfD in Thuringia

But the who could be more relevant than the how many in this case, and the short list Henkel and friends have put online is interesting for two reasons: First, there is a number of second-tier party functionaries from the West, further hinting at a regional split, and second, there are the signatures of three state-level MPs for the AfD from Thuringia, who were expected to sign the Erfurt declaration last week, but did not. That means that the AfD delegation in the Thuringia state parliament is effectively split down the middle.

Commercial Break: And Then, There is Always Marcus Pretzell

pretzell photo

Photo by blu-news.org

In my article, I have singled out Marcus Pretzell, another AfD MEP, as a representative of the more right-wing populist wing. He rose to prominence (well, amongst us spotters) when – against Lucke’s express wishes – he invited Nigel Farage to address the party faithful. Now Pretzell, a lawyer and property developer, is making headlines again, because he owes the tax man a lot of money. Apparently, Pretzell would not answer the increasingly urgent letters, and the Man could not find Pretzell at his address, so the authorities decided to dock some money from the AfD’s account (Pretzell is also state party chair in North Rhine-Westphalia). While the monies have been returned to the AfD, and while this could eventually reduce Pretzell’s role as a troublemaker, it is not exactly great publicity for the party and may, as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung shrewdly observes, mess up their credit rating for ages.

Stay Tuned

Meanwhile, Bernd Lucke has signed neither declaration, which seems wise. Frauke Petry, currently his co-chair and his most plausible competitor for the future single leadership post, is biding here time, too. I don’t think that this is the beginning of the end for the AfD, but the tensions have become much more visible in recent months, and a split of the party is beginning to look like a distinct possibility. Of course, rifts in the AfD are nothing new, but so far, they were framed as clashes between personalities, or as conflict over the future structure of the party (read: power struggles). The public debate about conflicting manifestos and the ideologies they represent may mark the point at which voters begin to wonder what the party actually stands for.

Mar 172015
 
2933364227_72cf97b8f0_Update-on-the-Afd-Putsch

“Der Flügel” (the “wing” or “tendency”) within Germany’s AfD that drew up the Erfurt manifesto, which calls for a more radical rightist approach to politics, claims that more than 700 people have signed the declaration within the first 24 hours. Taking a leaf out of the social-media savvy main party’s book, they have created a Facebook page, which has attracted 1,300 likes so far.

Update on the Afd

Photo by sludgegulper

The Thüringer Allgemeine newspaper reports that at least initially, only five of the party’s eleven delegates in the state parliament of Thuringia have signed the declaration, and that the CDU state party’s maverick leader has offered the others a new political home with the Christian Democrats. Meanwhile, Lucke and Petry seem determined to wait and see what comes out of this (if anything).

Photo by sludgegulper

Mar 152015
 
16457560655_f7286482d4_lucke-gauland

In a recent research paper, I conclude that judging by their EP 2014 manifesto, the ‘Alternative for Germany’ is currently not a right-wing populist party. But I also argue that some members of the party elite “represent less savoury brands of right-wing politics that could ultimately prove more attractive to voters than Lucke’s polite exercises in economic theory. Just how long the party resists that temptation remains to be seen.” It would seem that we may have reached that point.

lucke gauland photo

Going different ways? Bernd Lucke & Alexander Gauland

Photo by blu-news.org

The struggle for the AfD’s heart and soul is of course an ongoing process, but developments have sped up a bit in recent weeks. A month ago, the AfD did well, but not too well, in a regional election in the city state of Hamburg, Lucke’s hometown. Their local campaign had highlighted the pro-capitalist, market-liberal elements in the party’s ideology, avoiding references to Islam and Pegida. At the press conferences, the local party chair was sidelined by Lucke, who applauded this course, as well as by grumbling representatives of the electorally more successful Eastern state parties, who had not been invited to support their Western brethren’s campaign.

Yesterday, a conference of the AfD state party in Thuringia voted for the ‘Erfurt Declaration’, a strong-worded manifesto that expresses concern about the normalisation/moderation of the party. Without naming names, the manifesto criticises ‘technocracy’ (that’s a reference to Lucke), ‘cowardice’ and even – gasp – the ‘selling out of our national interest’ – anathema to every right-winger worth his/her salt, and another not too subtle reference to Lucke’s performance in the European Parliament. The signatories reject the official, sceptical party line on Pegida (a ‘civic movement’, according to the manifesto), demand a ‘fundamental political change in Germany’ and claim to give voice to widespread disappointment within the party, ‘particularly in the East’.

The manifesto even aims to bring together all those who represent a ‘true alternative’ to the established party system (as opposed to the Ersatz liberalism that Lucke is delivering). The authors of the manifesto have also set up a facebook page and website called ‘der Flügel’ (the wing, or tendency) for the manifesto. More importantly, Alexander Gauland, party leader in Brandenburg, party founding father and one of the more prominent representatives of the nationalist wing within the party, has signed up.

So a true (and Eastern) alternative within the Alternative is stirring. Is this the Putsch already? Stay tuned.

Photo by blu-news.org