This is me, about once per year, when I bemoan my lack of R-coolness whilst simultaneously enjoying my Stata-efficiency.
The autumn/winter edition of the ever more Eclectic, ridiculously Erratic Bibliography on the Extreme Right in Western Europe is
overdue well on its way, and it’s gonna be YUGE! Make it even YUGEr by sending me your candidates (books, chapters, journal articles) for inclusion. The geographical focus remains on (Western) Europe, but I am also interested in general (e.g. conceptual, methodological, psychological etc.) right-wing stuff. Self nominations are welcome. Obviously, no guarantee for inclusion whatsoever. If you have a DOI and/or a well-formatted bibtex entry, that’s spiffy, but as long as the reference is complete, I’m not too fussed about the format. Put your reference(s) in a comment right here, send me an email (kai.arzheimer AT gmail.com), DM me, or leave a comment on the Facebook page.
So: three more surveys. No kidding
Finality finally got a bit more final: just to annoy me (now here is a narcissist), three further surveys were published today (already yesterday in Germany). One of them is only new-ish: Emnid was in the field from September 14-21, so I take their data as a snapshot of the world as it was on September 17 (last Sunday). Forsa interviewed from September 18 to September 21, resulting in a mid-point of September 19 (Tuesday), while Insa did all their fieldwork on Thursday/Friday. But does this new information in any way alter the expectations? The short answer is:
It makes no difference
Here is a comparison of the overall estimates. They are virtually identical. The CDU/CSU is up by one point, but that is due to different rounding. The probability of the AfD coming third is now up at 99.6 per cent (from 96 per cent) and the point estimate for their lead over the Left is up, too, but again, that is due to rounding – the credible interval is much the same.
|Median||95 HDI||Median||95 HDI|
|AfD lead||1 | [0-2.4] | 2 | [0.4-2.7]|
No more graphs, because they would look the same. Coalition options do not change. If the polls are right on average and the poll aggregation works, Grand Coalition and Jamaica are the mathematically possibilities. To be honest, in six per cent of my simulations a coalition of the Christian Democrats and the AfD would achieve a majority, but that is inconceivable.
That’s it. Move on. Nothing to see here until Sunday evening, which happens to be Sunday noon on my personal timescale.
I just suppressed the urge to insert the word ’countdown’ into the headline. See what I’m doing here? We have four more polls by Allensbach and Forsa (published on Tuesday), and by FGW and GMS (published on Thursday), and presumably, these are the last that we are going to see before election day. Do they change the story?
First, let’s note that FGW has the very latest data: they interviewed on Wednesday and Thursday and published the results immediately. A very short fieldwork period raises issues of representativeness, but they have been in the business for about 40 years now, so let us assume they know what they are doing, shall we? Second, unlike most pollsters, FGW always publishes both raw (but presumably weighted) data (what they call the political mood) and estimates that take into account party identification and other long-term factors (their ’projection’). So far, I have always used the former, but we have reached the point where the forecast becomes the nowcast, and so the only thing we get this time is their projection, which I treat like if they were raw data, using last week numbers of undecided and non-voters (both not very realistic, I suppose).
GSM was in the field from Thursday last week until Wednesday, but because I peg every poll to the mid-point of their fieldwork, their data are three days older than FGW’s for modelling purposes. Things get bit confusing then: Forsa were in the field from September 11 to September 15, and Allensbach even from September 6 to September 14, but then sat on their data. So their findings came out on Tuesday but are less recent than the Insa poll I talked about last time round. In other words: By putting this information in the model, I’m adjusting our estimate of where public opinion was a week ago, which then feeds into my guess where it is right now (or rather where it was two days ago). It’s a good thing that this is almost over.
Ok, I succumbed. Couldn’t resist. etc.
The CDU/CSU maintain their lead
Support for the Christian Democrats has further declined. The last estimate is 35 per cent [34-37], which would be six points less than in 2013. But the Social Democrats are down, too. The estimate for their current level of support is 22 per cent [21-23], so the CDU/CSU’s lead is still 14 points [12-16].
The FDP bounce remains elusive, and the Greens are weak
If there is a last-minute rush towards the FDP, it’s not reflected in the polls. But the party (not currently in parliament) is doing well, and much better than a few months ago when it was far from certain that they would return to federal politics. Estimated support for them is 9 per cent[9-10], which puts them ever so slightly ahead of the Greens (8 per cent [7-9].
Is the AfD finally pulling ahead of the Left?
After going to great lengths to explain why the race for 3rd place is irrelevant and how the Left is better positioned to win it anyway, the AfD is finally pulling (or rather inching) ahead. The final estimate for their current support is 11 per cent [10-12] (which would be a far cry from the levels of support they enjoyed in 2016), while the Left is put at 10 per cent [9-10]. With the four new polls factored in, the chance of the AfD coming third is now a whopping 96 per cent. The size of their likely lead is a single point [0-2.4].
Overall estimates and coalitions
I (and the pollsters) have been embarrassingly wrong before, but it seems almost impossible that we are not heading for a six-party parliament. It’s also quite clear that there will be no SPD-lead coalition government (unless the SPD could somehow persuade the Greens, the FDP, and the Left to work with them, and even that might not be sufficient). Unless there is a last-minute bounce for the FDP or the Christian Democrats that does not affect the other party (i.e. a shift from the radical to the moderate right), there will be no centre-right government
The two most likely outcomes remain a continuation of the Grand Coalition (not necessarily in the best interest of the SPD), or a Jamaica coalition (if the FDP and the CSU and the Greens can work together). Interesting times ahead.
German Elections: Three more polls
We Anoraks are all getting a little jittery here. It’s 134 hours until closing time and there will be only a small handful of polls coming in in the next couple of days, so is there anything new that may be divined from the latest crop, published today (Insa), on Saturday (Emnid), and on Friday (FGW)? Not really. First, the Emnid poll is not new, but new-ish: fieldwork began on September 7, almost a week before Infratest’s (alleged) shock poll. Second, the three polls mostly agree:
Third, they are broadly in line with the last (Friday) set of estimates. Of course, that does not mean that the pollsters have it right. It just means that public opinion as measured by the various survey houses seems to be rather stable at the moment.
The Christian Democrats are still leading
Support for the Christian Democrats has been flagging recently, but they still have a solid lead of about 14 points over the Social Democrats. The credible interval for the gap is 13-16 per cent. The current estimate for the Christian Democrats is 37 per cent [36-38], which would make them the strongest party by far but would also imply a substantial loss compared to their result in the 2013 election (41.5%). The estimate for the SPD is 23 per cent [21-24], which is virtually identical to their worst ever result (in 2009).
The FDP and the Greens seem to be safely in
Speaking of virtual, it seems virtually impossible that these two minor parties will not clear the electoral hurdle. Then again, look at what happened in 2013. Right now, the FDP is ever so slightly ahead of the Greens, but the enormous attention they are currently getting from the chattering classes is not (yet?) reflected in the polls. Either way, their likely return from the electoral dead would be a significant event in German politics.
The Left and the AfD remain tied
Even the Wallstreet Journal is very excited about the idea of the AfD becoming Germany’s “third” party (technically, the CSU is competing for that title, too, but that is a different story). According to the model, however, the chances of the AfD ending up in this position are just 28%. Although predictions of support are almost identical – 9.5% [8.7-10.3] vs 9.7% [8.9-10.5] – the model gives the Left a much better chance (53%) of coming out tops. This is neatly illustrated here:
However, the relevant information (in my view) is still this: we are heading for a six/seven party parliament, with four minor parties of almost equal strength
After factoring in the three latest polls, the options remain essentially the same: In all simulations there is a majority for both a Grand Coalition and a Jamaica arrangement. There is also tiny (0.5%) chance of a centre-right (CDU/CSU + FDP) coalition. If the polls are correct, nothing else will work. As I said before: Move on. Not much to see here.
It’s just a single poll
Once more, repeat after me: It’s just a single poll. It’s also the time for horse-race journalism (and for horse-race blogging). In this specific case, the single poll is the most recent instalment of the “Deutschlandtrend”, a survey-series that Infratest-dimap runs for public broadcasting giant ARD. From the results (SPD: 20, AfD: 12), Focus Online has created a lovely headline: SPD in freefall, AfD at highest level of support in seven months. But is there really a story?
Now for the horse-race blogging. Since my last blog (day before yesterday), three new polls have been published. Why bother to start the big and mysterious poll-pooling machine again? Because I can, because in a week or so, there will be no new polls, and because I want to see if there is anything to the Focus story.
First, a closer look at the Infratest-dimap poll, which is clearly the most recent piece of information: field time was only the last two days (September 12-13), and it was published immediately. The other two “new” polls are not really that new. They were in the field from September 8-11 (Insa) and September 4-8 (Forsa) and put the SPD at about 23 per cent and the AfD between 9 and 11 per cent for these slightly earlier time spans. Does that suggest some dramatic movement during the last couple of days? Not really. Infratest-dimap tends to produce somewhat low-ish estimates for the SPD, and rather high estimates for the AfD. The (estimated) house effects are -0.7 and +1.7 points, respectively. The house effects are not calibrated in any way, so Infratest-dimap’s estimates may be perfectly correct, but across all the polls in the model, their estimates for these two parties tend to be below/above average. This is neatly illustrated in the graph:
All Infratest-dimap polls (the hollow circles) put the AfD well above the model-based credible interval, and this one (the rightmost circle) is particularly far away from the envelope. The current credible interval for the AfD is 8.6-10.3%. The AfD’s mini-upward trend may be real, but this poll is probably exaggerating the development.
Infratest-dimap may also underestimate support for the SPD. The model currently puts the SPD between 21.4% and 23.6%. The Infratest-dimap poll (rightmost filled red circle) is well below the credible interval. Things don’t look great, but it’s not “freefall”. The credible interval for the gap between the the SPD and the AfD is 11.6-14.6 points, so the 8 point gap reported by Focus on the basis of a single poll looks like a bit of an over-dramatisation. The AfD is not (yet) catching up with the Social Democrats.
Will the AfD be Germany’s third party? In the model-based simulations, their chances have gone up from 18% to 39%, but that is still far from certain.In actual fact, according to the model, the Left has a better chance (50%) to become the largest of the minor parties. But that would be a far less dramatic story. And realistically, this is all by the by: the four minor parties enjoy virtually identical levels of support.
Coalition options are the same as they were three days ago. So what is the bottom line? This last poll (and the other two) make good headlines, but in terms of likely politically relevant outcomes, the situation has not changed at all.
With less than two weeks until the election, we now have 153 surveys from seven different companies to pore over. The bulk of these (104) were produced by Emnid, Forsa and Insa. GMS and Allensbach have delivered only a handful of polls (seven and nine, respectively), while FGW (15) and Dimap (18) occupy the middle ground. Although this is the so-called “hot phase” of the campaign, with TV debates, tours of the country and whatnot, there is still very little movement in the (averaged) results. Unless my model is filtering out too much noise, or the polls are off, which are two entirely plausible and not mutually exclusive ideas.
The AfD and the Left are perhaps gaining some ground
Estimates for both parties have shown an upward trend for the last couple of weeks, but the gains are very moderate (a point apiece or so), and given the credible intervals, the movement is not necessarily real. But the AfD is probably doing a bit better than they did in late June, which marked their low point during the campaign.
Support for the Liberals and the Greens is mostly stable
The tiniest of declines for the major parties.
Conversely, support for the two major parties may have fallen a bit. But the credible interval for the Christian Democrats is particularly wide because there is a lot of variation in their results, whereas numbers for the SPD are all very close to the credible envelope. Spare a thought for them: It’s abundantly clear that even with their recent relative weakness, the CDU/CSU are much stronger than the Social Democrats.
Overall estimates and possible coalitions
With about a fortnight to go (polls are published with a delay, and the model assigns each poll a notional date in the middle of the actual field phase) and many postal votes already cast, the overall picture looks very much like it has for weeks now. Support for all four minor parties is virtually identical and above the electoral threshold. The SPD is hovering somewhere between 20 and 25 per cent, while the Christian Democrats are located somewhere in the high thirties.
The Guardian may daydream about a black-green coalition, but that is not very plausible at the moment: not in a single one of 60,000 simulated outcomes would such a coalition achieve a majority. Obviously, a red-green coalition is even less probable, and a red-red-green majority is out of the question, too.
Nine days ago, there was at least a chance (23%) of a traditional centre-right majority, but with the (moderate) decline in support for the Christian Democrats, this looks highly unlikely (0.1%) now. However, both a “Jamaica” coalition and a Grand coalition are feasible in all simulations. So once more, a fourth term for Merkel seems to be inevitable.
Eight months of polling
They AfD is good at spinning
Another object of rather intense media focus has been the question whether the AfD will be Germany’s third-strongest party on September 24. The aggregation model is not sure: In 10,645 of 60,000 simulated outcomes of the election, the AfD is the strongest of the minor parties. That’s 18 per cent of all runs, which roughly translates to “rather not”.
Either way, the question is quite irrelevant. The real issue here is that all minor parties enjoy very similar levels of support. If this support translates into real votes, there will be four minor parties in parliament, and coalition building is going to be a difficult, but not impossible (see below).
The Christian Democrats will be the strongest party (bloc) by a fair margin
A look at possible coalitions
While tactical voting can mess with support for the FDP (that’s the way I burnt my fingers four years ago), not a single simulation out of 60,000 suggests that the FDP will remain below the electoral threshold. All four minor parties are currently well above the electoral threshold, and their respective levels of support are indistinguishable. Take that, media people.
In terms of possible coalitions, that means (amongst other things) that right now, there is no chance for a leftist (red-red-green) government: the combined vote share for the three left parties is in the range of 39-41 per cent. This implies that there is no majority for an SPD/Green coalition, too. There is also no majority for a “traffic light” (SPD/Green/FDP) government. In sum, on current polling the probability of an SPD-led coalition (and hence the probability of a Schulz chancellorship) is nil.
But there is a not-too-shabby chance for a traditional centre-right coalition. Thanks to the strong support for the Christian Democrats, the CDU/CSU and the FDP have a (narrow) majority in 23 per cent of the simulations. A “Jamaica” (CDU/CSU+FDP+Greens) coalition would have a solid majority in all of the simulations. And of course, there is always the prospect of yet another Not-so-Grand coalition.
So it looks that I was right to sell in May and go away: If the polls reflect the reality of German politics, and if that reality remains reasonable stable for another three weeks, there are 2.23 viable coalitions that would be led by Angela Merkel, and not a single one that would be headed by Martin Schulz.
The final polls for May are in, bringing the total number to 87. As in previous instances of this analysis, the bulk of the data comes from Emnid, Forsa, and INSA. As always, it would be great to have more data from the other companies to play with.
The Schulz boost is over, yes?
For the two major parties, May has confirmed a trend that began in April: the Christian Democrats are regaining support at an almost constant rate, whereas the Social Democrats are losing support in similar proportions. Both parties are more or less back where they started in January, before Schulz’s candidacy was announced. Incidentally, that is roughly where they were four years ago at the same time in the electoral cycle.
Why was Schulz / the SPD unable to retain the support they had in February/March? I think there are three reasons for their surge and decline:
- Any surprise replacement for the unpopular Sigmar Gabriel would have been a clever move. Presenting a new figure energised the party and created a lot of positive media coverage for the SPD.
- Schulz was a known unknown in German politics. As former president of the European Parliament, he had a reasonably familiar face. At the same time, no one hat the slightest idea what he stood for in terms of domestic policies. That made him a canvas on which everybody could project their personal image of the perfect challenger. Moreover, his initial assessment was largely based on personality, which allowed him to benefit from Merkel fatigue (TM).
- But … Schulz disappeared for weeks, he failed to explain what would make him a better chancellor than Merkel, his trade mark issue of “social justice” is popular in Germany but not really divisive given the socialdemocratisation of the CDU under Merkel, and Schulz was also implicitly blamed for the string of lost Land elections. Sad. Loser (for the time being).
The AfD and the Left are stable
This is a very boring picture. While the two major parties are battling, the far-left and the far-right party have been mostly stable and neck-and-neck in the polls since mid-March. Truth to be told, there is a lot of movement in the polls, particularly for the AfD, which in May was put anywhere between 6 and 10 per cent. But the model believes that this is a combination of noise and house effects, and that the true level of support has hardly changed.
With respect to the AfD, INSA remains the most bullish and FGW remains the most bearish house. But even for INSA, there is some variation (8 to 10 per cent), whereas Forsa sees the AfD as absolutely stable at 7 per cent.
The FDP is back. Or is it?
Both the Greens and the FDP have been stable for months, with the latter positioned in many survey too close for comfort to the electoral threshold. But support for the FDP (who in 2013 lost representation in the Bundestag for the first time since 1949) has risen in May, allowing them to overtake the Greens for the first time since the campaign began in January. This reflects their good performances in the latest Land elections. However, it is difficult to tell whether they really have a lead over the Greens. Polls for both parties vary quite a bit, and so the model gives them wide-ish credible intervals and suggests that the gap between the two is already closing again.
Overall estimates and possible coalitions
On current polling, six (or seven, if the two Christian Democratic parties are counted separately) parties would enter parliament. All four minor parties are well above the electoral threshold of five per cent, and statistically indistinguishable from each other.
Between the two major parties, there is a very visible gap whose credible interval is 11 to 16 per cent. There are still three months to go, and polls are not predictions, but the Schulz effect would have to return with a vengeance to close this distance. In a renewed Grand Coalition, the SPD is likely to be the junior partner.
But could Schulz still be chancellor by ganging up with smaller parties against Merkel? Again, this is not a prediction, but on the basis of the polls, it seems unlikely. In 60,000 simulated draws from the estimated distribution of political support, not one shows a majority for a red-green coalition. The same goes for a red-red-green majority, even if that was politically viable (a question the SPD will not dignify with an answer), and for a “Traffic Light” (SPD, FDP, Greens) coalition.
For the last year or so, I had alway assumed that the AfD’s likely entry into the Bundestag would deprive a would-be centre-right government of their majority. But the remarkable rise of both the Christian Democrats and the FDP suggests that there might be a chance for a traditional black-and-yellow coalition: In 19 per cent of the simulations the two parties achieve a (bare) majority necessary to form a government. And rather intriguingly, in all 60,000 simulations there is a majority for the still somewhat exotic “Jamaica” coalition (Christian Democrats, FDP, Greens). And of course, both major parties together would always command a majority of at least 60 per cent.
Put differently, given the current state of the polls, it would be impossible to form a coalition without the Christian Democrats. Which in turn means that the initials of the next chancellor would inevitably be AM.
13 new polls show some movement in April
It is four and half months until the September election, and things are getting a little more interesting. Everyone around here is happy that Macron saved the EU and defeated populism in one fell swoop (or maybe not), but I still love a nice parochial state election. And we had a good one: Last Sunday, the small northern state of Schleswig-Holstein went to the polls. The current coalition (SPD, Greens, and the Danish/Frisian minority party SSW) is unusual enough, and they lost their majority of a single seat. The CDU won a bit, the SPD lost a bit more, but for them, it’s a disaster since expectations were high (Schulz effect, anyone?). The Left and the Pirates are out, and both the Greens and the FDP are in double digit territory. Certainly, this is not a federal trend. The AfD made into the Landtag for the 12th (?) time in a row, but barely (5.9%).
Further to the south, North Rhine-Westphalia will have its own election on next Sunday. Here, the red-green coalition is in trouble, because the Greens are doing very poorly, and SPD support is lacklustre. The CDU, which has been trailing the SPD for a long time, is catching up, and both the AfD and the FDP are doing ok, though not great. It’s not quite clear if the Left will make it, and the Pirates (remember?) seem poised to lose their last delegation in a state parliament. What ever happens here will inevitably been read as a bellwether, because of the state’s size (it is home to almost a quarter of Germany’s population), and because it is the last state election before the federal election.
Meanwhile, 13 surveys that poll federal voting intentions have been published. Taken together, there are now 17 polls to track the developments in April (and several that already extend into the first weeks of May).
The CDU/CSU is the strongest party now, but not very strong
Ever so slowly, the CDU/CSU have managed to pull ahead of the SPD. The Christian Democrats now stand at about 36 per cent. While this makes them the strongest party by far, they polled about 40 per cent four years ago at the same point in the cycle.
For the SPD, the famous Schulz effect has worn off a bit. April was a slow dive that has probably taken them below the 30 per cent threshold once more. While they are still doing much better than they did in January, their support has declined considerably over the last six weeks.
The Greens and the FDP both move up a tiny bit
The Greens, on the other hand, have probably moved up in April, but only by about a point. Compared to where they stood a quarter ago, they are still performing poorly. The FDP may have gained a point, too, and are now indistinguishable from the Greens: they both hover somewhere just below eight per cent.
The AfD and the Left remain tied in the same spot
Scandals and quarrels on the one hand (AfD) and non-events (the Left) on the other not withstanding, both parties have remained exactly where they were all through April: tied, and between eight and nine per cent. Move on, nothing to see here.
Overall estimates and possible coalitions
On the last day of polling so far (May 9), support for all four minor parties is statistically indistinguishable, and they are all safely (though not comfortably) above the electoral threshold. The gap between the major parties is quite pronounced at 8 points (the largest difference in months), with a credible interval of 6-11 points.
Given the weakness of the SPD and the strength of the Christian Democrats, it is hardly surprising that the simulated probability of a red-red-green majority – hotly debated only a two months ago – is zero. The same goes for the “traffic light” option. Let us not even contemplate the prospects for a red-green majority.
But due to the strength of the AfD, a centre-right coalition would also have no majority, CDU recovery or not. Conversely, the probability of a Jamaica (CDU/CSU + FDP + Greens) majority is 99.9%. Put differently, on current levels of polling, every viable coalition would be led by the CDU, and Merkel would have a choice between a) continuing an unhappy marriage with a spouse that wants out or b) entering a risky but also exciting ménage à trois. Which just goes to prove the point that it is impossible to do political analysis without resorting to tiresome sexualised metaphors.