Mar 202017

With just six months to go until the 2017 Bundestag election, this is perhaps the ideal time to reflect on the rather remarkable 2013 election. Perhaps there is also a very fine line between Political Science and Contemporary History, and the German electoral studies community has a particular gift to step exactly on that line without ever quite crossing over? Either way, German Politics (the journal) published a fine Special Issue on the 2013 election in Germany. The articles focus on a number of highly specific research questions: Ben Christian employs the Rolling Cross Section-component of the GLES to study how voters learn to identify what would be the “correct” electoral choice for them over the course of the campaign. Martin Elff and Sigrid Roßteutscher show that the link between dealignment and party decline (of the SPD in particular) is more nuanced than previously thought. Marc Debus demonstrates that – female Chancellor or not – gender had little effect on voting for the Christian Democrats in recent Bundestag elections.

Katsunori Seki and Guy D. Whitten pit various economic voting models against each other. Robert Rohrschneider and Stephen Whitefield show that as far as mainstream parties are concernend, “Europe” is still largely a non-issue in German Politics, even in these troubled times. Sascha Huber looks at motivations for coalition voting to explain the decline of the FDP in the last weeks preceding the 2013 election. Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck dissects the AfD’s 2013/2014 electorate into two groups: euro-sceptics and xenophobes. Heiko Giebler and Bernhard Weßels demonstrate that good campaigns made voters remember local candidates. Finally, yours truly casts another long and dirty look at partisan dealignment, which has almost come to a halt in Germany. And since German Politics is a somewhat arcane journal, you may want to have a look at the nearly identical author’s (pre-publication) version.

Mar 152017

Almost exactly four years ago, the “Alternative für Deutschland” party (AfD) began its life as a moderately eurosceptic outfit that brought together right-wingers of various stripes. Even back in 2014, the party did not qualify as radical right-wing populist. Quite to the contrary: The leadership went to great lengths to present a “civic” front of professors, business persons, and concerned citizens. However, their 2015 de facto split was a critical juncture in the young party’s history. The part’s most prominent face, economist and former CDU member Bernd Lucke, and many of his supporters left the party.

The AfD’s central command is very active on Facebook, and so a quantitative analysis of their posts is a reasonable means for tracking their ideological trajectory. For a presentation I gave last week, I have updated and somewhat streamlined my 2015 analysis of their social media activities. I’m only looking at posts by the AfD on their own (federal) fan page. Over the last four years, the party has accumulated no less that 3482 of them. Their text is lightly normalised and stemmed, and I’m looking for substrings pertaining to four issues: Europe and the Euro, Greece, Islam/Muslims, and Migration/Refugees. Obviously, a post can refer to two or more of these issues, so the numbers may sum up to more than 100%. The result is this:


It’s quite clear that in 2013 and early 2014 (think European elections), a large chunk of their posts made reference to the Euro, the EU, and so forth. In the first half of 2015, Greece (remember the long nights and that funny finance minister) and Euroscepticism were back on the agenda. But when the economic liberals left the AfD around June and the refugees emerged as a dominant issue in European politics later that year, Greece was forgotten. In 2016, the AfD was all about migrants, refugees, and Muslims. I really need to find the time to dig deeper into this.

Jan 312017

After three years or so, there is a publication date for our Handbook of Electoral Behaviour: it will be out in mid-March (2017) and could be yours for a mere 240 quid (hey, that’s a ten per cent pre-publication discount!). Delectable as it is, it is somewhat unlikely that you would want to buy this tome for your private collection, but you might want to recommend it to your library. Speaking of delectable things, here is what is in the box:

Introduction (Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans and Michael S. Lewis-Beck)


Institutions and Voter Choice: Who Chooses, What Do They Choose Over, and How Do They Choose (Shaun Bowler)

Party Systems and Voter Alignments (Åsa von Schoultz (née Bengtsson))

The Study of Less Important Elections (Hermann Schmitt and Eftichia Teperoglou)

Clarity of Responsibility and Vote Choice (Thiago Silva and Guy D. Whitten)

Voting in New(er) Democracies (Lenka Bustikova and Elizabeth Zechmeister)


Age and Voting (Ruth Dassonneville)

Gender and Voting (Rosie Campbell)

Social Class and Voting (Geoffrey Evans)

Religion (Martin Elff and Sigrid Roßteutscher)

Race, Ethnicity and Elections: From Recognizable Patterns to Generalized Theories (Maria Sobolewska)

Social Networks and Voter Mobilization (Marc Hooghe)


The Evolving Role of Partisanship (Elias Dinas)

Party Identification: Meaning and Measurement (Donald P. Green and Susanne Baltes)

Cognitive Mobilization (Todd Donovan)


Strategic Voting (Thomas Gschwend and Michael F. Meffert)

Integrating Genetics into the Study of Electoral Behavior (Carisa L. Bergner and Peter K. Hatemi)

Emotions and Voting (David P. Redlawsk and Douglas R. Pierce)

Referendums (Alan Renwick)

Turnout (Hanna Wass and André Blais)


Ideology and Core Values (Robert N. Lupton, Adam M. Enders, and William G. Jacoby)

Issue Ownership: An Ambiguous Concept (Wouter van der Brug)

Valence (Jane Green and Will Jennings)

Value Cleavages (Romain Lachat)

The Economic Vote: Ordinary vs.Extraordinary Times (Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Marina Costa Lobo)

The VP-Function: A Review (Mary Stegmaier, Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Beomseob Park)


Voter Evaluation of Candidates and Party Leaders (Diego Garzia)

Candidate Location and Vote Choice (Jocelyn Evans)

The Personal Vote (Thomas Zittel)

Candidate Attractiveness (Markus Klein and Ulrich Rosar)

Campaign Effects (Richard Johnston)

Economic Voting in a New Media Environment:Preliminary Evidence and Implications (Diana C. Mutz and Eunji Kim)

Campaign Spending (Zachary Albert and Raymond La Raja)


Polls and Votes (Robert Ford, Christopher Wlezien, Mark Pickup and Will Jennings)

Econometric Approaches to Forecasting (Éric Bélanger and David Trotter)

Wisdom of Crowds (Andreas Murr)

Political Markets (Andreas Graefe)

Social Media and Elections: A Meta-analysis of Online-based Electoral Forecasts (Andrea Ceron, Luigi Curini and Stefano M. Iacus)

PART VIII  Candidates and Campaigns

Experiments (Robert Johns)

Multi-level Modelling of Voting Behaviour (Marcel Lubbers and Take Sipma)

Cross-national Data Sources: Opportunities and Challenges (Catherine de Vries)

Psephology and Technology, or: The Rise and Rise of the Script-Kiddie (Kai Arzheimer)

Conclusion (Marianne Stewart)

If you are still reading, you will have noticed that we got away with not having devoted a chapter (exclusively) to Rational Choice

Jan 042017

The good folks over at the LSE (which, apart from running one of the most vibrant Political Science blogging sites on the planet also happens to host a university) have kindly asked me to look ahead at the likely outcome of the German Federal Election in September in general and the role of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in particular. I submitted my text early in December so that it could be published after Christmas. Following the terror attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, they offered me the opportunity to amend and slightly extend the text. I politely declined, because I thought that a horrific but fairly localised event such as this will not fundamentally affect the outcome of a still relatively distant election. I have been wrong before. Here is the link to the article on the EUROPP blog:

Dec 052016

For obvious reasons, books on the AfD are thin on the ground. It took me an unduly long time to review this one, not because there was anything wrong with the book but rather because something was wrong with my timekeeping and project mismanagement. Hopefully, the review should appear in one of the next issues of German Politics, but for the time being, I’m posting the author’s version here. And yes, most people who would be interested in the book would also be able to read the review in German. Odd. I know.

Alexander Häusler (Ed.): Die Alternative für Deutschland. Programmatik, Entwicklung und politische Verortung. Wiesbaden (VS), 2016, 251 pages, 29.99 Euros.

A party in transition

As an object of study, Germany’s new(-ish) Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) is a moving target. Since its inception in early 2013, the party has gone from strength to strength and won parliamentary representation in the majority of the federal states and in the European Parliament. In all likelihood, the AfD will also enter the Bundestag, which would make it the first newcomer since 1990.

At the same time, the party underwent a remarkable transformation. While the AfD attracted a motley collection of right-wingers from the beginning, its public image was initially shaped by middle-aged conservative men, who had been, or could have been, former members of the Christian Democrats or the FDP. In 2013, the party’s very short manifesto was almost exclusively concerned with the reform of the EU and the Euro system and carefully avoided populist language. To the casual observer, the AfD may have looked like a breakaway from the CDU.

Two years down the line, the AfD’s most visible figure, Bernd Lucke, and many of his allies in the leadership had left the party. At the height of the Euro crisis, the AfD all but ditched Euroscepticism (still not a very salient issue in Germany) and began instead to focus on the familiar themes of immigration, asylum, and Islam. In the process, the AfD has arguably become Germany’s first modern and nationally successful Radical Right-Wing Populist Party.

The AfD in 2015

By necessity, any book on the AfD can only hope to provide a snapshot of the party’s rapidly unfolding development. One such snapshot, that nonetheless offers some deep insights, is the volume edited by Alexander Häusler. The 14 chapters (complemented by a short introduction and a concise summary) began their lives as papers for a conference that the FORENA research centre organised in February 2015. They have been updated for the book publication, but their style and content clearly reflects the dynamic nature of their object.

Häusler has organised the contributions along the lines of six broad themes: the AfD’s ideological position within the larger party system, the party’s prospective foreign policies, their positions on gender and family issues, their relationship with Pegida and Islamophobia more generally, their position vis-a-vis Germany’s New Right (“Neue Rechte”), and finally, the organisational realities on the ground (a somewhat odd section as there is only a single contribution: a case study on Brandenburg in early 2015). Accordingly, the chapters vary considerably in terms of their scope, methods, and outlook. For instance, in his analysis of the AfD’s position within and potential effect on the German party system, Frank Decker relies on the standard tool kit of comparative party (system) studies and looks at the AfD’s history, party ideology, membership, affiliations, and voters. Similarly, Marcel Lewandowsky applies (qualitative) content analysis to a set of party documents (mostly manifestos) to compare the AfD’s stance on EU politics and International Relations more generally to those of the CSU, NPD, and the “Freie Wähler”. Felix Korsch, on the other hand, presents a detailed quantitative analysis of publicly accessible sources to uncover the degree of overlap between (prominent) members of Pegida, of the AfD, and of other parties and organisation. He complements his findings by pointing out how some of the claims and demands voiced by Pegida resemble those made by the AfD, while other authors offer very detailed insights into the microcosm of right-wing movements and organisations in Germany.

The AfD’s gender agenda

Perhaps the most interesting section is the one on gender and family issues. Christian fundamentalism is a niche issue in Germany. Politically, it has been mostly confined to micro parties such as the Partei Bibeltreuer Christen (PBC). But Andreas Kemper and Ulli Jentsch demonstrate in their respective chapters that there is again overlap between Germany’s small pro-life movement and other ’anti-emancipatory’ actors on the one hand and elite actors within the AfD on the other. As a corollary, Jasmin Siri’s qualitative analysis of party documents reveals the outlines of a highly traditional, if not anti-feminist agenda.


Reflecting its origins in a conference, and, more importantly, the rapid transformation of the AfD itself, the book can not hope to provide a single, coherent and definitive statement on the young party. But this is not a shortcoming: The authors and the editor present a useful, multi-faceted snapshot of a party in transition that can serve as a starting point for a whole host of future avenues for research.

Nov 292016

Why is there support for the Radical Right?

I’ve just submitted the final (hopefully) draft of a chapter that I’m preparing for Jens Rydgren’s forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right. The job description was to Explain Electoral Support for the Radical Right (read the pre-print here). In 8000 words or less. Sure thing. No pressure.

Potential causes of Radical Right voting

Outside Europe, believing in Hell is one probable cause

Given the formidable size of the literature on the Radical Right, I had to be brutal. The chapter organises the presumptive causes of right-wing voting along the lines of the familiar Micro-Meso-Macro scheme, focusing on a number of landmark studies on the one hand and some of the latest research on the other. I aim at weighing the evidence in favour and against some prominent hypotheses about the conditions for Radical Right party success, including the pure-protest hypothesis, the charismatic-leader hypothesis, and the silent-counter-revolution hypothesis. Following that, I discuss what we know about the effects of a host of meso- and macro-level factors, and point out some directions for further research. I concludes that Radical Right mobilisation is now the rule rather than the exception, and that we should perhaps focus on understanding why they are not successful in some cases.

Post-Truth Politics Disclaimer:

I completely made up that number

Nov 252016

Googling around for a citation Doing serious scholarly work, I stumbled upon this article that was published in Foreign Affairs back in 1997. It would seem that these guys were rather prescient here.


Before you get too excited: On the next page, the article claims that liberal values and democracy are “interwoven in the Western political fabric, [but] are coming apart in the rest of the world. ” Like many others, I’m wondering if this is still a valid assertion. And yes, the warnings about Yeltsin look rather quaint now.

Nov 182016

With the vote mostly counted in the US, PS have posted a useful summary of the Political Science Forecasting Models for that infamous election.

By and large, and in neat contrast to the current fad for self-flagellation, the augurs of the discipline have done well. Eight of the ten predictions that were published in PS got the winner of the popular vote right. Not that it would make a difference. Somewhat ironically, Norpoth’s Primary Model that I had (incorrectly) credited  on that gloomy Wednesday morning with predicting a Trump victory performed worst.  But in fairness to HN, his model has by far the longest lead.

Nov 152016


This week, I had the opportunity to talk on the Nuffield Politics Seminar about my current project on citizens’s preferences on Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and how they differ from what lawmakers decided. The feedback I got was amazing, though not always practical (“If you could go back in time and vary about 10 experimental conditions …”.

Here are the slides: