Aug 302013
 
fdp punctuation 225x300 We. Liberals. Love. Punctuation. Marks.

The Liberals Hired an Agency Famous For Their Ability To Split Waffle With Gratuitous Interpunctuation Marks

Responsibility. Performance. Freedom. Pointless. Full. Stops.

It is still silly campaign season in Germany, and the new exhibits just keep coming. Here is another one brought to you by the Party Formerly Known As The Guys Who Almost Stood Up Against The Bloody Spelling Reform Back In The 1990s.

Incidentally, the party also upset a lot of German teachers back in 1968 when they began styling their logo as F.D.P. (a violation of clause 102, subsection 2 of the German spelling code). They shed the dots back in 2001, when a youngish Guido Westerwelle took over and transformed the party. So possibly, just possibly, Regained. Full. Stops. Between. Buzzwords. Are. The. Message.

 

Aug 282013
 
Aug 112013
 
held 225x300 Electoral Relay Race: Is Incumbency Advantage Transferable?

Trying to Rub off the Incumbency Advantage from the Old Guy

The local MP is stepping down after a mere 19 years, and the local mayor wants his job. The outgoing MP won his seat five times in a row on a plurality of the Erststimmen. Structural factors aside, this looks like an incumbency advantage (though the 2009 result was rather close).

Can he pass this on to the successor? In the 2010 UK General Election, party incumbency (as opposed to personal incumbency) did not make a difference for new candidates.  I’m not sure if it will play in the 2013 election over here, but I doubt that this poster will help.

Jun 072012
 

As we know from Political Communication 101, emotions rule, and help rule. Faith, hope, and charity remain essential tools for any orator worth his/her salt. Cute animals are ok, but cute children are way better. If you can use them not only to create a fuzzy feel-good factor but to deliver a substantive message, you have hit campaign gold. And by the way, this is the 21st century, so being a little subtle does not hurt either.

This short video produced for the centre-right, pro-Euro ND is therefore a little gem.
During the first few seconds, an eager pupil rattles off the name of various European countries, and a very pleased-looking teacher states the obvious: they are all in the Eurozone. Then, the adorable little girl drops a bombshell: “Why not Greece?”. Our teacher remains silent. Everyone is silent. And the girl insists: “Why, Sir?”. More silence, then cut to message: We must not gamble with the future of our children (and therefore vote ND).

Everything about this spot is done so well that one could use it in class. The kids are squarely in the right age bracket: neither scary teenagers nor dumb toddlers. Their expression is exactly in the middle between incomprehension and accusation. I love the attention that was given to details: Included in the list of future Eurozone members are Spain and Portugal. If they could make it, why couldn’t we? And the teacher’s face is priceless: pain, shame, and perhaps guilt, because he failed to do the right thing back in 2012. The most intriguing thing is that so much is communicated in a pitch-perfect way without naming names.

Rather conveniently, the spot also fails to mention that the Grand Coalition could have lasted until autumn 2013, and that Greece is now in such a pickle because ND insisted on having early elections. It makes you wonder why a country that is so good at selling politics cannot do politics.

 Why did Greece leave the Euro? Campaign Communication in the South
Mar 092012
 

As any fan of Midsomer Murders can testify, the English countryside is a beautiful but terrifying place. But this post on the EPOP mailing list is not about mad members of the gentry, vicious vicars or fornicating farmers, but about a potential Parish Putin:

The case concerns a Parish Poll conducted in the Devon Town of Buckfastleigh
last week, but raises issues that could become important in future elections
at every single level.

The Parish Poll was called by residents of Buckfastleigh who are very
concerned about plans to cite an industrial waste processing facility in the
town.

In the run up to the poll, the local paper, the Mid-Devon Advertiser, ran an
online poll (which is obviously open to anyone regardless of
location) in which 728 (60.2%) votes were recorded in favour of the plans,
with 474 (39.2%) voting against. The online poll appeared to allow multiple
voting – I voted more than once from the same computer and we had an IT
expert look into the matter who said that it was relatively easy to do
multiple voting even where each vote supposedly should come from a unique IP
address. A simple re-boot of a router would allow this.

The actual result of the official Parish Poll was 95% against the plans on a
turnout of 49.76% (which is apparently very high for a Parish Poll).

I was part of the campaign against the plans and it is my view, as well as
that of quite a few others, that the online poll was rigged by the planning
applicant as it seems quite extraordinary that the two results could be so
different.

That raises a number of interesting questions. First, if this online poll was a random sample with n ~1200, what are the odds of being almost 60 percentage points off? Zilch. So, either the supporters were much more likely to vote in the online poll than to turn out in the actual Parish Poll, or the applicant has indeed rigged the online poll. But why would they do that? Three mechanisms spring to mind:

  • Bandwagon effects. But seriously, would you vote in favour of waste processing plant because the yeas have a 10 point lead, and you want to be with the winners? Would you believe that anyone does?
  • Tactical voting. A more credible motive in principle, but that would require more than two options on the ballot.
  • Paradox of voting. We all know that no one should vote anyway, but if you believe that the other side is going to win, your probability of abstention might go up even further. If the poll was rigged, that would seem to be the most plausible rationale behind such a plot.

Apparently, it did not work in Devon. But the more general question is: Can we trust those non-scientific polls, and what is their effect on voters? I think the answers are “No”, and “We don’t know”. But what is your take on the Devon incident?

 Vote Rigging in Devon?
Feb 182012
 
The reviewer thinks that “the piece is quite long for a research note on a regional election.” I’m afraid s/he is right, as it took me an unduly long time to complete it. But (and this is a very big but) the reviewer nonetheless recommends publication, and (even better the editor does not think that a reduction in size will be necessary.  Rejoice! So, just under one year after the fact, here is my analysis of the 2011 Land election in Rhineland-Palatinate

The 2011 election in Rhineland-Palatinate was a political earthquake: Following a string of political scandals, the SPD lost almost ten percentage points of their support, while the CDU could hardly improve on their disastrous 2006 result. The FDP is no longer represented in the state parliament. The Greens more than tripled their last result, allowing them to enter a coalition with the SPD for the first time.

Analyses at the municipal level show that the party improved most in their urban strongholds while still showing a (relatively) weak performance in rural areas. This will make it difficult to sustain the momentum of their victory. Moreover, the SPD is battered and bruised and needs to select a new leader, but veteran minister president Kurt Beck shows no inclination to step down. This does not bode well for a coalition that needs to organise the state’s fiscal consolidation and structural transformation.

 There is a PDF, too.

ms 211x300 Sports Cars, Sleaze and Gamma Rays: Rhineland Palatinate Elects Its FirstRed Green Government

PDF version of this paper

 

 

 

Mar 142011
 

As predicted yesterday, the nuclear disaster in Japan is having a profound impact on something as trivial as three state election campaigns in Germany, more than 9000 kilometres away. Roughly 70 per cent of the population believe that an incident on the scale of the Japanese catastrophe could happen in Germany, too. The Federal Government has declared a three-month “moratorium” on its controversial decision to extend the life-span of German nuclear plants, what ever that means. Meanwhile, they want to reconsider their position on the issue and to re-assess the status of the German plants. It makes you wonder if/why they have not assessed those plants in the first place.

At least the oldest and least secure plants could indeed have reached the end of their life-span. If and when they would be switched off, that would be a U-turn for the government. This looks like a liberal-conservative panic attack.

 Agenda Set, Japanese Style II
Mar 122011
 
 Agenda Setting, Japanese Style

Image via Wikipedia

It’s amazing: Just 36 hours after the horrible earth quake in Japan, 60000 people are demonstrating in Swabia – against nuclear energy. While we do not know whether the Japanese plants are actually in meltdown, for the German liberal-conservative coalition, this is certainly the Most Credible Accident.

One of the governments most controversial decisions so far was to amend the red-green phase-out law so that the German nuclear plants can remain operative much longer than planned under the original law. This upset many people, as acceptance for nuclear energy in Germany is low. And so the issue was already salient for the ongoing state-election campaigns in Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and Sachsen-Anhalt long before yesterday’s tragedy, particularly in Baden-Württemberg, which has four operational nuclear power plants.

Now, the Greens and the SPD are having a field day. Or so it would seem: The governments semi-official line is that it would be inconsiderate to discuss domestic matters in the face of the Japanese tragedy, and the SPD is playing along for today. But it’s difficult to imagine that the left parties will not play the issue over the next two weeks – the scale of the nuclear threat is just too big.

And the media are certainly on the job. The main public broadcaster ARD – roughly equivalent to BBC One – just changed its schedule and dropped one of its insufferable shows for the over 60s in favour of a documentary on the Chernobyl disaster. Showing something that is actually relevant one a Saturday night is an almost unprecedented move for them. And even if no one was trying to set the agenda, having a power plant in or near meltdown will certainly prime voters.

 Agenda Setting, Japanese Style
Mar 022011
 

In the olden days, the world was simple. The average extreme right party was strictly socially conservative, to say the least. Abortion and homosexuality were considered sinful, mostly so because both practices deprived the fatherland of future soldiers and potential mothers of even more soldiers. So sex was supposed to be intramarital and had one purpose only: to procreate for the fatherland. Then came Pim Fortuyn and somewhat confused the message, but this was of little concern to members of the German NPD, who sometimes seem to live blissfully in a parallel universe where the 1930s never came to an end.

miniskirt minaret Miniskirts and Genocide: Inside the Topsy Turvy World of NPD Propaganda

NPD campaign poster, 2011

Or so I thought until this morning. It’s election time in Rhineland-Palatinate, which means great fun, because campaigns at the state level often have their own disarming and rather amateurish charm. On my way to work, I drove past at least a dozen very conventional NPD posters showcasing the party’s “Müttergehalt” (salary for mothers) policy that is supposed to stop the “Volkstod” (genocide – they really hate foreign words). But then I nearly crashed my car laughing out loud when I spotted this little gem, campaigning, as you would have guessed, for “miniskirts instead of minarets”. Ah, the demand for more miniskirts – always at the fore of the minds of  every self-respecting, socially conservative nationalist movement. About time that someone dared to speak out.

 

The untrained, illiterate observer might of course mistakenly believe that the NPD is finally defending the unalienable right of the Aryan hooker to strut her stuff while eying a collection of strangely shaped dildos. As always, it is all in the eye of the beholder.

May 312009
 

Next week, the European Parliament will celebrate its 7th direct election. However, this will be the culmination of 27 national campaigns. Here is a post on the lack of truly European content in the European I wrote for Andrea Römmele’s and Thorsten Faas’ “Wahlen nach Zahlen” blog (in German).