Dec 082018
 

Research question

For a long time, people working in the field of European Radical Right Studies could not even agree on a common name for the thing that they were researching. Should it be the Extreme Right, the Radical Right, or what? Utterly unimpressed by this fact, I argue in a in-press contribution that this sorry state has not seriously hindered communication amongst authors. Do I have any evidence to back up this claim? Hell yeah! Fasten your seatbelts and watch me turning innocent publications into tortured data, or more specifically, a Radical Right network of co-citations. Or was it the Extreme Right?

How to turn citations into data

Short of training a hypercomplex and computationally expensive neural network (i.e. a grad student) to look at the actual content of the texts, analysing citation patterns is the most straightforward way to address the research question. Because I needed citation information, I harvested the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) instead of my own bibliography. The Web of Science interface to the SSCI lets you save records as plain text files, which is all that was required. The key advantage of the SSCI data is that all the sources that each item cites are recorded, too, and can be exported with the title. This includes (most) items that are themselves not covered by the SSCI, opening up the wonderful world of monographs and chapters. To identify the two literatures, I simply ran queries for the phrases “Extreme Right” and “Radical Right” for the 1980-2017 period. I used the “TS” operator to search in titles, abstracts, and keywords. These queries returned 596 and 551 hits, respectively. Easy.

But how far separated are the two strands of the literature? To find out, I first looked at the overlap between the two. By overlap, I mean items that use both phrases. This applies to 132 pieces, or just under 12 per cent of the whole stash. This is not a state of zilch communication, yet by this criterion alone, it would seem that there are indeed two relatively distinct literatures. But what I’m really interested in are (co-)citation patterns How could I beat two long plain text lists of articles and the sources they cite into a usable data set?

When you are asking this kind of question, usually “there is an R package for that”™, unless the question is too silly. In my case, the magic bullet for turning information from the SSCI into crunchable data is the wonderful bibliometrix package. Bibliometrix reads saved records from Web of Science/SSCI (in bibtex format) and converts them into data frames. It also provides functions for extracting bibliometric information from the data. Before I move on to co-citations, here’s the gist of the code that reads the data and generates a handy list of the 10 most-cited titles:

library(bibliometrix)
  D <- readFiles("savedrecs-all.bib")
  M <- convert2df(D, dbsource = "isi", format = "bibtex")
# remove some obviously unrelated items
  M <- M[-c(65,94,96,97,104,105,159,177,199,457,459,497,578,579,684,685,719,723),]
  M <- M[-c(659,707),]
  M <- M[-c(622),]

  results <- biblioAnalysis(M, sep = ";")
  S=summary(object = results, k = 10, pause = FALSE)
  #Citations
  CR <- citations(M, field = "article", sep = ".  ")
  CR$Cited[1:10] 

So what are the most cited titles in Extreme/Radical Right studies?

The ten most cited sources in 726 SSCI items
SourceNumber of times cited
Mudde (2007)160
Kitschelt (1995)147
Betz (1994)123
Lubbers et al. (2002)97
Norris (2005)90
Golder (2003)86
R.W. Jackman & Volpert (1996)77
Carter (2005)66
Arzheimer & Carter (2006)65
Brug et al. (2005)65
Importantly, this top ten contains (in very prominent positions) a number of monographs. The SSCI itself only lists articles in (some) peer-reviewed journals. Without the citation data, we would have no idea which non-peer-reviewed-journal items are important. Having said that, the situation is still far from perfect: We only observe co-citation patterns through the lens of the 1,000+ odd SSCI publications. But that’s still better than nothing, right? What about the substantive results of this exercise? The table clearly shows the impact that Cas Mudde’s 2007 (“Populist Radical Right”) book had on the field. It is the most cited and at the same time the youngest item on the list, surpassing the much older monographs by Betz (“Radical Right Wing Populism”) and Kitschelt (“Radical Right”). Two other monographs by Carter (“Extreme Right”) and Norris (“Radical Right”) are also frequently cited but appreciably less popular than the books by Betz, Kitschelt, and Mudde. The five other items are journal articles with a primarily empirical outlook and mostly without conceptual ambitions. Taken together, this suggests that the “Extreme Right” label lacked a strong proponent whose conceptual work was widely accepted in the literature. Once someone presented a clear rationale for using the “Radical Right” label instead, many scholars were willing to jump ship.

Getting to the co-citation network: are the Extreme / Radical Right literatures separated from each other?

If this was indeed the case, the literature should display a low degree of separation between users of both labels. Looking for co-citation patterns is a straightforward operationalisation for (lack of) separation. A co-citation occurs when two publications are both cited by some later source. By definition, co-citations reflect a view on the older literature as it is expressed in a newer publication. When two titles from the “Extreme Right” and “Radical Right” literatures are co-cited, this small piece of evidence that the literature has not split into two isolated streams. The SSCI aims at recording every source that is cited, even if the source itself is not in the SSCI. This makes for a very large number of publications that could be candidates for co-citations (18,255), even if most of them are peripheral European Radical Right studies, and a whopping 743,032 actual co-citations.

To get a handle on this, I extracted the 20 publications with the biggest total number of co-citations and their interconnections. They represent something like the backbone of the literature. How did I reconstruct this network from textual data? Once more, R and its packages came to the rescue and helped me to produce a reasonably nice plot (after some additional cleaning up)

NetMatrix <- biblioNetwork(M, analysis="co-citation",network = "references", sep = ".  ")
# Careful: we are not interested in loops and not interested in separate connections between nodes. We convert the latter to weights 
g <- graph.adjacency(NetMatrix,mode="max",diag=FALSE)
# Extract the top 20 most co-cited items
f <- induced_subgraph(g,degree(g)>quantile(degree(g),probs=(1-20/ length(V(g)))))
# Now build a vector of relevant terms (requires knowledge of these titles)
# 1: extreme, 2: radical, 3:none/other
# Show all names
V(f)$name
term <- c(3,2,1,1,2,1,1,2,1,2,3,2,2,2,3,1,1,1,1,1)
mycolours <- brewer.pal(3, "Greys")
V(f)$term <- term
V(f)$color <- mycolours[term]

Co-citation analysis: results

So, what are the results? First, here is the top 20 of co-cited items in the field of Extreme/Radical Right studies:

The twenty most co-cited sources in 726 SSCI items
SourceCo-citations within top 20Total co-citations
Kitschelt (1995)7457700
Mudde (2007)7408864
Lubbers et al. (2002)6005212
Norris (2005)5685077
Golder (2003)5644687
Betz (1994)5426151
R.W. Jackman & Volpert (1996)4774497
Brug et al. (2005)4623523
Arzheimer & Carter (2006)4603551
Knigge (1998)4453487
Carter (2005)3893291
Arzheimer (2009)3763301
Ignazi (2003)3442876
Ivarsflaten (2008)3343221
Ignazi (1992)3313230
Rydgren (2007)3003353
Bale (2003)2973199
Brug et al. (2000)2762602
Meguid (2005)2462600
Bale et al. (2010)1342449

Many of these titles are familiar, because they also appear in the top ten of most cited titles and are classics to boot. And here is another nugget: for each title, a substantial share of about 10 per cent of all co-citations happen within this top twenty. This is exactly the (sub)network of co-citations I’m interested in. So here is the plot I promised:

Co-citations within top 20 titles in Extreme / Radical Right studies

Co-citations within top 20 titles in Extreme / Radical Right studies

But what does it all mean? Stay tuned for the next episode, or read the full article (author’s version, no paywall):

  • Arzheimer, Kai. “Conceptual Confusion is not Always a Bad Thing: The Curious Case of European Radical Right Studies.” Demokratie und Entscheidung. Eds. Marker, Karl, Michael Roseneck, Annette Schmitt, and Jürgen Sirsch. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2018. forthcoming.
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF] [HTML]
    @InCollection{arzheimer-2018,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {Conceptual Confusion is not Always a Bad Thing: The Curious Case of
    European Radical Right Studies},
    booktitle = {Demokratie und Entscheidung},
    publisher = {Springer},
    address = {Wiesbaden},
    pages = {forthcoming},
    year = 2018,
    url =
    {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/conceptual-confusion-european-radical-right-studies.pdf},
    html =
    {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/conceptual-confusion-european-radical-right-studies},
    editor = {Marker, Karl and Roseneck, Michael and Schmitt, Annette and Sirsch,
    Jürgen},
    dateadded = {01-06-2018}
    }

Dec 052017
 

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.

gimme-your-references.jpg

Sep 232017
 

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.

  yesterday    today
 Median 95 HDI Median 95 HDI
 CDU/CSU     35 [34-37]     36 [34-37]
 CDU/CSU lead     14 [12-16]     14 [12-16]
 SPD     22 [21-23]     22 [21-23]
 FDP      9 [9-10]      9 [9-10]
 Greens      8 [7-9]      8 [7-9]
 Left     10 [9-10]     10 [9-10]
 AfD     11 [10-12]     11 [10-12]
 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.

Sep 222017
 

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.

Countdown

Ok, I succumbed. Couldn’t resist. etc.

The CDU/CSU maintain their lead

spd-union-2017-09-22.png

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

greens-fdp-2017-09-22.png

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?

left-afd-2017-09-22.png

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

overall-estimates2017-09-22.png

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 governmentjamaica photo

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.

Sep 192017
 

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:

EmnidFGWINSA
CDU/CSU363636
SPD222322
GREENS887
FDP9109
LEFT10911
AfD111011

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

greens-fdp-2017-09-18.png

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

left-afd-2017-09-18.png

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:

afd-left-box2017-09-18.png

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

overall-estimates-2017-09-18.png

Coalitions …

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.

Sep 152017
 

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?

Horse-race blogging

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:

afd-insa-2017-09-15.png

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.

spd-union-2017-09-15.png

 

 

So what?

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.

overall-estimates-2017-09-15.png

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.

Sep 122017
 

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

left-afd-2017-09-11.png

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

greens-fdp-2017-09-11.png

The respective upward trends for the other two minor parties are even less pronounced. More importantly, both parties seem to have stabilised well above the electoral threshold

The tiniest of declines for the major parties.

spd-union-2017-09-11.png

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.

Sep 022017
 

Eight months of polling

While I was doing other stuff, elsewhere, the German polling industry has been busy. Over the last eight months, the big seven have published results from 144 surveys with a total of 266,715 respondents. With just three weeks to go until election day (and postal voting well underway, what can they tell us?

They AfD is good at spinning

Much in line with the tenor of the international press, a British journalist asked me the other day how the AfD had managed to “bounce back”. Well, they have not. The height of their popularity was arguably in 2015/16, when they were solidly in double-digit territory for a while. Since the beginning of the long campaign in January (when the AfD did better than now), they have been stuck between seven and ten per cent in the polls. This pattern still holds. The AfD gets 10/11 per cent in two recent polls, but these were conducted by companies that tend to produce rather high estimates for the party’s support. In other equally recent polls, companies that tend to give lower estimates for the AfD put them at nine / eight per cent, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the credible interval for current AfD support ranges from 7.8 to 9.3 per cent.

afd-insa-2017-09-02.png

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”.

left-afd-2017-09-02.png

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).

greens-fdp-2017-09-02.png

The Christian Democrats will be the strongest party (bloc) by a fair margin

Long gone are the days of the “Schulz Effect”, this dreamy moment early in the campaign when support for the SPD and the Christian Democrats became indistinguishable. For weeks on end, the CDU/CSU have been roughly 15 percentage points ahead of the SPD. One must admire the dedication of the SPD’s campaigners, but closing that gap looks like a very unlikely feat.

spd-union-2017-09-02.png

A look at possible coalitions

So far, the field has changed very little over the last weeks:

overall-estimates2017-09-02.png

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.

Jun 152017
 

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.

Pollstern
allensbach58
dimap1011
emnid229
forsa219
gms49
insa1710
poba87
All879

The Schulz boost is over, yes?

spd-union-2017-06-06.png

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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

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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.

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The FDP is back. Or is it?

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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

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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.