Research on Alternative for Germany

I have a particular interest in the Alternative for Germany / Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party and their voters. Alternative for Germany is the first modern radical right party that achieved national success in postwar Germany. It is also unusual, because it harbours traditional right-wing extremist ideas and actors, which have become more influential over time. Since 2015, the AfD has become a major focus of my own research.

In an older article, I show that back in 2013/14, the AfD was not yet a typical radical right party. Since then, the AfD has changed considerably, and has also changed Germany in the process. And it was not just the AfD that changed, but also their voters. Using a GLES data, we can show how the Alternative for Germany’s voters veered to the (radical) right between 2013 and 2017. There is also a chapter that studies the importance of East Germany for Alternative for Germany and some more chapters written in German.

Here is the full list:

  • Arzheimer, Kai. “Im Osten nichts Neues? Die elektorale Unterstützung von AfD und Linkspartei in den alten und neuen Bundesländern bei der Bundestagswahl 2021.” Wahlen und Wähler – Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagwahl 2021. Eds. Schoen, Harald and Bernhard Wessels. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2023. .
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF] [HTML]
    @InCollection{arzheimer-2023c,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {Im Osten nichts Neues? Die elektorale Unterstützung von AfD und
    Linkspartei in den alten und neuen Bundesländern bei der
    Bundestagswahl 2021},
    booktitle = {Wahlen und Wähler - Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagwahl 2021},
    publisher = {Springer},
    year = 2023,
    editor = {Schoen, Harald and Wessels, Bernhard},
    address = {Wiesbaden},
    url = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/bundestagswahl-2021-ostdeutschland-linkspartei-afd.pdf},
    html = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/bundestagswahl-2021-ostdeutschland-linkspartei-afd/},
    dateadded = {14-11-2022}
    }
  • Arzheimer, Kai. “Regionalvertretungswechsel von links nach rechts? Die Wahl von Alternative für Deutschland und Linkspartei in Ost-West-Perspektive.” Wahlen und Wähler – Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagwahl 2017. Eds. Schoen, Harald and Bernhard Wessels. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2021. 61-80. doi:10.1007/978-3-658-33582-3_4
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF] [HTML] [DATA]
    Bei der Bundestagswahl 2017 zeigten sich wiedereinmal dramatische Ost-West-Unterschiede. Diese gingen vor allem auf den überdurchschnittlichen Erfolg von AfD und LINKE in den neuen Ländenr zurück. Die AfD ist vor allem in Thüringen und Sachsen besonders stark , die LINKE in Berlin, aber auch in den Stadtstaaten Bremen und Hamburg sowie in einigen westdeutschen Großstädten. Die Wahlentscheidung zugunsten beider Parteien wird sehr stark von Einstellungen zum Sozialstaat (im Falle der Linkspartei) sowie zur Zuwanderung (im Falle der AfD) bestimmt. Beide Parteien profitieren überdies von einem Gefühl der Unzufriedenheit mit dem Funktionieren der Demokratie. Sobald für diese Faktoren kontrolliert wird, zeigt sich, dass die AfD keinen davon unabhängigen “Ost-Bonus” genießt. Zugleich deuten die Modellschätzungen auf substantielle Einflüsse auf der Wahlkreisebene hin. Im Falle der Linkspartei bleibt dagegen ein substantieller Effekt des Befragungsgebietes erhalten, selbst wenn für die Einstellungen kontrolliert wird. Signifikante Differenzen zwischen den Wahlkreisen gibt es hier nicht.
    @InCollection{arzheimer-2019,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {Regionalvertretungswechsel von links nach rechts? Die Wahl von
    Alternative für Deutschland und Linkspartei in
    Ost-West-Perspektive},
    booktitle = {Wahlen und Wähler - Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagwahl 2017},
    publisher = {Springer},
    year = 2021,
    data = {https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/Q2M1AS},
    html = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/afd-linkspartei-ostdeutschland/},
    url = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/afd-linkspartei-ostdeutschland.pdf},
    doi = {10.1007/978-3-658-33582-3_4},
    editor = {Schoen, Harald and Wessels, Bernhard},
    pages = {61-80},
    abstract = {Bei der Bundestagswahl 2017 zeigten sich wiedereinmal dramatische Ost-West-Unterschiede. Diese gingen vor allem auf den überdurchschnittlichen Erfolg von AfD und LINKE in den neuen Ländenr zurück. Die AfD ist vor allem in Thüringen und Sachsen besonders stark , die LINKE in Berlin, aber auch in den Stadtstaaten Bremen und Hamburg sowie in einigen westdeutschen Großstädten. Die Wahlentscheidung zugunsten beider Parteien wird sehr stark von Einstellungen zum Sozialstaat (im Falle der Linkspartei) sowie zur Zuwanderung (im Falle der AfD) bestimmt. Beide Parteien profitieren überdies von einem Gefühl der Unzufriedenheit mit dem Funktionieren der Demokratie. Sobald für diese Faktoren kontrolliert wird, zeigt sich, dass die AfD keinen davon unabhängigen "Ost-Bonus" genießt. Zugleich deuten die Modellschätzungen auf substantielle Einflüsse auf der Wahlkreisebene hin. Im Falle der Linkspartei bleibt dagegen ein substantieller Effekt des Befragungsgebietes erhalten, selbst wenn für die Einstellungen kontrolliert wird. Signifikante Differenzen zwischen den Wahlkreisen gibt es hier nicht.},
    address = {Wiesbaden},
    dateadded = {01-04-2019}
    }
  • Arzheimer, Kai. “The Electoral Breakthrough of the AfD and the East-West Divide In German Politics.” From the Streets to Parliament? The Fourth Wave of Far-Right Politics in Germany. London: Routledge, 2021. forthcoming.
    [BibTeX] [Abstract]
    The radical right became a relevant party family in most west European polities in the 1990s and early 2000s, but Germany was a negative outlier up until very recently. Right-wing mobilisation success remained confinded to the local and regional level, as previous far-right parties never managed to escape from the shadow of “Grandpa’s Fascism”. This only changed with the rise, electoral breakthrough, and transformation of “Alternative for Germany” (AfD), which quickly became the dominant far-right actor. Germany’s “new” eastern states were crucial for the AfD’s ascendancy. In the east, the AfD began to experiment with nativist messages as early as 2014. Their electoral breakthroughs in the state elections of this year helped sustain the party through the wilderness year of 2015 and provided personel, ressources, and a template for the AfD’s transformation. Since its inception, support for the AfD in the east has been at least twice as high as in the west. This can be fully explained by substantively higher levels of nativist attitudes in the eastern population. As all alleged causes of this nativism are structural, the eastern states seem set to remain a stronghold for the far right in the medium- to long-term.
    @InCollection{arzheimer-2021,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {The Electoral Breakthrough of the AfD and the East-West Divide In
    German Politics},
    booktitle = {From the Streets to Parliament? The Fourth Wave of Far-Right
    Politics in Germany},
    publisher = {Routledge},
    year = 2021,
    pages = {forthcoming},
    address = {London},
    abstract = {The radical right became a relevant party family in most west
    European polities in the 1990s and early 2000s, but Germany was a
    negative outlier up until very recently. Right-wing mobilisation
    success remained confinded to the local and regional level, as
    previous far-right parties never managed to escape from the shadow
    of “Grandpa’s Fascism”. This only changed with the rise, electoral
    breakthrough, and transformation of “Alternative for Germany”
    (AfD), which quickly became the dominant far-right actor. Germany’s
    “new” eastern states were crucial for the AfD’s ascendancy. In the
    east, the AfD began to experiment with nativist messages as early
    as 2014. Their electoral breakthroughs in the state elections of
    this year helped sustain the party through the wilderness year of
    2015 and provided personel, ressources, and a template for the
    AfD’s transformation. Since its inception, support for the AfD in
    the east has been at least twice as high as in the west. This can
    be fully explained by substantively higher levels of nativist
    attitudes in the eastern population. As all alleged causes of this
    nativism are structural, the eastern states seem set to remain a
    stronghold for the far right in the medium- to long-term.},
    keywords = {eurorex,afd},
    dateadded = {12-04-2021}
    }
  • Arzheimer, Kai and Carl Berning. “How the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Their Voters Veered to the Radical Right, 2013-2017.” Electoral Studies 60 (2019): online first. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2019.04.004
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF] [HTML]
    Until 2017, Germany was an exception to the success of radical right parties in postwar Europe. We provide new evidence for the transformation of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) to a radical right party drawing upon social media data. Further, we demonstrate that the AfD’s electorate now matches the radical right template of other countries and that its trajectory mirrors the ideological shift of the party. Using data from the 2013 to 2017 series of German Longitudinal Elections Study (GLES) tracking polls, we employ multilevel modeling to test our argument on support for the AfD. We find the AfD’s support now resembles the image of European radical right voters. Specifically, general right-wing views and negative attitudes towards immigration have become the main motivation to vote for the AfD. This, together with the increased salience of immigration and the AfD’s new ideological profile, explains the party’s rise.
    @Article{arzheimer-berning-2019,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai and Berning, Carl},
    title = {How the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Their Voters Veered to
    the Radical Right, 2013-2017},
    journal = {Electoral Studies},
    year = 2019,
    doi = {10.1016/j.electstud.2019.04.004},
    volume = {60},
    html = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/alternative-for-germany-voters},
    url =
    {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/alternative-for-germany-party-voters-transformation.pdf},
    pages = {online first},
    abstract = {Until 2017, Germany was an exception to the success of radical
    right parties in postwar Europe. We provide new evidence for the
    transformation of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) to a radical
    right party drawing upon social media data. Further, we demonstrate
    that the AfD's electorate now matches the radical right template of
    other countries and that its trajectory mirrors the ideological
    shift of the party. Using data from the 2013 to 2017 series of
    German Longitudinal Elections Study (GLES) tracking polls, we
    employ multilevel modeling to test our argument on support for the
    AfD. We find the AfD's support now resembles the image of European
    radical right voters. Specifically, general right-wing views and
    negative attitudes towards immigration have become the main
    motivation to vote for the AfD. This, together with the increased
    salience of immigration and the AfD's new ideological profile,
    explains the party's rise.},
    dateadded = {01-04-2019}
    }
  • Arzheimer, Kai. “‘Don’t mention the war!’ How populist right-wing radicalism became (almost) normal in Germany.” Journal of Common Market Studies 57 (2019): 90-102. doi:10.1111/jcms.12920
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF] [HTML]
    After decades of false dawns, the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) is the first radical right-wing populist party to establish a national presence in Germany. Their rise was possible because they started out as soft-eurosceptic and radicalised only gradually. The presence of the AfD had relatively little impact on public discourses but has thoroughly affected the way German parliaments operate: so far, the cordon sanitaire around the party holds. However, the AfD has considerable blackmailing potential, especially in the eastern states. In the medium run, this will make German politics even more inflexible and inward looking than it already is.
    @Article{arzheimer-2019c,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {'Don't mention the war!' How populist right-wing radicalism became
    (almost) normal in Germany},
    journal = {Journal of Common Market Studies},
    year = 2019,
    abstract = {After decades of false dawns, the "Alternative for Germany" (AfD)
    is the first radical right-wing populist party to establish a
    national presence in Germany. Their rise was possible because they
    started out as soft-eurosceptic and radicalised only gradually. The
    presence of the AfD had relatively little impact on public
    discourses but has thoroughly affected the way German parliaments
    operate: so far, the cordon sanitaire around the party holds.
    However, the AfD has considerable blackmailing potential,
    especially in the eastern states. In the medium run, this will make
    German politics even more inflexible and inward looking than it
    already is.},
    volume = {57},
    pages = {90-102},
    html =
    {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/right-wing-populism-germany-normalisation},
    dateadded = {27-05-2019},
    url = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/afd-normalisation-right-wing-populism-germany.pdf},
    doi = {10.1111/jcms.12920},
    keywords = {EuroReX, AfD}
    }
  • Arzheimer, Kai. “The AfD: Finally a Successful Right-Wing Populist Eurosceptic Party for Germany?.” West European Politics 38 (2015): 535–556. doi:10.1080/01402382.2015.1004230
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF] [HTML] [DATA]
    Within less than two years of being founded by disgruntled members of the governing CDU, the newly-formed Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has already performed extraordinary well in the 2013 General election, the 2014 EP election, and a string of state elections. Highly unusually by German standards, it campaigned for an end to all efforts to save the Euro and argued for a re-configuration of Germany’s foreign policy. This seems to chime with the recent surge in far right voting in Western Europe, and the AfD was subsequently described as right-wing populist and europhobe. On the basis of the party’s manifesto and of hundreds of statements the party has posted on the internet, this article demonstrates that the AfD does indeed occupy a position at the far-right of the German party system, but it is currently neither populist nor does it belong to the family of Radical Right parties. Moreover, its stance on European Integration is more nuanced than expected and should best be classified as soft eurosceptic.
    @Article{arzheimer-2015,
    author = {Arzheimer, Kai},
    title = {The AfD: Finally a Successful Right-Wing Populist Eurosceptic Party
    for Germany?},
    journal = {West European Politics},
    year = 2015,
    volume = 38,
    pages = {535--556},
    doi = {10.1080/01402382.2015.1004230},
    keywords = {gp-e, cp, eurorex},
    abstract = {Within less than two years of being founded by disgruntled members
    of the governing CDU, the newly-formed Alternative for Germany
    (AfD) party has already performed extraordinary well in the 2013
    General election, the 2014 EP election, and a string of state
    elections. Highly unusually by German standards, it campaigned for
    an end to all efforts to save the Euro and argued for a
    re-configuration of Germany's foreign policy. This seems to chime
    with the recent surge in far right voting in Western Europe, and
    the AfD was subsequently described as right-wing populist and
    europhobe. On the basis of the party's manifesto and of hundreds of
    statements the party has posted on the internet, this article
    demonstrates that the AfD does indeed occupy a position at the
    far-right of the German party system, but it is currently neither
    populist nor does it belong to the family of Radical Right parties.
    Moreover, its stance on European Integration is more nuanced than
    expected and should best be classified as soft eurosceptic. },
    data = {https://hdl.handle.net/10.7910/DVN/28755},
    html = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/afd-right-wing-populist-eurosceptic-germany},
    url = {https://www.kai-arzheimer.com/afd-right-wing-populist-eurosceptic-germany.pdf}
    }

Have a look at my blogs about Alternative for Germany if you want to read even more about the AfD.

And click here if you are interested in my comparative research on the Radical Right in Europe.