Identification with an Anti-System Party Undermines Diffuse Political Support: The Case of Alternative for Germany and Trust in the Federal Constitutional Court

The rise of the far right is increasingly raising the question of whether partisanship can have negative consequences for democracy. While issues such as partisan bias and affective polarization have been extensively researched, little is known about the relationship between identification with anti-system parties and diffuse system support. I address this gap by introducing a novel indicator and utilising the GESIS panel dataset, which tracks the rise of a new party, “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) from 2013, when the party was founded, to 2017, when the AfD, now transformed into a right-wing populist and anti-system party, entered the federal parliament for the first time. Employing a panel fixed effects design, I demonstrate that identification with “Alternative for Germany” reduces trust in the Federal Constitutional Court by a considerable margin. These findings are robust across various alternative specifications, suggesting that the effects of anti-system party identification should not be dismissed.

The electoral breakthrough of the AfD and the east-west divide in German politics

Bernd Höcke

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.

Don’t mention the war! How populist right-wing radicalism became (almost) normal in Germany

Picture of AfD leader Alexander Gauland

Introduction In the 1980s, the Populist Radical Right emerged as a new party family. Its members have a number of core characteristics in common: they are nativist, authoritarian, and usually also populist (Mudde 2007). While their relationship with European integration is more complex than it would first seem, they are often also eurosceptic (Vasilopoulou 2018). By the…

How the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and their voters veered to the radical right, 2013-2017

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.

Explaining Electoral Support for the Radical Right

Free Book Chapter

1 Introduction: Voting for the Radical Right Within the larger field of Radical Right studies, the question of why people vote for Radical Right Parties (RRPs) has attracted a large (perhaps disproportionally so) chunk of scholarly attention. There are at least three reasons for this. First, the early (and rather humble) electoral successes of the…