Reds Got the Blues? No.

Over on social media, a friend-of-a-friend said that the strong showing of the far-right AfD in Sunday’s German election was “further erosion of the neoliberal left.” Yeah, no.

Here’s what the main public broadcaster in Germany has from their polling about voter changes from 2013 to 2017.

(The link is here, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to W√§hlerwanderung, and it obviously helps to read a bit of German, although it’s not strictly necessary for that particular graphic.)

AfD’s sources of voters, in ranked order:
1. Previous non-voters (1.47M)
2. People who voted AfD in 2013 (1.43M)
3. CDU -> AfD (1.04M)
4. People who voted for parties that did not clear the 5% threshold in 2013; my suspicion would be NPD (0.73M)
5. SPD -> AfD (0.51M)
6. Left -> AfD (0.42M)
7. First-time voters (0.13M)
8. FDP -> AfD (0.12M)
9. Green -> AfD (0.05M)

Each of the first two is an order of magnitude greater than any one of the last three.

You’ve got to have a pretty heavy prior commitment for “erosion of the neoliberal left” to be your takeaway. “Protest party draws in 1.5 million previous non-voters,” “Rightist party draws votes away from center-right party” or even “Extreme right puts on new clothes, finally clears 5% hurdle” are all more accurate descriptions. (And I don’t see how you can characterize the Left party as “neoliberal,” but that’s another story.)

Further, the biggest party-to-party move of SPD voters was SPD -> CDU. That makes “Left-of-center voters reward Chancellor’s party for immigration stance” a greater factor than “Social Democrats turn to anti-immigrant party.” We’ll see what happens with the SPD in opposition, but looking at where SPD voters went, it’s clear that we have another chapter in the basic poli sci book, Voters Frustrated With Junior Partner in Grand Coalition, which should surprise precisely nobody.

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About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

3 thoughts on “Reds Got the Blues? No.

  1. I’d also point out that Angela Merkel succeeded in mobilising 1.9m nonvoters for the CDU, considerably more than either the 1.4m nonvoters who went AfD or the 1.6m CDU voters who didn’t show up.

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