Partisan attachments and voting behavior in Germany today are more volatile than in the past. This article tests the enduring influence of social cleavages on voting relative to two other factors that account for party performance: path dependent forces and spatial dependence. Drawing on original data from the eastern German states, we explain support for Germany’s main parties in the 2017 federal election. We find relatively weak evidence for continued influence of social divisions for the major parties, but that support for the radical right Alternative for Germany (AfD) did reflect underlying cleavage structures. Additionally, we identify reliable effects of the historical immigrant population on contemporary voting. We also see weak evidence of lock-in political effects associated with German reunification, limited only to the CDU. Most interestingly, we observe powerful and robust effects of spatial dependence for three of the four parties we examine. We conclude that the effects presented here should signal to scholars of parties and electoral politics the need to incorporate history and geography into their analytical frameworks alongside more traditional approaches, since eastern Germany may in fact be less spatialized than western Germany or other country cases because of the homogenizing efforts of the SED regime.
Evidence from the Eastern States
Steven Wuhs and Eric McLaughlin
German extreme Right parties have increased their political and electoral significance in recent years, in particular through some considerable regional successes in the East. However, in spite of noticeable nation-wide gains by the NPD in the Bundestag election, the extreme Right suffered from another defeat. Looking at the interplay of supply side and demand side factors, the article examines the transformations and continuities of extreme Right parties within the German party system, their performance in the 2005 general election, and the reasons for their ongoing national electoral failure. While extreme Right parties benefit from more favorable conditions related to increased voter volatility, new public issues and new cleavage structures, these parties also continuously face crucial difficulties, especially on the supply side: the cordon sanitaire is still intact, and new cleavages in relation to globalization are more convincingly and effectively utilized by left-wing competitors. The main obstacle, though, are the extreme Right agents themselves. Incorporating Zeitgeist issues, they nevertheless remain unable to actually modernize their agenda. The present and future challenge to liberal democracy may be a new level of cooperation between extreme Right parties and consolidated "informal" right-wing extremist subcultures in Eastern regional strongholds.
, and Michal Shamir . 2008 . “ A Decade Later, the World Had Changed, the Cleavage Structure Remained: Israel 1996–2006 .” Party Politics 14 ( 6 ): 685 – 705 . https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808093406 10.1177/1354068808093406 Bendor