The most recent scholarship on the Alternative for Germany (AfD) indicates that citizens primarily cast a vote for the party based on anti-immigrant or xenophobic attitudes. Nevertheless, prominent figures from the AfD suggest that many Germany citizens with immigrant backgrounds vote for it—an argument that has been picked up by the media. In this article, we investigate the most likely potential constituency of immigrants that might support the AfD: ethnic German migrants from the former Soviet Union, so-called Russian-Germans. Using the 2017 Immigrant German Election Study (imges), we find that these ethnic German migrants from the former Soviet Union indeed voted for the AfD in relatively large numbers when compared to the overall population. Furthermore, when predicting vote choice, we find that the main predictor of voting for the AfD among Russian-Germans is not political ideology but rather a simple hostility towards new refugees. Crucially, migrants with a Soviet background are more likely to vote for the AfD if they hold the position that there should be no economic or political refugees allowed into the country.
Michael A. Hansen is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. His research interests include European and American political behavior. His scholarly articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Justice System Journal, Journal of Public Policy, Social Science Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Comparative European Politics, German Politics, Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy, Politics & Gender, and American Politics Research.
Jonathan Olsen is Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science at Texas Woman's University. He is the recipient of three Fulbright fellowships and a daad fellowship, and has held visiting appointments at the University of Münster, the University of Potsdam, and the European University Viadrina. He is the author of four books and numerousscholarly articles which have appeared in such journals as German Politics and Society, German Politics, and Problems of Post-Communism.