In 2017 Germany saw a sharp rise in representation from the far-right, nationalist party the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Many news sites and sources have done anecdotal research to find the cause of this rise and have declared white supremacy and racist sentiment is the cause for the rise. The AfD self-declares to be in favor of smaller government and other stereotypical conservative opinions. Not once in their 2017 manifesto do they ever mention white supremacy or nationalism, but the leaders often use racist and xenophobic rhetoric to stir up support and have even worked with the German citizen action group PEGIDA. For a country that played host to one of the world’s most well documented and horrific genocide’s, how can something like this occur. Many people who support the AfD claim that their fears come from the problems with globalization, crime, or economic issues caused by immigration, but is that what is actually causing the rise?
For those who do not know, Germany has a two ballot voting system. The point of this system is to allow Germans the ability to vote for parties in a way that, in theory, allows minorities to gain seats in the parliament that they may not get if there is a single ballot system. Germans also do not necessarily vote for an individual. While the parties of Germany must announce who will be their representatives and who they will make a coalition with before the election, they generally vote for the party. The graph below shows the number of votes all parties have received in the last 10 years.
As is visible, the light blue line represents the AfD and its increase in votes received since it was formed in 2013. It is also visible that the core parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party for Germany (SPD), have received fewer votes in the years since formation of the AfD. To figure out more on the movement toward nationalist voting, we need to see who is voting for the AfD.
In 2017, men born between 1958–1972 are the most likely to vote for the AfD in their primary vote for the German federal election. This follows many of the anecdotal studies that show older individuals are more likely to vote for the AfD.
In the above image, it is visible that those who voted most for the AfD came from the South and Eastern states. These states are also some of the most popular places for the CDU, which is the major conservative party. Dresden is home to PEGIDA and has been host for several AfD party rallies. While Berlin is home to the AfD’s headquarters, Munich has seen a spike in AfD support. There are also many suggestions on this that relate to issues related to the reunification of Germany after the end of Soviet rule. As discussed earlier, many of those who vote for the AfD also make some claims about how society has changed.
In a European Commission public opinion poll, Germans have declared a large problem with immigration in Germany.
After the formation of the AfD in 2013 it is visible that many see immigration as one of the top five issues and by 2015 Germans declare it is the largest issue facing Germany and the European Union. However, when you look at the trends of immigration across Europe, one do not see as significant of a change.
Immigration was on the rise from 2007–2012, but has stayed stagnant since. However, when one looks at refugee data, the narrative changes.
While Turkey has taken in the greatest number of refugees since 2011, Germany has also seen a sharp increase. Many perceive the issue within Germany as a xenophobic reaction to the growth in refugees. Those who are opposed to to refugees claim that they cause crime. This number also does not track with the growth of nationalism.
As one can see, the change in crimes committed by non-German citizens moves the same percentage as total crimes, the growth in refugees has not had an impact on criminality. There has been a growth in immigration crimes by non-German citizens, but not when related to other crimes.
Overall, the only statistic that relates to the growth in nationalism in Germany is strictly the number of refugees and nothing else. This means the opinions of refugees is the most important number needed to look at to predict AfD voting.
The graphs were created with data from the Bundestag, German Federal Police, and European Commission. The graphs were created in Tableau and data formatted in Python.