Alternative for Germany – how far can it go?

Last weekend’s (March 2016) regional and local elections in Germany show how the process of cultural change can rapidly overtake the opinions of experts.

CDSM surveyed the values of Germany during November and December 2015. In the survey, along with 108 measures of values systems, respondents were asked about their political orientation and with which political party they most identified. A similar measure has been applied to British data for over ten years, and has been found to be highly congruent with an individual’s values system - and therefore generally predictive of their voting pattern.

The 'identify with' measure has been termed ‘Heartland’ in previous posts and will be used in this short analysis.

Values and voting have a varied history of being congruent and consistent over time. In times of relative political stability, individual values systems are more likely to predict voting behaviour than in times of rapid or unforeseen social change, questioning of the political status quo and civil unrest.

During times of unease or unrest, tactical voting is likely to increase; the individual voting against a particular party rather than for the preferred one. This can lead to instances where an otherwise 'fringe' political party can increase its share of the vote if it represents a clear alternative to a controversial element in a more mainstream party platform. Voters may prefer the mainstream party (their Heartland party) but cast a protest vote against the unpopular issue.

Immigration and asylum seeking has become a big issue, and will become a huge issue, in all parts of Europe. The Merkel response, applied in Germany, has been more humanitarian than that of many other countries, but may have stimulated a very real negative reaction within her own country.

Let’s look at a few values maps and see if we can determine the basis of the opposition – politically – and see if the Heartland party of resistance to official immigration and asylum policy is likely to grow or whether it is at the peak of its appeal.

This type of profile is very similar to other right wing parties in other countries. Essentially three Values Modes – Brave New World (over three times as likely than the general population to support AfD), Golden Dreamers over twice as likely, and Roots almost twice as likely - will be much more inclined than others to support right wing policies and display behaviours that are indicative of their values orientations.

With a Heartland figure of only 7.6% it is unlikely that this type of profile would produce a major political party. But in forms of government where multiple parties must form coalitions to govern, as in Germany, this type of profile may provide either a block or a bridge to power when aligned with like-minded groups.

We also asked a question about how people felt about immigrants:-

"Immigrants today are a burden on the country because they take our jobs, houses, healthcare, etc."

People who agree with this statement had a values map that looked like this:

More people agree with this statement than declare AfD as their Heartland.

However, the Values Mode profiles among espousers of this attitude are similar and even more extreme in some instances, while the three over-indexed Values Modes remain the same.

AfD has probably picked up many of these espousers in the recent election, even if it was not their first choice when voting. This extension of the AfD vote, likely based on the perception of immigrants as a burden, presents a challenge to more mainstream parties who will tend to reflect the Pioneer and Now People values – which do not agree with this orientation.

The mainstream parties are more likely to lose voters among their Settler and Golden Dreamer base but still hold onto to their Pioneer and Prospector bases. CDSM has tracked this in the UK with significant Settler support fall away from both Conservative and Labour parties and a rise in the anti-immigrant UKIP party.

AfD can extend its franchise even further with a more general appeal – less anti-immigrant per se and more against any form of ‘foreigner’. This more amorphous attitude can lead to approval of non-humanitarian policies seemingly against the principles, especially open border policies, enshrined in European law and provocative to parties like AfD.

The statement that measures this more global attitude is:-

"There are too many foreigners in my country."

Respondents are offered a range of choices from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Once again, the map shows a similar pattern of espousal – though it is much larger than the AfD Heartland and about 50% larger than those who agree that immigrants are a burden on the country.

By being less specific on anti-immigrant sloganeering and being more generally anti-foreigner the Afd has a chance to expand its franchise significantly – at the expense of the more mainstream coalition parties, which are all more in line with stated EU principles of free movement and aid to those in need of asylum, even if it is only temporary.

This map shows only those who strongly agree with the statement because we have found that those who strongly agree are those most likely to change or continue behaviour based on that. Those who 'slightly agree' will have a tendency to change or continue behaviour, but not to the same extent.

Given that 'slight' agreement with the statement offers a propensity to act, but with less certitude, policy makers will be interested in the fact that the strongly agree and slightly agree figures on this question total 41.7% of the German population – a very significant figure. What this means is that, although AfD has limited appeal in its present form, it has a range of strategic options upon which to build a national strategy that could have a significant impact on the political narrative of Germany as a whole.

Widening the AfD Franchise – opportunity for AfD and options for other parties.

The problem for many fringe political parties – left wing, right wing and independent – is to convert new members and voters to a core set of founding values without losing them in the chaos of coalition politics.

AfD has a real chance of widening their appeal – and probably has done so between our research in December 2015 and the election in March 2016 – purely by staying true to their values and doing little more than increasing the reach of their national level communications and locally based organizing.

This is shown in the following two maps that quite clearly show the overlapping nature of the values of their supporters – the Heartland – and those who strongly agree that there are too many foreigners in their country, a group of people more than twice the size of AfD heartland espousers.

These maps are slightly different than the Terrain maps previously shown in that they provide a level of detail more granular than the Values Modes. These Contour maps show which Attributes the espousers of the factors over and under index upon. The Map also contains a box that highlights the five most over indexed Attributes among the 108 measured.

The AfD Heartland analysis at this level reveals the detail missing from the classic Terrain Maps. In relation to the German population these respondents are more likely to espouse the Attributes that fall on the cusp of the area of the map that equates to a transition zone from Settler to Prospector.

In many forms of past analysis, in many fields, we have found this area to be one in which there are values and attitudes that produce inordinate amounts of fear and anger within the respondent base. Though this can be picked up by commentators and experts it is often hard to describe the basis for these largely negative emotions. With the Attributes we can measure by what type and to what extent the Attributes help explain the emotions.

Without going into greater depth, it can quickly be seen that five forces are relevant to these respondents that are not as important to the values systems of the general population

These forces, or Attributes of their values system, are, in order of strength – Whip, Force, Patriarchy, Catharsis, Afraid.

This combination is typically found in people – more male than female – who feel a loss of connection with their past identity and who have not yet discovered a clear view of a positive future.

This may seem obvious, but without this level of evidence it is likely that alternative explanations and solutions could be developed – which could conceivably exacerbate existing problems.

Let’s look at one final map and see how these Attributes correlate, or not, with those of people who strongly agree that there are too many foreigners in their country.

A similar pattern emerges, demonstrating little difference in the values sets of the two different sets of respondents. There is likely to be some degree of overlap among them, but given this response set is about two-and-a-half times as large as the AfD Heartland it is likely that it is only a minority congruence of factors.

The Attributes in the top five are almost exactly the same as the AfD Heartland respondents. Only Discipline is different – replacing the more harsh Catharsis in the top five.

This profile potentially means that people with this values set could easily adopt AfD as their 'party of choice' and significantly increase the size of its franchise in a very short period of time – taking it from a fringe party to one that could have significant part to play in a larger coalition with another party or parties. Perhaps more importantly, AfD is well placed to become the voice of these disenfranchised, alienated, angry and frightened people who may not have voted in the past but now feel that there is a party which understands them. If this is so, and they give AfD their vote, they will change the overall narrative within the whole German political system.

In Germany – indeed, in most European countries - this type of political ideology had been sidelined for decades following World War II and the creation of the EU. In recent years it has re-emerged as a minority voice. It continues to grow and, as we have demonstrated, now has the capacity to move into the mainstream. Recent developments involving mass migration are proving to be a fertile ground for this type of values system to flourish.

Without a clear understanding of the basis for their fear and anger, and policies to address them, there is little chance this Settler-driven dynamic will fade away.