Where Did the German AfD Benefit the Most From Increased Turnout? Surprise: It’s Not the East

We took another look at the results from Germany’s federal parliamentary elections that took place on September 24th. The right-wing authoritarian party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) massively increased their electoral support and became the third largest group in the Bundestag.

While it was apparent immediately after the elections that the AfD’s largest voting block was former non-voters (see e.g. https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2017-09-24-BT-DE/analyse-wanderung.shtml), the variation in this relation is less clear.

We were interested in where the AdF benefited the most from increased turnout and created the map below. The shading shows the ratio of turnout change to AfD vote share. In other words, it shows the degree to which the AfD was able to turn an increase in turnout into votes. Click on the map to see details about the districts.

Click on the shaded areas to see district detail.

It turns out that the districts where the AfD benefitted the most from increased turnout are almost exclusively located in Bavaria. By contrast, in the Eastern states, where the AfD generally won much higher vote shares than in Bavaria, the ratio of turnout change to AfD vote is much lower.

In our view, political parties would be well advised to take a close look at these results. The districts in Bavaria where the turnout-to-AfD ratio was highest are certainly not economically distressed. Unemployment is low and household incomes tend to be above average. It is here that the AfD was able to mobilize with their message of national identity and xenophobia. The party was able to speak to voters who had been alienated from the party system and chose to abstain in previous elections. Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see how the conservatives in Bavaria, chancellor Merkel’s sister party CSU, will handle the state elections that are scheduled to take place in Fall 2018.