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On 26 September 2021 German voters are asked to elect a new parliament (Bundestag). During this event we will discuss with political and communication scientists from Germany the public opinion dynamics during the election campaigns, examine voter behaviour and discuss the election outcomes.

Event details of The 2021 German Elections: Campaign Impact and Outcomes
Date 29 September 2021
Time 20:00 -21:30

About the speakers

Daniela Braun is an assistant professor at LMU Munich and is associated as an external fellow with the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES). Her research interests include European Union politics, party politics, public opinion, and political behaviour and most recently gender and politics.

Isabelle Borucki is Interim professor for the political system of the FRG, junior research group leader DIPART – digital party research and leading SOKAMO – the Duisburg Social Media Kampagnen Monitor during the national elections. She received her doctorate in 2013 from University of Trier and Habilitation in 2021 from University of Duisburg-Essen. Mainly, she conducts research on political organizations, especially political parties, comparative politics, and information technology/internet and politics.

Jürgen Maier is Professor of Political Communication at the University of Koblenz-Landau. His research focusses on the content and the impact of campaign communication, with a particular emphasis on televised debates and campaign strategy.

Lina Buttgereit is a research master student in communication science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests comprise the motives and effects of disinformation as well as in challenges to social cohesion

Felix Grünewald is a research master student in communication science at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests lie in the field of public opinion formation and political and psychological influences in that regard.

Andreas Schuck is Associate Professor of Political Communication & Journalism at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on public opinion dynamics during election campaigns, media effects on political participation, citizen (de-)mobilization and behavioral change, and the role of emotions in political communication.

Katjana Gattermann (moderator) is Assistant Professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests comprise political communication and journalism, public opinion and political behaviour with a regional focus on the European Union.

Background to the 2021 elections

On 26 September 2021 German voters are asked to elect a new parliament (Bundestag). Currently, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) together have a majority in the Bundestag and thus support a Grand Coalition with Angela Merkel as Chancellor, who is not running again. Thus, this election marks the end of the Merkel-era and arguably is a lot closer and more contested than many had expected. The Greens nominated a chancellor candidate for the first time and looked like a potential winner for a while before dropping in the polls.

The CDU/CSU first publicly battled out which candidate should lead them into this election before dropping to the lowest poll ratings in their history during the campaign. These developments saw Olaf Scholz and the SPD becoming the unexpected frontrunner and the Social Democrats all of a sudden being just one step away from becoming one of the most unlikely election winners in recent German history. But what explains these dynamics, which no one really had anticipated? Is this an election about candidates or issues? What explains the marked drop in public support for the Greens and even more so for the CDU/CSU and the sudden resurrection of the Social Democrats? Or will the CDU/CSU in the final phase of the campaign be able to turn the trend around, and how? And what effects did the new debate format between the three chancellor candidates have on voter attitudes and support?

One of the most striking results of the previous elections in 2017 has been that the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) entered German parliament for the first time and as the biggest opposition party. Arguably, this changed the tone of public debate which became a lot more conflictual and polarized. How polarized were the campaigns this time, especially on social media? Furthermore, the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) might play a decisive role in deciding which coalition will eventually be formed and who will be able to lead the next government and become the next chancellor.

Finally, the Linkspartei (Left party) is not expected to gain votes in this election but still plays an important role in the campaign as a potential coalition partner for the SPD and the Greens in what would be a new “leftist” government – and one conservative voters are strongly opposed to. Which voters support these smaller parties, and why? Which role did strategic and tactical considerations play in voters’ decision whom to vote for? Finally, how did the media report about the campaigns, how salient were climate change and European issues during the campaigns, and how did these affect voter behaviour?