Vögele, Catharina and Ursula Alexandra Ohliger: Governing with or driven by the results of opinion polls? How German political actors at the federal and state level perceive political poll reporting.
This study analyzes how German political actors at the federal and state levels perceive the opportunities and risks of political poll reporting. A quantitative online survey of Members of the Bundestag and all German state parliaments shows that their perceptions are ambivalent: Although they all express great or very great interest in opinion polls, they have ambivalent views on how useful opinion research is for their political activities. With regard to the perceived benefit of poll reporting, the commissioning of opinion polls, and the desired frequency of media poll reporting, differences between the members of parliament surveyed are evident. When analyzing the internal and external use of the results of opinion polls our findings suggest that they are primarily used to strategically plan election campaigns and to identify popular topics. A large majority of members of parliament agree on the possible effects of poll reporting on voters. They view these effects predominantly critically and are in favor of legal restrictions on publishing election polls. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 3 – 28]
Holtkamp, Lars and Benjamin Garske: Determinants of local voter turnout in Germany. Mayoral and city council elections in comparison.
Voter turnout in German local elections has only been partially examined in comparative analysis. Derived from the state of research, this analysis focuses—on the link between explanatory factors and voter turnout especially in city council and mayoral elections. The analysis shows that almost all of the hypotheses known from the literature are confirmed in city council elections nationwide. Next to hypotheses concerning socio-economic variables (unemployment rate, etc .), institutional factors have also proven to be equally explanatory in some cases . Primarily, when combining city council elections with higher level elections (e. g., parliamentary elections), voter participation increases significantly. This has already been identified as central in the literature. Many of these hypotheses can be transferred to main elections and second (‘runoff’) ballots with largely verified causal links: Voter turnout increases significantly with the number of candidates. In contrast, a low voter turnout can be observed in re-elections. It should be noted that socio-economic factors have a stronger (statistical) link to voter turnout in second ballots than in main elections. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 29 – 42]
Klein, Markus, Frederik Springer, Philipp Becker and Yvonne Lüdecke: Who runs for whom? Recruitment potentials of political parties and local voters’ associations in comparison.
In Germany, there are an estimated 200,000 seats to be filled at the local level in city and municipal councils, city council assemblies, and district councils. It is of fundamental importance for the functioning of local democracy that a sufficient number of candidates can be found for these mandates. Against this background, the recruitment potential of political parties and municipal voters’ associations with regard to candidates for mandates at the local level is examined comparatively. The data basis is a representative population survey conducted as part of the 2017 German Party Membership Study. It is shown that a good quarter of the population can in principle be won over to a candidacy at the municipal level. Ten percent would only run for a party, six percent only for a municipal voters’ association and a further ten percent for both political groups. These three candidate potentials each have a specific profile regarding their socio-structural composition and their political attitudes. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 43 – 58]
Juen, Christina-Marie, Markus Tepe and Michael Jankowski: The experience of local deprivation and the rise of independent local lists. New results of a multi-level panel data set.
In Germany, Independent Local Lists (UWG) have become an integral part of local politics in recent decades. Despite their growing political importance, the reasons for their electoral rise have hardly been researched. Recent studies argue that Independent Local Lists pursue anti-party positions, which makes them attractive to voters who are dissatisfied with the party system. Assuming that a decline of confidence in established parties corresponds with the experience of local deprivation, this contribution uses a multi-level panel data set to investigate how socio-economic (emigration, aging, declining tax revenue) and political-cultural (turnout, fragmentation) deprivation processes affect the electoral success of Independent Local Lists. The empirical findings suggest that Independent Local Lists are more successful in municipalities where voter turnout has fallen and political fragmentation has increased. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 59 – 77]
Pollex, Jan, Sebastian Block, Martin Gross, Dominic Nyhuis and Jan Velimsky: A more and more diverse Free State of Bavaria. Analyzing the local elections of 2020 with a focus on urban communes.
Despite their crucial role for democratic decision-making, local elections receive little attention from political science research. To overcome this shortcoming, the article analyses the Bavarian local elections of 2020. Although the CSU remains the strongest party in the Free State, the Green Party was able to make considerable gains, especially in larger cities. How- ever, the Greens could not gain any grounds in mayoral elections, whereas CSU and SPD competed for the win. In most of the cases, the Social Democrats won the posts in city halls. In addition to detailing election results, this article addresses the ballot lists, the composition of local councils, and coalition building at the local level. Overall, this contribution provides a comprehensive account of the elections, which are characterized by their unique ballot system and, thus, have a special role in the political system of Germany. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 78 – 94]
Fitzpatrick, Jasmin and Sabrina J. Mayer: More than just simply objecting? The legislative agenda of Green parties in Germany and Austria in times of Grand Coalitions. In order to analyze which topics are used by the German and Austrian Green parties when proposing bills in times of Grand Coalitions, we use data from a content analysis of all bills these parties proposed from 2007-2008 and 2013-2017 based on the German version of the Comparative Agendas Project Master Codebook. In addition, we define green topics as issues that are named in the respective party programs. In Germany, we observe how an oppositional party under pressure goes on to diversify its own thematic profile as well as to increase the share of bills that focus on genuine green topics. This development, however, is not a general trend among green parties. While the share of bills with green topics increased in Germany after the nuclear phase-out in 2011, it slightly decreased in Austria. In both countries, we observe an increase in thematic variability of the bills dealing with green topics. This could be treated as evidence that chanceless bills are increasingly used for creating a diverse but genuinely green profile. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 95 – 107]
Pallaver, Günther: The constitutional referendum on reducing the size of Italy’s parliament. The impact of a climate of opinion consisting of deep-rooted mistrust and populistic resentment.
In a 2020 constitutional referendum on the 20th and 21st of September 2020, Italians voted to reduce the number of members of parliament from 945 to 600. With a turnout of 51 percent, 70 percent voted in favor of this proposal. The article describes the historical background, the process that led to the referendum as well as the election result and its consequences. The main focus is on the question of why this referendum produced such a clear result. The thesis is that this high level of approval came about because the climate of opinion had been on the side of those in favor of reducing the size of parliament for years. This climate of opinion is the result of decades of debate about and against the political “casta”, which led citizens to more and more lose trust in parties and parliament until even the parties agreed to the reduction. The opponents’ attempt to tilt this climate of opinion shortly before the vote in order to mobilize a majority against the downsizing of parliament was bound to fail because of the long-cemented opinion on the issue. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 108 – 124]
Decker, Frank: Citizen councils—a mechanism against the representation crisis or a democratic fig-leaf?
Since the 1990s, direct democracy has been the favored method to combat the weakness of representative institutions in Germany. In recent years, its proponents—not least the Greens and the SPD—have had a change of heart. Instead of plebiscitary measures, they now favor deliberative forms of citizen participation that are not binding for the decision-makers and can be triggered “from above” by administrative and/or parliamentary institutions. Advocates moreover emphasize the advantage of the random selection of participants that is meant to ensure a high degree of social representativeness. The strengthening of the self-efficacy of the citizens that is supposed to be the main benefit of their participation can, however, only occur when citizens’ recommendations are actually reflected in the political decisions. The citizen councils held or initiated at the federal level in Germany in 2019 and 2021 fail to meet this intended objective and appear to primarily serve as a democratic fig- leaf. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 125 – 140]
Müller, Melanie and Marcus Höreth: Minority government in the German Bundestag? Lessons on opposition behavior from Sweden.
Government stability in the German Bundestag is traditionally tied to a parliamentary majority and an opposition minority. Nonetheless, minority governments in other Western democracies show that, despite the lack of a parliamentary majority, they govern stable and effectively together with the opposition. In this article, on the Swedish case, we examine how opposition parties in parliament are involved in the legislative process in a minority government and what patterns they follow in order to maintain governmental stability without neglecting their alternative function. The paper combines theoretical and conceptual considerations on the adequate understanding of the opposition in the Federal Republic of Germany with empirical findings on cooperation and conflicts between opposition party groups and minority governments. The results show that opposition parties strategically switch between confrontational (Westminster-style) and consensual patterns of behavior (republican). Through this flexible majority finding, opposition parties in parliament can alternately present themselves as policymakers or as an alternative counterpart to the government. This opposition behavior is functionally adequate under the conditions of a pluralized and fragmented party system and the resulting difficulties in forming a stable government majority. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 141 – 158]
Pilniok, Arne: The era of artificial intelligence as a challenge for parliaments.
The digital transformation is permanently changing the government, administration, and society. This process is being intensified by the much-discussed technologies of artificial intelligence, and poses a variety of challenges for parliaments and indirectly for parliamentary studies. Their different dimensions have not been discussed comprehensively so far, although the technological developments affect all parliamentary functions and their premises. This article systematizes and structures the various effects of the age of artificial intelligence on parliamentary democracy. Namely, the conditions of democratic representation change, the innovation-friendly regulation of digital technologies becomes a parliamentary task, parliamentary control has to be adjusted to the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence in government and administration, and possibly, the epistemological and organizational structures of parliamentary work might have to be adapted. This provides starting points for future detailed analyses to adequately capture these processes of change and to accompany them from different disciplinary perspectives. [ZParl, vol. 52 (2021), no. 1, pp. 159 – 181]