Tomorrow‘s German elections are going to be unusually exciting. While the two biggest parties in the polls (the SPD and the CDU/CSU) have been crawling together in the last few days, a significant group of voters have not yet decided who they want to vote for. It’s unclear how many people haven‘t tied the knot yet. In a survey by YouGov poll agency this week, a quarter indicated that they had not made a choice yet. Another institute, Allensbach, surveyed the number of floating voters at 40 percent last week, and bureau Infratest dimap at more than 30 percent.
The SPD’s lead on the CDU/CSU in the polls is shrinking: the two are only one to four percentage points apart, with a margin of error of around 2.5 percentage points. With this difference, everything is still open. So the party that attracts the most floating voters can become the winner on Sunday.
The SPD is 25 percent to 26 percent in the polls, the CDU/CSU at 21 to 25 percent, the Greens are the third party with between 14 and 17 percent.
Floating voter is tactical voter
Nico Siegel, director of research institute Infratest dimap, says most floating voters have doubts between two parties that are fairly close to each other.
Simon Franzmann, director of the Göttingen University Institut für Demokratieforschung, would prefer to speak of tactical voters, who have their choice partly determined by their preference for a coalition.
In previous elections, it was clear which direction it was going well in advance, but this time it is still open. There are probably three more coalitions: the ‘traffic light coalition’ of SPD, Greens and the liberal FDP, the ‘Jamaica coalition’ of CDU/CSU, Greens and FDP and perhaps also red-green-red from SPD, Greens and Die Linke. The current Great Coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD is unlikely to continue, the two major parties are looking forward to each other.
It is striking that all possible coalitions require three parties; in the past two parties were sufficient for a majority, but the following of CDU/CSU and SPD has shrunk so much that they need a third party. This situation is a way of strategic voting, with which people do not vote for the party of their actual preference. “Suppose you think conservatively and your traditional party is the FDP,” says Franzmann. “Do you do that again this time, or do you choose the CDU/CSU in the hope that they will lead the new government?”
People instead of themes
This time the German election campaign is much more about the people than about the content: will the Armin Laschet of the CDU/CSU or Olaf Scholz of the SPD? While many German voters pay particular attention to something else: for most people, the content of the programmes is still more important than candidates.
Nico Siegel explains that this discrepancy can also cause more doubters. For example, people who voted CDU/CSU last time are less enthusiastic about the party with Merkel no longer participating. Her successor Armin Laschet is less competent to them.
the other hand, the SPD leader Olaf Scholz ranks high on that point in polls. There are voters who would never vote for the SPD otherwise, and now consider it because they see in him the new Bundeskanzler, or at least the least bad candidate.
For the summer, Annalena Baerbock of the Greens seemed to be a serious candidate for the Chancellor‘s ambt, but a series of blunders peeked off her image and by now she is no longer seen as a serious challenger of the other two.
Power folk parties crumbles
Changing parties have been making Germans easier in recent years, says Siegel. This is even more so in the east than in the west. That makes sense to him: “If you were born in the GDR in 1950, you were 39 years old when the wall fell. Maybe you voted for SPD afterwards, then disappointed, and then joined the AfD via CDU/CSU.”
In addition, according to Simon Franzmann, according to Simon Franzmann, the economy was no longer the central theme in German elections as before. In particular, the CDU/CSU and the SPD, the traditional large people’s parties, were particularly concerned with economic themes. “But today people are also guided by their thoughts on climate change, or about refugees. Later than in other Western European countries, the bastion of the big people‘s parties is now crumbling here too.”
Floating and tactical voters and a minimal difference between the two parties that are now in charge: these elections are unGerman unpredictable. Six o’clock till Sunday night. Then the first exit polls provide insight into the extent to which the floating voters have shifted.