Long-term observation of “political participation” in Germany is not interested in the electoral chances of the parties and their leading candidates, Angela Merkel (CDU) and Peer Steinbrück (SPD), but rather in the Germans’ view of democracy. The Bertelsmann Foundation and the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research call the result of their joint study “astonishing”: every year the Germans become more satisfied with democracy and the political system of their country. They also find that the parties in 2013 differ more clearly from each other than they did ten years ago.
Nevertheless, experts expect a further decline in voter turnout. They see the major reason for voter apathy in indifference – the greater the political apathy of a voter’s circle of friends, the less likely he or she will be to go to the ballot box. “There isn’t any disaffection with politics or democracy. But we are experiencing a growing social divide in democracy”, says Jörg Dräger, Chairman of the Bertelsmann Foundation. More and more people with low incomes and little education are remaining at home on Election Day.
In the first decades of the German Federal Republic the right to vote was seen even more markedly as a civic duty. Voters’ turnout was accordingly high, with about 90 per cent in federal elections. Today, the researchers discovered, non-voters, especially in the younger generation, find broad social acceptance. The study shows that whether a person goes to vote depends to a large extent on where he lives, what friends he has and whether politics was discussed in his family. “Nothing motivates a person to vote so strongly as politically interested surroundings”, says Dräger.
Elections to the 18th German parliament, 22 September 2013