Which way will Germany vote?
Find out here how people reach their voting decisions. An interview with pollster Stefan Merz.
Mr Merz, according to the surveys, the run-up to a federal election has rarely been so exciting. How reliable are such results?
Many online surveys, such as those run by internet news portals, are not particularly representative of the whole population. But the surveys commissioned by the large radio and television broadcasting companies are. These polls are based on scientific rules and empirical social research methods, so that the results can be projected onto the entire population.
How are these surveys carried out?
There are many possibilities: by post, personal visits, phone calls, online. It’s important that the actual selection of participants is random and that, at least in theory, the whole spectrum of entitled voters have a chance of being included. But, as is often the case in online surveys where voters can register at will and out of personal interest, the results are no longer neutral and cannot be generalized. In this case it is inevitably unrepresentative, no matter how many people have taken part.
Which factors lead to voters’ decisions?
There are three key factors: What does a voter think about the top candidates? Which specific topics are particularly important to him or her, and which party or person does he or she believe to be especially competent in these areas? And finally, many people also have a certain level of attachment to a particular party. This often develops when they are young, is strengthened by the social environment and in turn shapes their perception of people and issues.
Stefan Merz is Director of Elections at the opinion research institute Infratest Dimap
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