GHDI logo

A Boring Election Campaign? (September 9, 2009)

The agenda for "Super Election Year 2009" included, in addition to elections to the European Parliament, six Landtag elections, eight local elections, one presidential election (carried out by a Federal Assembly), and German Bundestag elections. The head of the Institute for Demoscopy in Allensbach explains why the 2009 Bundestag elections differed from previous ones.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

Allensbach Analysis: Campaign without Passion

What’s missing is a hot-button issue, the fateful moment, the confrontation between implacable opponents, a stirring vision for the future. The majority of citizens, too, feel that the campaign is flat out dull.

Rarely has a campaign provoked as much criticism as this one. Boring, devoid of content, averse to conflict, and passionless – these are the most frequently heard rebukes. A sense of chagrin seems to inform many commentaries, as though the parties – needlessly and incomprehensibly – have failed to deliver to the media and to citizens the excitement that should naturally accompany every struggle for power.

The majority of citizens, too, feel that this campaign is flat out dull, only 14% perceive it as a tough contest. Forty-nine percent of the population sees the campaign as boring and devoid of content. In the lead-up to the Bundestag elections of 2002, when this reproach was also heard, only 37% considered it justified, while 38% thought it unjustified.

“In the Sleeping Car to Power”

Generally speaking, excitement and a sense of being challenged cannot be artificially introduced into elections by campaign committees, spin doctors, and advertising agencies. Campaigns are built upon a specific political, economic, and social starting position, which is new in every election and imbued with excitement in very different ways. In 1998, after sixteen years of uninterrupted CDU rule, excitement stemmed from the expectation of a change of government and the formation of a new political constellation, whose very slogan, “the Red-Green experiment,” exuded an aura of adventure; at the same time, the key slogan of the SPD campaign, the “Justice Gap,” addressed the population’s fear of reforms to the social welfare state.

At first, the 2002 campaign was entirely dominated by concerns about steadily rising unemployment; however, the outbreak of the Iraq War prompted a complete thematic switch in the final weeks, and the election became a referendum on German support for the American advance. The 2005 election was dramatic in many respects: thanks to the premature resignation of the Red-Green government, the population’s deep dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and the reform course, and the constellation of personalities – more precisely, the duel between Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel. At the time, it didn’t occur to anyone to accuse the Union parties of wanting to “come to power in the sleeping car.” With the announcement of tax hikes and an acceleration of the reform course, the CDU and CSU outbid the SPD, and this bold move won them much recognition in the campaign – and a pay-off from voters.

first page < previous   |   next > last page