Polls Continue to Mark Rise of Germany’s Political Right

Polls Continue to Mark Rise of Germany’s Political Right
People demonstrate against the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Hamburg, on Feb. 25, 2024. (Hami Roshan/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)
News Analysis

As a two-month campaign to vilify the Alternative for Germany (AfD) begins to run out of steam, recent political polls show the popularity of the conservative and nationalist party is stabilizing, amid a broader rightward turn by voters.

Opponents allege the party pushes for cultural uniformity in Germany, and have gone so far as to paint the party’s members as little better than neo-Nazis.

Founded in April 2013, the AfD quickly gained a significant place in Germany’s multiparty system. Within four years, it placed third out of six parties in elections to the Bundestag—a legislative chamber roughly equivalent to the United States House of Representatives—with 94 seats and 12.6 percent of the vote, compared to the leading Christian Democratic Union (CDU)’s 32.9 percent of and the second-place Social Democratic Party (SPD)’s 20.5 percent.

The years 2022 and 2023 saw the AfD shoot almost to the top as part of the most dramatic shift in German politics since the country’s post-Cold War reunification.

Polls showed that support rose from 10 percent in July 2022 to 15 percent in October 2022. By June 2023, the AfD’s 19 percent support made it the second most popular party in Germany—a position strengthened when support rose to 22 percent before the year ended.

At the same time, the three parties of the coalition government, which has held power since the 2021 Bundestag elections, had just 33 percent support between them—14 percent each for the leftist parties SPD and the Greens, and 5 percent for the socially liberal, economically capitalist Free Democratic Party.

The only party to surpass the AfD—the CDU—almost equaled that combined total, with 32 percent support and owed that to a move back toward its historical conservatism.

The dramatic rise was due to the same factors driving voters throughout Europe to new (or newly popular) conservative and nationalist parties.

Under former CDU leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, socially liberal globalists became increasingly powerful within the historically conservative party.

The AfD maintained stauncher conservative positions—including strong support for traditional marriage and family life, the preservation of national independence (in the face of the European Union’s increasing power), German culture (in the face of “European integration” and Islamization), and border security (including expulsion of illegal immigrants).

According to the AfD’s “Manifesto for Germany,” there is nothing unusual in what the party calls for.

It states that no distinction is to be made between immigrant citizens and those who are German-born. Immigration will be both favored in moderation and kept at moderate levels. Cultural assimilation, not race, is a central concern and will be required of immigrants.

Existing laws require the deportation or imprisonment of illegal immigrants—but legal processes for enforcement will be revised to make them more effective, and deportation will be a priority.

Beginning with an article published by the fact-checking organization Correctiv on Jan. 10, AfD’s opponents have used a small nonpartisan meeting, which included a handful of AfD members, to suggest that the party supports a more radical agenda.

Held on Nov. 25, 2023, at Potsdam, it involved 22 people—including six from the AfD and five from the CDU. Others were more independent or had a history of working with both parties. One participant was former neo-Nazi Martin Sellner.

Immigration was among the topics discussed, but not the main theme as many reports suggested.

Most discussions of the topic concerned the deportation of illegal immigrants and assimilation.

Mr. Sellner is alleged to have suggested devising laws to bully immigrant citizens who refuse to assimilate out of the country alongside giving them positive incentives to leave.

Correctiv alleged Ulrich Siegmund, leader of the AfD in the Saxony-Anhalt state parliament, also favored harassing methods of enforcing cultural conformity.

However, Correctiv is accused of being biased and working on behalf of the government, from which the organization receives funding, and possibly intelligence agencies.

Three state elections in which the AfD is leading in the polls are coming up this year.

Correctiv did not reveal how it got information from the meeting; however, it has been accused of wiretapping the event.

The AfD’s national leadership condemned the meeting as soon as the details of these discussions became known.

It reiterated that the party made no distinction between German-born and immigrant citizens and that its foreknowledge of plans for the meeting had not included knowledge that Mr. Sellner would even be present.

For his participation in the meeting, AfD member Roland Hartwig was fired from his job as a strategic adviser to AfD chairwoman Alice Weidel.

Half a dozen of those reported to be in attendance issued public statements saying they had not been present when the objectionable suggestions were made.

Despite that, Correctiv has not altered the claims that the Potsdam meeting was a de facto AfD gathering whose proposals were equivalent to the AfD’s party line, aimed at broad expulsion of immigrant citizens and favored expulsion on racial grounds.

Many reports from numerous other media outlets have repeated Correctiv’s accusations as fact.

Commentator and activist Deal Hudson—who has served as an adviser to George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, worked for the Republican National Committee, and edited Crisis Magazine—explains this as a way of “controlling public thinking to advance an agenda.”

Polls conducted by Politpro.eu, Statista, and INSA demonstrate that hostile reports have had limited effect on the popularity of the AfD and virtually none on that of socially conservative and nationalist politics.

All three showed the AfD firmly maintaining greater support than it had before June 2023, with a 3 percent to 5 percent lead over the SPD and at least that much over the Greens.

Just one INSA poll (dated March 11) has the AfD down to 18.5 percent.

Four subsequent INSA polls (March 16, March 18, March 24, and March 25) show the AfD going back and forth between 19 percent and 19.5 percent.

Politpro.eu had its support at 19.5 percent on March 18 and 18.1 percent on March 22. Statista’s most recent poll (March 8) had the AfD at 18 percent.

Support for the other seven parties with representatives in the Bundestag has remained at about pre-Jan. 10 levels.

The one party to see a substantial increase in support since Jan. 10 was legally established just two days earlier—the Bundnis Sahra Wagenknecht. Combining “hard right” social conservatism and nationalism with “hard left” socialist economics, it has consistently polled between 5 percent and 8 percent since Feb. 1.

James Baresel is a freelance writer who has contributed to periodicals as varied as Fine Art Connoisseur, Military History, Claremont Review of Books, and New Eastern Europe.