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Is it the economic crisis, stupid? The effects of economic evaluations on party preferences in Germany against the background of the world economic and financial crisis

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


5th ECPR General Conference, Potsdam, Germany (2009)


economic voting, electoral analysis, Germany, party choice


This paper focuses on the effects of economic evaluations on party preferences in Germany before the 2009 Bundestag election. This election confronts research on the effects of economic evaluations with two major challenges. The first is the composition of the federal government. For four years CDU/CSU and SPD form the first grand coalition at the federal level since 1969. The second is the world economic crisis that has a devastating effect on the state and the development of the German economy as well as on the perceptions of the economic situation by the voters. The interesting question is how voters will react to this extraordinary situation. According to the incumbency-hypothesis (Downs 1957) the consequences should be obvious: Bad times hurt the ins, resulting in negative effects for the popularity of both government parties. This would consequently lead to a further erosion of the position of both German catch-all parties. However, results of opinion surveys during the 2005-2009 legislative period point out that it is mainly the SPD that is seriously afflicted by bad performance evaluations. On the contrary, results for the first grand coalition between 1966 and 1969 indicate that only the CDU/CSU, but not the SPD suffered from bad economic evaluations in the 1969 election (Rattinger/Puschner 1981). In addition, the policy-hypothesis (Hibbs 1982) suggests that rising unemployment-rates, which will presumably occur during the next months, help to improve the popularity of the SPD. If one or even both hypotheses prove to be correct, the social democrats would have a chance to leave their all-time survey lows and regain strength. These two and other hypotheses, like the personal experience-hypothesis (Kiewiet 1983) and the national assessment-hypothesis (Weatherford 1987) will be tested against the background of the world economic crisis using brandnew data from the 2009 German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES).