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First German Migrant Election Study: How Immigrants and Their Children Vote

Joint research project by the University of Cologne and the University of Duisburg-Essen compares Germans of Russian and Turkish descent

Political scientists from the University of Cologne and the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) for the first time investigated the question which party immigrants from Turkey or the former Soviet Union and their children with a German passport vote for in a federal election. The ‘Immigrant German Election Study’ was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

This is the first election survey to make precise statements about the voting behaviour of Germans with a migration background based on data from the 2017 federal election. Nearly 500 randomly selected Germans who immigrated themselves or are descendants of immigrants from the Soviet Union or its successor states (hereinafter referred to as Russian Germans) or Turkey (hereinafter referred to as German Turks) were interviewed for this purpose.

‘I was surprised how much lower the turnout in the two groups was. 64 per cent of German Turks and 58 per cent of Russian Germans were voters. This is 18 per cent less than the general turnout’, says Professor Achim Goerres of the UDE.

Both groups are also politically very different from Germans without a migration background: Russian Germans are positioned to the right of the center, German Turks to the left of the center. Dr Dennis Spies from the University of Cologne reports: ‘In both groups, however, the two major parties CDU (Christian Democrats) and SPD (Social Democrats), which were once dominant, have lost.’

A swing to the right? While the majority of Russian Germans still voted for the CDU/CSU in earlier parliamentary elections, 15 per cent of them opted for the right-wing populist party ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ (AfD) in 2017. Goerres explains: ‘In fact, the AfD scored better with Russian Germans than with voters without an immigrant background. But as the third force behind the Christian Democrats and the left-wing party ‘Die LINKE’, it lagged far behind the expectations fuelled by the media.’

More than a third of German Turks voted for the SPD (35%). At 16 per cent, ‘Die LINKE’ scored a better percentage among German Turks, and Russian Germans (21 %), than among Germans without a migration background (11%). Notably, Russian Germans rarely voted for the Green Party (8%).

‘The Germans of Turkish descent are quite clearly opposed to Turkish president Erdogan. If they took part in the Turkish referendum at all, they clearly voted against it’, says Goerres. Only 21 per cent of Turkish Germans with dual citizenship were in favour of constitutional reform. Only 12 per cent voted for the Erdogan related party ‘Alliance of German Democrats’, which only stood for election in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Approximately 66 per cent of German Turks oppose Turkey’s EU membership. Kurds from Turkey are particularly critical of it (82%). Outside the elections, German Turks are comparatively politically active; they attend demonstrations, for example, more often than the majority population (17% to 7%).

On a scale of -5 to +5, the German Turks evaluated President Erdogan at an average of -2.5, whereas he scored slightly better among the second generation. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin gets a good +1.4 from the Russian Germans, making him even more popular than German chancellor Angela Merkel among this group. Native Ukrainians see Putin negatively (-0.2). Almost all German Turks know the politician Cem Özdemir of the Green Party – and give him the worst rating despite his Turkish background.

Media Enquiries:
Professor Achim Goerres and Dr Sabrina Jasmin Mayer
University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Political Science and Interdisciplinary Centre for Integration and Migration Research

Dr Dennis Spies
University of Cologne, Cologne Center for Comparative Politics

Press and Communications Team:
Beate Kostka
Press Department at the University of Duisburg-Essen
+49 203 379 2430

Frieda Berg
Press and Communications Department at the University of Cologne
+49 221 470 1704

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