Single title

The Voter’s Heart

Emotional Party Assessment in Representative and Qualitative Surveys

Electoral research is facing great challenges: Dynamics of voting decisions are immense and old certainties are fragile. Voting behaviour has become more individual. This study uses new approaches to investigate the question of voters' emotional relationships to parties. Using a mix of methods from representative surveys and open in-depth interviews, stable emotional patterns can be found among eligible voters.

The key messages of the study are:

  • In a representative survey, the vast majority of voters can imagine voting for several parties. Only a few voters do not have a second choice. In relation to all supporters, between 24 percent (of SPD voters) and 33 percent (of CDU voters) can imagine voting for only one party. At 50 percent, the AfD has the largest proportion of supporters with no second choice.
  • The Greens and the FDP could benefit from the prospective alternate vote of CDU/ CSU supporters. In terms of the prospective second choices of SPD supporters, the Greens and the CDU/CSU are top of the list. Among both AfD and FDP supporters, the largest number of second choices are in favour of the CDU/CSU. In terms of the prospective alternate votes of Left party supporters, the Greens and the Social Democrats are on top; most Green voters lean toward the SPD. The CDU/CSU and the Left party could benefit slightly.
  • The testing of terms – which are not representative – during in-depth interviews produces some unexpected results. Many terms have a clear association with a political party. Other terms do not evoke any associations with parties. An especially large number of respondents do not know what to make of the terms populist and liberal, although the FDP is mentioned most often for liberal. The terms Christian and conservative are strongly associated with the CDU; conservative tends to have a negative image. The CDU and the SPD share the term centre. The SPD is often mentioned when respondents are asked about the term civil. Respondents think of the AfD and the NPD in connection with the term “Nazi”. The Greens are mentioned when respondents are asked about sustainable.
  • The emotional positioning of the parties divides the party system into AfD supporters and supporters of all other parties. All supporters have a positive assessment of their own party. The AfD is associated with the terms fear, indignation, anger, and despair by supporters of all parties except, needless to say, the supporters of the AfD. With some differences in the details, supporters associate their own party with the words hope, security, trust, confidence, and satisfaction. The AfD also evokes these positive emotions in its supporters. AfD supporters associate all other parties with fear, indignation, anger, and despair.

Read the entire study here as a PDF.


Dr. Viola Neu


Deputy Head of Division Analysis and Consulting,
Head of Department Electoral and Social Research +49 30 26996-3506

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