Pressemitteilung der Universität Duisburg-Essen

First-time Survey of Voting Behavior among Germans of Russian and Turkish Origin

How Do Immigrants Vote?

[01.06.2016] Political scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Cologne are conducting a first-time study of how people with a migrant background in Germany tend to vote. Who votes at all and which parties do they prefer? In previous surveys of voting behavior, scientists in Germany have mostly focused on characteristics such as age, profession, income and gender. The surveys rarely took into account that many Germans or their ancestors come from other countries.

On the occasion of the federal parliamentary elections in the fall of 2017, Prof. Achim Goerres (University of Duisburg-Essen) and Dr. Dennis C. Spies (University of Cologne) will conduct a survey among Germans of Russian and Turkish origin as well as their children. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is financing the study for three years with 730,000 euros.

German passport, international roots: almost nine million people of voting age, and counting, come from other countries or have parents who come from other countries. “For us as researchers, these people are interesting because their political socialization can differ significantly from that of other groups of voters,” say Goerres and Spies. “We want to find out if they ‘march to a different beat,’ or if their background influences in any way if and for whom they cast their ballot.”

In the past, research has yielded few results in this area. The two political scientists would like to change that. In their survey, they focus on the two largest immigrant groups in the country: Germans with a Turkish background – approximately 1.3 million potential voters – and approximately 2.4 million so called ethnic German repatriates from Russia and the former Soviet Union, including their children of legal age. This is a significant group whose voice could play a decisive role in elections.

But what proportion of those eligible to vote actually do so? What do Germans of Russian or Turkish origin think about the country’s top politicians? Do they trust parties, the political system and the legal system? Which topics are important to them? And do they engage in social or political activities? These are just some of the questions that Goerres and Spies will include in their survey in order to find out if there is a voting behavior specific to immigrants.

“It is possible that repatriates who came to Germany in the 1990s lean more towards the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) / Christian Social Union (CSU) because a CDU-led government was in office at the time. Now, one generation later, they might still feel loyal towards those parties who made it possible for them to come to Germany,” says Spies.

“The cultural context may be another important factor,” Goerres adds. “Somebody who grew up in a religious environment would not prefer secular parties like the Free Democratic Party (FDP) or the Green Party.” Or would they? Perhaps Germans of Turkish origin will vote for the Green Party because its co-chairman Cem Özdemir is “one of them.”

The study is also special in technical terms, the scientists say. “Firstly, we have to clearly identify Germans with a migrant background. To do so, we will apply a first name–last name combination. Secondly, we have to get a representative sample.” Goerres and Spies will use newly developed methods to conduct personal interviews on the occasion of the federal parliamentary elections in the fall of 2017. First results will be available in January 2018.

Contact: Prof. Achim Goerres, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of Political Science, +49 203 379 1385,
Dr. Dennis C. Spies, University of Cologne, Cologne Center for Comparative Politics, +49 221 470 8811,