Older voters dominate German politics, but now young people are fighting back


BERLIN — One of the hottest campaign topics in Germany’s national elections is a distant dream for the country’s young voters: pensions.

Older voters have long had a decisive influence on elections in Germany. As the aging country ages – those over 60 now make up more than a third of the electorate, according to the government – they are becoming the main target of political party messages, something a new group is trying politically savvy influencers. switch.

“No millennial knows Helmut Schmidt. They only know [outgoing Chancellor]

Angela Merkel, ”said Dr Wolfgang Gründinger, 37-year-old political book author. Mr. Schmidt was Chancellor of the country from 1974 to 1982 and his image appears in a campaign advertisement. “Even the Greens are trying to woo the old voters because the young voters, they elect them anyway,” said Mr Gründinger.

Leading parliamentary candidate Annika Klose and Saskia Esken, both from the German Social Democratic Party, campaigned in Berlin in June.


markus schreiber / press pool

Older voters, those over or near retirement age, not only make up a large portion of the electorate, they are also more likely to vote in a country that regularly has turnout rates of around 70% in national elections. By comparison, the Pew Research Center estimates that the turnout in the United States was 56% in 2016 and reached the 60s in 2020. Some young German voters say that means their interests are not sufficiently taken into account. in the countryside.

“Nobody talks about teens and young professionals [age] 15 to 30 years old, ”said Paulina Kintzinger, 24, who works on the election campaign of Annika Klose, 29, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party and candidate for the federal parliament in the central district of Berlin. “[It’s] like these 15 years of potential voters does not exist in the German countryside.

As US politicians stumble to win over young voters, swinging everything from policy proposals on student debt to massive vote exit gigs and celebrity cameos in campaign ads, establishment politicians in Germany promise stability, not change, and often appeal to nostalgia.

This means that efforts to mobilize young voters and bring parties’ attention to the issues that concern them have mainly come from non-politicians this year.

Climate activist Luisa Neubauer, left, attended a protest with Greta Thunberg last month in Stockholm.


Christine Olsson / Tt / Zuma Press

The Germans even coined a word for young (and younger) social media celebrities who have espoused political causes: “Sinnfluencer,” a coat rack of the words “Sinn,” German for meaning or purpose, and influencer.

These include climate activist Luisa Neubauer, 25. In an Instagram post, she showed her estimate of the per capita carbon dioxide emissions represented by each party’s platform. Sustainability influencer Louisa Dellert, 31, used her Instagram account to discuss the positions of different parties on speeding limits on German highways. Each woman reaches hundreds of thousands outside of mainstream media.

“Every youngster who says politicians don’t care a lot about them — to me that makes a lot of sense and it’s no surprise,” Ms. Neubauer said.

“There are parties in this government that are panicking just that 16-year-olds could vote,” she said, pointing to the recent debate in Germany on lowering the voting age. “And that says a lot about who politicians think they work for and who they don’t work for. ”

Inclusion and accessibility advocate Raul Krauthausen, 41, said he was considering explicitly endorsing a candidate on his Instagram account. One of his recent efforts has been to lobby the creators of the “Wahl-O-Mat” app and website, which recommend which party to vote for after a user takes a quiz on the questions. elections, to provide a more user-friendly interface for people with disabilities. He shares messages from people frustrated with the accessibility of the app on his social media accounts.

“There are activists who are really angry now, and I have tried to make them more visible to my supporters,” Krauthausen said.

Inclusion and accessibility advocate Raul Krauthausen, in a hat, said he was considering explicitly endorsing a candidate on his Instagram account.


Jörg Carstensen / dpa / Getty Images

Rezo, a blue-haired German YouTuber known for his music videos, made his foray into the political circuit when he posted a scathing criticism of the center-right Christian Democratic Union ahead of the 2019 European elections.

The CDU pushed back the artist, who does not give his real name, with a document verifying the facts of his claims, then secured a historic record of 28.9% of the vote in that election as the Greens hit a historically low level. high 20.5% thanks to a campaign focused on climate change prevention.

Sandwiched between videos about electric cars and German football’s Bundesliga, Rezo uploaded yet another anti-CDU video that begins by hitting the party for its response to this summer’s catastrophic flooding and qualifies its policies. insufficient climate. A follow-up released in early September targets what he describes as a warm relationship between politicians and the coal companies.

While the share of young voters in the electorate is low, participation among young people is high by American standards. The turnout hovers around 68% for voters under 30 and climbs to 70 for voters under 40.

YouTuber Rezo, who attended the 2019 YouTube Golden Camera Digital Award ceremony, has targeted the center-right Christian Democratic Union in some of his videos.


Jörg Carstensen / dpa / Zuma Press

Despite this, “most parties and in particular the major parties focus more on the issues that interest them. [to the over 60]”said Dr Andreas Jungherr, 39, chair of political science at the University of Bamberg.

Olaf Scholz, a social democrat and leading chancellor candidate, said his government would focus on tackling child poverty, making housing more affordable and strengthening the country’s pay-as-you-go pension system. The conservative CDU and the Liberal Democratic Party have put tax cuts at the top of their agenda.

The FDP has said it is prioritizing popular issues among young voters, including education and the need for digitization in schools amid Covid-19. A party spokesperson also highlighted the gains made among voters under 30 in the last federal election four years ago.


How should German politicians better engage with young voters? Join the conversation below.

A spokesperson for the SPD presented its list of young candidates, including 34 candidates under 30 and around 80 candidates under 35. The party also calls for investments in schools, including digitization and access to higher education, and to abolish temporary work. contracts often offered to young people.

The Greens declined to comment. The CDU has not commented on this.

Some pollsters believe that not focusing on young voters is politically risky. The German political system has fragmented over time: there are now six parties in parliament compared to three less than 40 years ago and the most popular is the polls at just 25%. This means that smaller groups of voters could now more easily influence the form of the next government, especially this year, when polls suggest the next ruling coalition will have to include three parties for the first time.

“My generation feels like we are so ready for change,” said Ms Kintzinger, referring to Merkel’s 16 years of running the country which earned her the maternal nickname “Mutti”, which means “mum” .

“At some point you don’t need it anymore because you’ve grown up,” she said.

Olaf Scholz, a social democrat and leading chancellor candidate, campaigned in Berlin last month.


Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz / Bloomberg News

Write to Erin Delmore at [email protected]

Corrections and amplifications
Those over 60 now represent more than a third of the German electorate. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the age group represents two-thirds of the electorate. (Corrected September 12)

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


About Author

Leave A Reply