Manuel Neumann
Activating the Right Electorate: Internet Use, Nativism, and Voting for the AfD

S. 85 - 106 in: Kathrin Ackermann, Heiko Giebler, Martin Elff (Hrsg.): Deutschland und Europa im Umbruch - Einstellungen, Verhalten und Forschungsperspektiven im Kontext der Bundestagswahl 2017 und der Europawahl 2019. 2023. Wiesbaden: Springer VS

The internet is regularly blamed to play a major role in the surge of populist radical right parties such as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). While previous studies have already established a generally positive association between internet use and a higher propensity to vote for the AfD, we know little about the conditionalities of this effect. Based on theories about cognitive dissonance, I argue that the high choice environment of the internet offers populist radical right actors a tool to efficiently activate voters with a nativist political predisposition. Using data from the German Longitudinal Election Study in 2016/17, I find that using the internet for political information is associated with a substantively higher propensity to vote for the AfD only among individuals who already had a political predisposition that was consistend with the party’s political agenda. The results highlight the important role of widespread far-right worldviews in the electorate for the rise of a populist radical right party in Germany. The internet mainly worked as an amplifier as it helped the AfD to activate its potential electorate.