Lea Gärtner, Harald Schoen, Alexander Wuttke
Ties That No Longer Bind? Effects and Responsiveness of Party Attachments in a Period of Crises

Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Sigrid Roßteutscher, Harald Schoen, Bernhard Weßels, Christof Wolf (Eds.): The Changing German Voter. In Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Party attachments shape perceptions of the political context, but neither are they fixed nor do they completely blind supporters to the political reality. When severe societal challenges such as the European debt or refugee crises force parties to change their policies or make formerly inconsequential positions salient and thus relevant, party identifiers may find their policy preferences at odds with their party identification. This may lead party supporters to adopt their party’s position. However, if the inconsistent position is sufficiently important, party identifiers may also loosen the ties to their party. We use individual-level data from the GLES campaign panels 2009–2017 to show how these crises have prompted identifiers to follow the party line in some cases, but have even more often weakened or even eroded party attachments among supporters who hold strong positions. In effect, the European debt crisis and particularly the European refugee crisis appear to have contributed to an issue-based reshuffling of the partisan balance in German politics.