S.echs percentage points. That was the difference between the poll that appeared on the Friday before the election five years ago and the result that the AfD achieved in Saxony-Anhalt. Overall, it came to 24 percent. In the meantime, pollsters are emphasizing what was already the case before: polls reflect the political mood at the moment in which they are surveyed; they do not predict election Sunday. But other elections in East Germany also showed that political moods are more difficult to map than in the West.
Stefan Merz is Director of Elections at Infratest Dimap. He says: “Voters in the East are fundamentally more flexible.” There is a significantly lower party bond, which can lead to quicker changes and stronger shifts. But especially the 6 p.m. forecast, which is shown on the Sunday evening for the state elections in Saxony-Anhalt on ARD and ZDF, is largely based on empirical values, on certain constants. “That is why the forecasts in the east are often a little less precise,” says Merz. A risk that also exists for Sunday.
In order for polls to reflect the political mood, it is crucial that the voting intention is expressed truthfully. For a long time it was assumed that voters of right-wing extremist parties would give different information in surveys than they would when they actually cast their votes because of their social desirability. Hermann Binkert, head of the opinion research institute Insa, says: “In the East, the reluctance to say you vote for the AfD has decreased.” That makes work easier. Despite a similar survey period, surveys for Saxony-Anhalt showed different trends last week: While Insa saw the AfD slightly ahead of the CDU, the CDU was four and five percentage points ahead of the AfD for Infratest and the research group.
Greens are overrepresented in telephone surveys
Insa boss Binkert observes that there is a difference between telephone surveys and online panels, both together form the political trend. In the latter, the willingness to vote for the AfD is higher, reports Binkert. The election researcher Thorsten Faas from the Free University of Berlin says that in the online panels one sees “more often people with polarized opinions”. Users log in and receive random surveys. On the one hand, the approval for the AfD could be better represented online, says election researcher Faas, on the other hand, this could also be easily overrated. “The institutes are faced with the challenge of correctly weighting the results.” The respective institutes insist that their measurement is correct.
But the telephone survey, which has long been the standard in political opinion polls, also has disadvantages. Binkert reports that the Greens are strongly overrepresented. “One problem with telephone surveys is that those interested in politics tend to take part,” says Stefan Merz from Infratest Dimap. When asked whether they wanted to take part in a survey on political and social issues, those who were less politically interested were more likely to respond negatively. Since March, Infratest has also been using surveys on the Internet for political trends. This also enables a kind of comparison, says Merz. An online panel is used, which is also used for market research purposes: “The threshold is lower for answering political questions,” says Merz.