The Nonpersonalization of Voting Behavior in Germany

Frank Brettschneider and Oscar W. Gabriel

in Leaders' Personalities and the Outcomes of Democratic Elections

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780199253135
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599675 | DOI:
The Nonpersonalization of Voting Behavior in Germany

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The federal elections of 1998 were the first time in Germany that notions of personalization and presidentialization were discussed during an election; before that German voters chose, at least formally, between competing parties rather than between competing chancellor candidates, and only a minor role was accorded to the personalities and circumstances of candidates. The first part of this chapter analyses the role that voters’ orientations towards the chancellor–candidates has played in the broad context of electoral choice, paying particular attention to the influence of candidate orientations on the voting choices of people lacking any long–term party identification; this part of the analysis is based on data pertaining to all the electoral contests fought in Germany from 1961 to 1998. The second part of the chapter analyses the various components of the chancellor–candidates’ images: does the way in which voters evaluate the candidates simply reflect existing patterns of party identification, or do the voters construct their own candidate orientations by fitting separate pieces into a pattern, each of which refers to specific attributes of the candidates as perceived and evaluated by them; and are the proponents of the personalization thesis right in assuming that the candidates’ images are largely determined by the voters’ perceptions of the candidates’ personalities rather than by their performance? These questions are answered with specific reference to data collected by the 1998 German Election Study. Despite the apparent personal favouring of Schröder over Kohl in 1998, it is concluded that there is no real evidence that chancellor–candidates’ personalities and other personal characteristics play any stronger role in German voting patterns than they have in the past.

Keywords: candidate orientations; candidates' personal characteristics; candidates' personalities; chancellor candidates; electoral choice; Germany; voters' orientations; voting choice

Chapter.  13098 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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