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For the last twenty-five years or so, party identification has been said to be in decline in Germany.
And yet, those two parties which are most closely associated with traditional concepts of partisanship, i.e.
Previous analyses of these data for the 1977-2002 period have shown that in line with theories of secular dealignment, party identification in Western Germany declines fairly slowly and steadily at a rate of less than one percentage point per year (Arzheimer, 2006).
Since then, Forschungsgruppe has released ten years’ worth of new data, which cover the upheaval caused by the ‘Agenda 2010’ following the 2002 election and the onset of the second Grand Coalition (2005) as well as the merger between the Eastern PDS and the Western WASG (2007) and the short but meteoric rise of the FDP (2009).
Even after applying a moving average smoother using a five-month (2 1 2) window, the series is rather jittery (see Figure 1), with some of the noise probably being the result of campaign effects (the diamond-shaped symbols mark the dates of federal elections).
However, it also seems clear that the downward trend of the 1980s and 1990s has slowed down considerably in the new millenium, with the average yearly attrition rate falling well below 0.5 percentage points.
The question whether Michigan-style identifications do exist in West Europe, where politics was shaped along the lines of ideologies and cleavages, was hotly debated in the 1970s (see Dalton, Flanagan, and Beck, 1984 for a useful summary).
Forschungsgruppe Wahlen have been tracking German political attitudes with their monthly Politbarometer surveys since the golden age of party identification in the late 1970s.Age, or rather the time at which person was born will affect partisanship in two ways.On the one hand, partisanship is partly a habit, which is reinforced over the course of one’s life (Converse, 1969).While the SOEP team claims that they can compensate for attrition by recruiting new households, the structure of the data set and the attached weights have become unwieldy to say the least.Second, the research agenda of the SOEP is primarily driven by economists.