Protecting the Welfare State for the Right Kind of People. A Promise Unique to the Nativist Right in Germany?
Founded in April 2013, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is hailed to be the most successful new party in Germany since the 1950s (Franzmann, 2016), already gaining 4.7% of the vote in the 2014 federal election and projected to enter the Bundestag with up to 12% in September 2017 (Infratest dimap, 2017). Past research has classified the AfD as a nativist (Pappas, 2016), populist, but not radical (Arzheimer, 2015) right-wing party. Whereas the AfD initially presented itself as primarily Euro-skeptic, a recent study has shown that exclusionary, xenophobic appeals became more important in attracting voters to the AfD in the latest state-level elections (Schmitt-Beck, 2017). According to Pappas (2016), the party’s nativism is mainly expressed in its promise to protect the material interests of the national majority against external threats, for example, from immigrants seeking welfare services in Germany. The paper at hand investigates this claim further by asking two interrelated questions:
First, who is deserving of government-provided welfare, according to official party communications (state-level party programs and electoral speeches) issued by the AfD, bearing in mind in particular Oorschot's (2000; 2006) five criteria of deservingness (control, need, identity, attitude, reciprocity)? In particular, the study seeks to elicit whether demands to exclude are extended to, for instance, immigrants broadly, or whether there are more fine-grained categorizations at play that only exclude some kinds of immigrants and perhaps even some groups among the native majority.
Second, is the AfD unique in its views on who should get what and why, that is, does it offer a true alternative to the political messages sent by more traditional social conservative parties in the German electoral space? The AfD is known to refer to its political competitors as Altparteien (old parties), whose goals and values it seeks to oppose with true and fundamental alternatives. Departing from this frequently proclaimed self-image, the paper will compare the author-collected corpus of AfD programs and speeches to one of equivalent communications issued by the Christian Democrats (CDU) for 15 of the Länder and the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria. The CDU and its sister party CSU jointly constitute Germany’s main conservative party, but are internally split in their stance on matters of immigration and immigrants’ social integration in particular, especially since the onset of the refugee crisis. This makes it likely that some state branches of the CDU will be programmatically closer to the AfD than others.
Empirically, the study performs mixed methods content analysis on two corpora of digitalized, state-level party programs and campaign speeches, supplementing computer-assisted quantitative modes of content analysis (e.g. automated recognition of text similarity using R), with in-depth, deductive qualitative coding, aimed at tracing deservingness frames along the lines of van Oorschot’s five criteria. Ultimately, the study seeks to contribute to our understanding of the exact nature of the populist appeal exercised by the AfD as one of Europe’s most successful right-wing parties, while also investigating whether it truly diverges from the electoral strategies pursued by its seemingly more moderate competitors.