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To vote, or not to vote, that is the question: How young voters make up their minds at federal elections in Germany

Manuela S. Kulick
GESIS, Leibniz
Manuela S. Kulick
GESIS, Leibniz
Open Panel

Abstract

The political behavior of the young generation has a big impact to the future of the German democracy. Previous research stated that young voters in Germany – as well as in other countries – show a strong will to vote at elections (Torney-Purta et al. 2001, Renshon 1977). But nonetheless their turnout is among the lowest. Especially the group of the voters aged between 22 and 25 years had an even lower turnout than the first-time-voters at the German Federal Election 2009. Considering that the first election has a strong influence on behavior at the following elections, it is from greatest interest, why young people vote the first time they are eligible but lose their interest afterwards. Beside this it was already proven, that a different social status of the young voters also leads to different participation patterns and to different political preferences. Political identity forges a link between the conditions of living, the participation at elections and the political preferences (Kuhn, Oswald 2001). But political identity is less marked for young voters than for older ones. Also voting is less a responsibility for them as it is for the older population. Looking at factors like political interest, the influence of family of origin, friends and media as well as at political activity the paper seeks to identify the factors which caused the low turnout of younger voters at the German federal election in 2009. Thereby the results always become compared with the attitudes of the other groups of the population. The analysis presented in the paper goes back on data of the German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES) and is based on a cumulation of variables of the Cross Section and the Rolling Cross Section Campaign Survey.