Very few opinion polls can be said to be truly ‘historic’ but today’s survey by INSA for the Bild newspaper does fit that description. For the first time during the Federal Republic the Social Democrats (SPD) fall into third place in an opinion poll – and for the first time since its founding in 2013 the populist Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) stands second in national voting intentions.
These are scores that seem scarcely believable, coming almost exactly a year after the Social Democrats had been polling in the low thirties when Martin Schulz took over the party’s leader and Chancellor candidate. The Federal Election result last September put the SPD eight percentage points in front of the AfD, and the chart below shows how far opinion has moved since then.
The full implications of Schulz’s about-turn on joining a Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the messy final negotiations and the subsequent leadership bust-up within the SPD are now coming home to roost. SPD support has been gradually sinking from week to week and is now below 20 per cent with all of Germany’s regular pollsters (with the exception of Allensbach who have yet to publish in February).
AfD support nationally has only ever once touched 16 per cent before, in a September 2016 Infratest dimap poll that turned out to be an outlier at the time. Today’s survey may also prove to be a one-off: however, even if brief, the symbolic crossover will power the right-wing populists’ claims to be Germany’s ‘real’ opposition and severely undermine the SPD’s long-standing status as one of the country’s two Volksparteien.
Angela Merkel’s CDU recovers to 32 per cent in today’s poll, up 2.5 per cent on last week’s INSA survey which was the first polling reaction to the Grand Coalition deal. Notwithstanding that, the two reluctant partners command just 47.5 per cent of voter support together, once again less than what would be needed to gain a parliamentary majority if an election to be called soon.
That prospect of a snap election still hangs in the balance – and in the hands of 460,000 SPD members who will receive postal ballot papers this week asking them to vote on approving the draft Grand Coalition agreement.
INSA 19 February
Voting intentions, Bundestag, per cent
(change on 12 February in brackets):
Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) 32.0 (+2.5)
Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) 16.0 (+1.0)
Social Democrats (SPD) 15.5 (-1.0)
Greens (Die Gruenen) 13.0 (nc)
Left (Die Linke) 11.0 (-0.5)
Free Democrats (FDP) 9.0 (-1.5)
Others 3.5 (-0.5)
Fieldwork: 16.02-19.02.2018. Released: 19.02.2018. Participants: 2040. Method: Online poll. Media partner: Bild. Visit the Insa website here.
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