Critical, Satisfied, Threatened German Voters

The Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung ("Friedrich Ebert Foundation") is a German think-tank closely identified with the mainstream-left German Social Democratic Party. They recently released a report called Society in the Process of Reform (G-pdf) in which they indexed the political opinions and worldviews of a large, representative sample of German citizens.

They came up with the following typology, which I’ve translated for you.

The Performance-Oriented Individualists (11% share of the voting public) are opponents of state intervention in the economy and desire a society which primarily rewards individual accomplishment. Two-thirds of these are men. Politically, they prefer the conservative camp and are more likely than average voters to vote for the [free-market oriented] Free Democrat Party.

The Established High-Performers (15%) represent primarily the upper-middle class free-market conservative milieu from smaller towns.  They are strongly oriented towards performance and accomplishment, and have a stronger-than-average connection to the [mainstream conservative] Christian Democratic Union party.

The Critical Educated Elite (9%) represent the youngest, best-qualified, and most left-wing group. This part of society has the largest component of people who are active in society and in party politics. Over four-fifths of them vote for one of the three left-wing parties that are currently represented in the German Parliament.

The Engaged Bourgeoisie (10%) is also a red-green political grouping, but more bourgeois-oriented.  Women, as well as highly-qualified public employees, as well as people who work in social or cultural professions, are especially likely to be represented here. Out of all the social groupings studied here, the engaged bourgeoisie views the [mainstream left] Social Democratic Party most positively.

The Satisfied Social Climbers (13%) represent a performance-oriented sector of modern middle-class workers.  They come primarily from simple social backgrounds, but have achieved a position in the middle-class of society by virtue of their ability to advance. Politically, they tend to vote for the Christian Democratic Union, but may also vote Social Democratic.

The Threatened Middle-Class Worker (16%) represent the sector of the workforce that tends to come from smaller cities and whose work is primarily industrial. In view of their party preference, a strong tendency to vote Social Democratic can be observed, but they are also open to voting for the Christian Democrats and increasingly (out of disappointment in the Social Democrats) for the Left Party.

The Self-Sufficient Traditionalists (11%) are, out of all the groups, the most oriented to the two major mainstream political parties. They are strongly oriented toward convention and wish the State to regulate society. They have little trust for politics, in part because they no longer understand many political processes.

The Authority-Oriented Minimally-Qualified (7%) are the most authoritarian and ethnocentric group. They have mostly emerged from a simple social background, and have managed to “climb up”  to a small-scale lower-middle-class career. Their above-average identification with the Social Democratic Party is closely allied to a fundamental rejection of the Green Party and the Green Party’s political ideas.

The Socially-Detached Precariate (8%) is marked by social exclusion and the experience of declining social standing. This group has a large component of working-age people, has the highest unemployment rate, and is strongly dominated by males and East Germans. They are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the performance of the Grand Coalition. Non-voters are disproportionately represented here, as are those who vote for the Left Party and right-wing extremist parties.

Two explanatory notes: the use of the term bürgerlich (bourgeois) here isn’t mean to have the negative connotation it would have in English. It’s a sociological terms of long-standing that roughly overlaps with what English-speakers would call middle class.

The last grouping is called in German Abgehängte Prekariat, which is just as weird-sounding in German as my translation, "socially-detached precariate." It is basically a circumlocution the study’s authors used so they wouldn’t have to use the word "underclass." Social Democratic politician Kurt Beck, however, went ahead and began speaking of a German underclass, and all hell (and an interesting debate) then broke loose.

I’ll have more to say about this in a while, but for now I’ll just tell you where I stand. I consider myself a critically-engaged, high-performing, self-sufficient, socially-detached member of the bourgeoisie. What are you?

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