General elections in Germany - how trade union members voted

In September 1998, more than two-thirds of trade union members voted for a political change in Germany's general election, while only a quarter supported the governing coalition.

In the September 1998 general election, the former opposition parties - the Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) and the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) - gained a majority of 21 seats in the German Parliament (Bundestag). The Conservative/Liberal coalition - which was composed of the Christian Democrats (Christlich Demokratische Union, CDU), its Bavarian associate party Christlich Soziale Union, (CSU) and the Liberals (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) - lost its majority after 16 years in power.

During the election campaign, the Federation of German Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) called very clearly for a "change of politics" and organised its own major election campaign on "employment and social justice" (DE9803254F). Based on a survey of 25,000 voters on election day, the polling institute Forschungsgruppe Wahlen discovered that more than two-thirds of the trade union members voted for a political change in the general election, while only a quarter supported the incumbent coalition government (see table below). In particular, the 56% support for the SPD among union members was significantly higher than the 40.9% support among all voters. On the other hand, the number of CDU supporters showed the opposite picture: while 35.2% of all voters supported the CDU, the figure was only 22% among union members.

After a study in August 1998 has found that about 11% of all union members could imagine voting for a political party of the extreme Right, in comparison with 7% of all persons entitled to vote (DE9809276N), there was some concern about the possible election results for extreme-right parties. However, the support for these parties was rather low, at 3.3% of all voters and 3.9% among union members.

September 1998 German general elections, % of vote by party - all voters and union members
Political party Official result (all voters) Trade union members only
SPD 40.9% 56.0%
CDU/CSU 35.2% 22.0%
The Greens 6.7% 6.3%
FDP 6.2% 2.9%
PDS (Democratic Socialists) 5.1% 6.4%
Extreme Right (DVU, NPD Republikaner) 3.3% 3.9%
Others 2.6% 2.5%

Source: Einblick extra No. 5 (Information Bulletin of the DGB) , 30 September 1998.

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