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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 11, 2022

Improving the Explanation of Electoral Behavior Through a Combination of Historical and Local Context – The Case of the AfD’s Results at the Federal Election in Germany in 2017

  • Sebastian Jäckle ORCID logo EMAIL logo


The purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which an approach that takes into account the historical and spatial context of an election can contribute to a better understanding of electoral dynamics in general. It applies this approach to the analysis of the results of the populist radical right party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) at the 2017 federal election in Germany. Making use of a newly compiled dataset at the municipality level in Germany, local context will first be included in a direct way, measured by distances from the municipalities to relevant geographical markers that can be associated with a long-term or a short-term historical legacy. These spatial points include former Nazi concentration camps (main camps as well as relevant sub-camps) in order to test for the long-term legacy, first reception facilities for refugees during the so-called “refugee crisis” (2015–16) as markers of one of the most incisive developments of the recent past in Germany. Additionally, the distance to the Eastern border is tested, as this variable has proven to be relevant in the context of earlier studies on the AfD. Second, actively modeling spatial non-stationarity using Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) in an exploratory manner shows that most effects on the strength of the AfD at the municipality level (from modernization loser theory to the contact hypothesis) vary significantly and considerably in terms of strength throughout Germany.

Corresponding author: Dr. Sebastian Jäckle, Institute of Political Science, University of Freiburg, Werthmannstr 12, 79098 Freiburg, Germany, E-mail:


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2021-12-18
Accepted: 2022-03-16
Published Online: 2022-04-11
Published in Print: 2022-06-27

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