Before every election, public affairs officers ask themselves how it will change their own political network. Can you count on the members of parliament with whom you have built up a working relationship over the past few years moving back into the Bundestag? Six months before the election, this is still a look into the crystal ball. After all, neither the programs nor the candidates of each party are currently known. But it is possible to prepare for direct candidates in particular.
Unlike in the US, there are no public polls at the constituency level in Germany, even though they are possible and increasingly affordable. Nevertheless, in order to obtain a “shortlist” of those direct candidates to whose chances one should pay particular attention, we resort to a mathematical procedure. Based on the results from 2017, we calculate the so-called Closeness Index. This puts the difference between the two strongest candidates in relation to their vote shares. In this way, we identify constituencies that can be classified as competitive: Depending on the political mood, there is a realistic possibility that the direct mandate will go to another party.
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In 2017, only just under 80 of the 299 constituencies in Germany were truly competitive. That corresponds to a good 27 percent. Can we really extrapolate to 2021 on the basis of the 2017 values? Only to a limited extent. As a rule, first-past-the-post voting behavior fluctuates much less than second-past-the-post voting behavior, at least in terms of its structure. Exceptions are metropolitan areas with large inflows or outflows, as here the electoral population can actually change significantly between two elections. The index is therefore not a concrete forecast, but at this stage a good indicator of which direct candidates to “worry” about. It is reasonable to assume that the 2017 data will continue to be meaningful in 2021.
Are candidates in “light” constituencies safe? Not 100 percent. Here, there is always the risk that their party will choose a different candidate in the nomination process.
We have listed the ten most competitive constituencies. Anyone who relies on stakeholders from these constituencies should plan ahead strategically. A precise analysis of the opportunities and the relevant aspects in advance plays an essential role.
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