Continuity and Change in German Elections, 1895-2009

The project entails electoral data collection starting with the late German Empire, spanning the Weimar period and the dissolution of Germany into two states, and ending in the post-reunification era. We seek to trace and explain continuities and changes in German political behavior across a timeframe spanning more than a century.

Working papers currently associated with the project are: 

A Missing Historical Variable?  The Long Run Effects of Landholding Inequality on Elections in Germany, 1895-2009

Konstantin Kashin (Harvard University) and Daniel Ziblatt (Harvard University)

Why, has the syndrome of political disengagement, as represented most vividly by low rates of voter participation, been the outgrowth of the postcommunist transitions in Central Europe? In this paper we explore detailed Kreis-level (county) historical data between 1895 and 2009 from the territories governed by the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) to identify the importance of long-run causal dynamics in understanding contemporary voting patterns.  We demonstrate that despite being governed by the same communist regime between 1949 and 1990 not only are there stark variations today at the local level in voter turnout rates in the territories of the former GDR, but these contemporary differences are themselves traceable to nineteenth century patterns in rural social structure. In particular, we analyze detailed Kreis-level census data to demonstrate that landholding inequality in the 19th century is negatively related to voter-turnout rates today.  Also, bolstering these findings, we investigate further historical evidence from the Weimar period and the period between 1945 and 1989 to test the viability of two alternative causal mechanisms that might explain these results.