What is vote share

Parties in Germany

Frank Decker

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Prof. Dr. Frank Decker teaches and researches at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. His research interests include parties, western systems of government and right-wing populism in international comparison.

Due to its strength in Bavaria, the CSU contributes around 20 percent to the overall result of the Union in Bundestag and European elections. Their strongholds are in the old Bavarian districts, Swabia and the Catholic areas of Franconia. Typical CSU voters are older than the population average, are closer to the church and more often live in rural areas.

Markus Söder during a devotion in the pilgrimage church Maria Vesperbild. Typical CSU voters are closer to the church than the population average. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Because it only competes in elections in Bavaria and its political and programmatic self-image is closely linked to the Free State, the CSU is, from an electoral point of view, a (Bavarian) regional party. At the same time, it is the only party in Bavaria that can claim the character of a people's party. Its hegemonic position is based on the fact that after the ousting of the Bavarian party and the decline of the GB / BHE it also captured parts of the liberal and social democratic electorate. While the Bavarian FDP only has a low potential for regular voters and its performance therefore depends heavily on the national trend, the SPD in Bavaria has now fallen back to the level of a 10 percent party; The Greens became the biggest challenger in the 2018 state elections for the first time, but with their record result of 17.5 percent they still lagged behind the CSU by almost 20 percentage points. Due to its strength in Bavaria, the CSU makes a significant contribution to the overall result of the Union in the Bundestag and European elections. Their share in the overall votes of the CDU and CSU was around 20 percent even after German reunification. It was highest in 1980 and 2002, when the CSU nominated the candidate for chancellor (23.1 and 23.4 percent respectively), and lowest in the first all-German election in 1990 (16.2 percent). While the CSU achieved consistently better results in the federal government in the 1950s and 1960s than in the state, this trend has been reversed since the 1970s. The gap was greatest in 1998, when it performed 5.3 percentage points worse in the federal elections than two weeks earlier in the state elections (Hirscher 2012).

The recent local elections in spring 2020 showed that the CSU's electoral successes have now become significantly more unstable, with values ​​around 35 percent behind the poor results of the 2018 state elections and 2017 federal elections. In addition to their relative weakness in the cities, where the Greens are now increasingly outstripping them, the mobilization problems in rural areas against the competition of free voters are particularly evident. In the 2019 European elections, however, the Christian Socials were able to hold their own with 40.7 percent thanks to the candidacy of their list leader Manfred Weber for the office of EU Commission President.

In the 2017 federal election, the CSU lost a considerable amount of votes to the AfD, which in Bavaria recorded its best result in the western federal states with 12.4 percent and the strongest increase in votes compared to the previous election. The migration of votes was particularly large in the constituencies near the border in Lower Bavaria, which were most directly affected by the refugee movements in 2015 and 2016. In terms of gender, the CSU losses were almost evenly distributed compared to 2017; in terms of age structure, they were lowest in the group of voters over 70.

The geographic strongholds of the CSU are in the old Bavarian districts, Swabia and the Catholic areas of Franconia; in the Protestant areas of Franconia it remains rather weak. The state elections in 2008 showed that this pattern can be broken. With the Protestant Franconian Günther Beckstein as Prime Minister, the CSU performed above average here outside of Old Bavaria, while the voters in the core district of Upper Bavaria ran away in droves. In 2018, too, the losses in francs - the home of Prime Minister Söder - were lower than in the old Bavarian parts of the country. This makes it clear that the regional dividing lines in Bavaria still exert a considerable influence (Mintzel 1975: 58 ff.).

With regard to their social characteristics, the typical CSU voters are older than the population average, are closer to the church and more often live in rural areas (Sebaldt 2018: 269). Female and male voters are roughly in balance; however, the difference between the age groups is even more pronounced for women than for men. The ratio is also relatively balanced among the occupational groups. This has recently even been the case for the farmers, whose support in the state elections in 2018 fell to 66 percent after having voted 90 percent for the CSU in 2003.


Literature on the CSU

Letter, Günter (2009), A parliamentary unique: the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, in: Hans-Peter Schwarz (ed.), The parliamentary group as a power factor, Bonn, pp. 255-274.

Deininger, Roman (2020), The CSU. Portrait of a special party, Munich.

Handwerker, Christoph (2019), The split union between power and values. The refugee crisis as a crucial test for the CDU and CSU ?, in: Oliver Hidalgo / Gert Pickel (eds.), Flucht und Migration in Europa, Wiesbaden, pp. 127-159.

Hirscher, Gerhard (2012), The election results of the CSU. Analyzes and interpretations, Munich.

Hopp, Gerhard (2012), The CSU People's Party in Bavaria. Framework conditions, structural features and current future prospects of a successful model on the test bench, in: Ralf Thomas Baus (ed.), Party system in change, Sankt Augustin / Berlin, pp. 73-98.

Jäger, Wolfgang (2009), Helmut Kohl prevails, 1976-1982, in: Hans-Peter Schwarz (ed.), The Fraction as a Power Factor, Bonn, pp. 141-159.

Kießling, Andreas (2004), The CSU. Preservation of power and renewal of power, Wiesbaden.

Mintzel, Alf (1975), The CSU. Anatomy of a Conservative Party 1945-1972, Opladen.

Oberreuter, Heinrich (2008), Stoiber's Fall. An example of the self-endangerment of political power, in: Journal for Parliamentary Questions 39 (1), pp. 112-118.

Schäfer, Susanne (2010), Constance and Change: The CSU Programs in Documentary Comparison, in: Gerhard Hopp / Martin Sebaldt / Benjamin Zeitler (eds.), Die CSU, Wiesbaden, pp. 173-193.

Sebaldt, Martin (2018), Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern e.V. (CSU), in: Frank Decker / Viola Neu (ed.), Handbook of German political parties, 3rd edition, Wiesbaden, pp. 264-276.

Strauss, Franz Josef (1989), The Memories, Berlin.

Weigl, Michael (2013), Die Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern e.V. (CSU), in: Oskar Niedermayer (ed.), Handbook on political parties, Wiesbaden, pp. 469-495.