Austrian National Election
The welfare state, the economy and integration - these themes are classics of Austrian dialectics. They were in 2008, they were in 2013, they will be in all probability in the upcoming elections to the National Council. "These topics, especially social justice and the economy, were important before," notes the political scientist Sylvia Kritzinger from the University of Vienna. - In the 1970s and before. And yet something has changed.
From trunk to switch
"Earlier, ideological patterns were chosen more clearly, according to the so-called 'class cleavages'." Whoever came out of the workforce, for the most part, no question whatsoever he would choose, just as there was no question for farmers and entrepreneurs. It was much more predictable, "says Kritzinger. Since the 1970s however, the strict affiliation has been broken. "This has to do with the emergence of the middle class, which is no longer primarily dependent on a party and its subjects, and which thus become a change from one root to the next, thus gaining importance for their votes."
Relationship triangle: parties, media, voters
Elections are referred to as the High Authority of Democracy. They are the intensification of the public debate, they shape the political agenda, they influence the composition in parliaments and governments. In a way, they are like a fever curve of political debate. Here comes clumped on the table, what is important, what moves people. They are also a highly complex issue, in which parties, including their candidates on the supply side, voters on the demand side as well as the media as intermediaries, interact. The fact that elections are analyzed by social science has a tradition in established democracies.
Election research shows changes
To analyze the elections in the described relationship triangle, this integrating approach is, however, a scientific new territory, which the Austrian National Election Study (AUTNES) has entered with the support of the Science Fund FWF. "Our research shows that the importance of the issue is increasingly influencing the election of the party," explains Kritzinger, who is the head of the project "Electoral Behavior" in the FWF project.
For the electorate, this is not necessarily a simple process. "There can be people, for example, the issue of job security is important, which in turn links this field with migration, with increased pressure from immigration on the labor market," writes Kritzinger. In this case, it depends on which topic is more important from a person's point of view. "Cross-pressured vote" is the name of this phenomenon, in which voters have to choose a topic.
Fight for the leadership
"For this reason, parties strive to become an 'issue owner', that is, to have the highest level of competence in a particular area, so that no other party can become dangerous, Then they are referred to as 'issue entrepreneurs', which, in turn, is accompanied by the highest credibility, "says Kritzinger. The political opponents then remain much more than reacting. - A strategic disadvantage.
"It is the same as with companies, who is the market with a product first, which dominates," draws Kritzinger a comparison with the economy. And as with companies, market gaps can arise. "Through the coalition with the SPD, the CDU has opened its right flank as it has occupied strategically left positions," the scientist casts a glance at neighboring countries. "This gave the AfD the opportunity to fill certain positions and topics."
In Austria, she observes, it is currently possible to see how topics are reactivated. In this case by the SPÖ, which by the new party point offensive traditional positions again occupied, to emphasize their "ownership" of certain topics. "Politics is about the art of topic-setting", she summarizes.
Monitoring of the company
On the basis of the data that AUTNES has collected since 2008 on national and EU elections, these developments can be observed and understood in depth. "It is a permanent monitoring of the Republic and its society, we can show which issues are important, whether they came from within or outside, for example through the EU." It can also be regional themes, which come into play surprisingly in a national council election. "In 2013 it was the economy, the welfare state and migration, but in Vienna the Ma