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Berlin – They are young, politically interested, and enthusiastic about the right-wing populist AfD: In the European elections, significantly more young voters than in 2019 chose the party, whose top candidates recently made headlines primarily through scandals. The conservative Union also gained among 16- to 24-year-olds – in contrast to the former youth favorites, the Greens, and the FDP. Are young voters “more right-wing” than others?

Eleven percentage points more for the AfD

17 percent of the participating 16- to 24-year-olds in Germany voted for the CDU or CSU this time – in the previous European elections in 2019 it was 12 percent, an increase of five percentage points. 16 percent of the age group voted for the AfD – that’s a whopping eleven points more.

Expert: Young people are “fundamentally frustrated”

“That didn’t surprise me at all,” says German political consultant and social media expert Martin Fuchs. He has been noticing a “fundamental frustration” among young people for some time. This started during the financial crisis and continued through the Corona pandemic: It has always been the younger ones for whom “the least politics was made.” Another reason is the German government’s handling of wars and crises. This has led to “maximum disillusionment” even among supporters of progressive ideas, Fuchs analyzes. The AfD offers simple answers to this. “Populism is connectable – not just for young people.”

“Structural racism” helps the AfD

And yet the question remains: Why do some young people choose not to vote for the Union but ultimately the AfD – a party classified by the constitutional protection agency as a right-wing extremist suspect case and even as securely right-wing extremist in three states? “Young people are not necessarily left-progressive minded but also partially have a perhaps antisemitic, racist worldview,” says Fuchs. Some find the CDU “too centrist” and “not nationalist enough.” The AfD has managed to tap into the potential of structural racism in Germany – this has been proven by studies for 20, 25 years.

Expert: Green’s crash also due to government participation

The hardest defeat among young people was suffered by the Greens: a loss of 23 percentage points since the last election. Only 11 percent of voters between 16 and 24 years chose the party, once considered a magnet for young people alongside the FDP and a guarantee for good climate protection policy.

Political scientist Thorsten Faas points out that the issue of climate has recently been less prominent in the media perception compared to migration, for example. However, he does not see a general “climate fatigue.” The European elections primarily showed one thing: “No group voted as heterogeneously as the group of young people.” This is also evident in the support for Volt and other small parties. In major western German cities and university towns, Volt, with a progressive agenda, has increasingly filled the “gap left by the Greens,” Faas analyzes. Since the last election in 2019, the Green’s participation in the government has partially disappointed young people. Debates such as those around the “Heating Law” have “extremely polarized” and hurt the Greens. (June 10)