Everything in life is a choice

Live free and equal

"I want to be able to choose freely without fear how I shape my life."from an online answer dated June 22, 2015

Elections - the basis of democracy

Free, secret, equal and direct elections do the Core of our democracy out. The voter turnout indicates the proportion of eligible voters who actually cast their vote. She is a good one indicator for the political interests of the people and often also a reflection of currently particularly controversial political and social decisions.

But not all make use of their right to vote. After peaking in the 1970s, voter turnout in federal elections has fallen significantly. In the 2009 Bundestag election it reached its lowest point to date. In the last federal election in 2017, significantly more people who were eligible to vote again voted. The turnout of 76.2 percent was almost five percentage points higher than in the 2013 federal election.

What is striking is how different population groups use their right to vote. This is how citizens go in unemployment, With low income and choose less socio-economic status than higher income and status groups.

Development of voter turnout in federal elections as a percentage of all eligible voters

Participation in federal elections

The last Bundestag election took place on September 24, 2017 instead of. Around 61.69 million citizens were called to vote. Around 46.98 million eligible voters made use of their right to vote - that corresponds to one Voter turnout of 76.2 percent.

The points arrange the turnout at the Bundestag election 2017 for just over 400 rural districts and cities in Germany - from left to right, from the lowest to the highest voter turnout. Each interactive point marks a district or an independent city on the map.

The transparent points show the Turnout for the 2013 Bundestag election compared to. How has voter turnout in the 2017 Bundestag election changed compared to the last election in 2013? What has happened in the more than 400 rural districts and cities in Germany?

The green lines connect the voter turnout in 2013 and 2017 for each of the 400 counties and cities. If the lines move upwards, then voter turnout in 2017 has decreased compared to the last federal election in 2013. If the connecting lines move down, then more people in this district voted in 2017.

It appears: In 2017, more people voted in all rural districts and urban districts. This continues the trend of increasing voter turnout, which was already observed in the last state elections.

In East Germany the turnout fell with 73.2 percent overall lower than in western Germany. However, compared to the last federal election in 2013, voter turnout increased by 5.7 percentage points, more than in the western German states.

In West Germany was the turnout 76.8 percent. Compared to the last federal election in 2013, voter turnout has risen by 4.4 percentage points.

Significant regional differences in western German districts: In the West German federal states, overall more eligible voters cast their votes, but there are also greater regional differences here. With 84.1 percent in the 2017 federal election, voter turnout in Starnberg was the highest in Germany. Voter turnout was lowest in Bremerhaven. Only 63.1 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls here. In the eastern German federal states, voter turnout was highest in Dresden at 78.4 percent, and lowest in the Salzlandkreis at 63.3 percent.

Increase in voter turnout across Germany: In each of the over 400 rural districts and cities, more people voted in 2017 than in the last federal election. Bremerhaven recorded the smallest increase with 0.1 percentage points, the largest in the Freyung-Grafenau district in Bavaria. There the voter turnout rose by 12.1 percentage points.

Biggest increases in voter turnout in Bavaria: Compared to the 2013 federal election, the 40 districts and urban districts with the largest increase in voter turnout in 2017 were all in Bavaria. However, Bavaria also recorded a historic low in 2013 with an extremely low turnout.

Highest voter turnout in 2017 exclusively in western German districts and cities: In the 40 rural districts and urban districts with the highest voter turnout, more than 80 percent of those eligible to vote cast a valid vote. Of these 40 districts, more than half were in Bavaria and five each in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Low voter turnout is particularly common in East Germany: In the 40 districts and urban districts with the lowest voter turnout, less than 70 percent of those eligible to vote went to the 2017 federal election. Of these, 24 districts were in the eastern German states, mainly in Saxony-Anhalt, but also in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. A voter turnout of less than 70 percent occurs only sporadically in the western German federal states. There are smaller regional focuses in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria.

Source: General federal and state election statistics, ongoing spatial observation of the BBSR
Geometric basis: © GeoBasis-DE / BKG 2016.

Higher voter turnout in many state elections

"Democracy is a gift, but there is a lack of awareness of how great this gift is."from the citizens' dialogue of the German Nature Conservation Ring in Berlin on September 1, 2015

Many state elections also show a development comparable to that at the federal level. At many state elections showed one in half the decade declining voter turnout, but recently this has even risen significantly in all state elections.

A comparison of the turnout in the last and penultimate state elections shows: In two federal states, the Turnout decreased namely in Hamburg and Hesse.

In the other federal states, the state elections in 2016 marked a trend reversal. These elections were influenced by the intense debates about refugee policy and thus motivated more eligible voters to vote. This trend continued in the following years: significantly more people voted. In all federal states, voter turnout increased in the last state election compared to the penultimate state election. In Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony even by more than ten percentage points. However, the turnout in these federal states was less than 50 percent in the penultimate state election. That means: at that time only every second eligible voter went to the polls. However, the state elections in 2016 and 2017 indicate a trend reversal. In all federal states, voter turnout increased in the last state election compared to the penultimate state election.

Participation in the last and penultimate state elections as a percentage of all eligible voters

What is the federal government doing?

The Federal Agency for Civic Education informs citizens and offers decision support before elections, for example with the digital "Wahl-O-Mat". The party-affiliated foundations funded by the federal government campaign for active political participation.

Knowing and taking advantage of opportunities to participate

“I would like more opportunities for citizens to participate. This event is a good start. "

This statement from a participant in the Citizens' Dialogue of the Nature Park Association in Bad-Düben on June 6, 2015 shows: More opportunities for political participation in order to get more involved - that was important to many citizens in the dialogue. Specifically, they often meant strengthening direct democracy, for example through referendums at the federal level.

It is crucial for democracy that citizens are well informed about politics and can help shape it. This applies equally to the federal, state and local governments.

The aim of recording opportunities for political participation is served by an indicator that is collected as part of a European comparative study, the European Social Survey.1 It measures how people strongly assess their influence on politics.

How do people rate their ability to influence politics?

2016 saw 47 out of 100 citizens have no or only very few opportunitiesto make their beliefs and interests heard. Just 15 out of 100 citizens were convinced strong political influence to be able to exercise.

Here, too, it can be seen that groups with a higher socio-economic status rate their participation opportunities better. Women and men with higher educational qualifications estimate their chances of participation almost three times as high as people with less education. West Germans rate their influence more highly than East Germans.

Perceived opportunities for citizens to influence politics in 2016

in the European comparison Germany is in sixth place in the top third. In Norway and Switzerland, the opportunities to participate are rated significantly higher. Opportunities for participation are rated significantly lower in Lithuania, Romania and Italy.

The results show: First, you have to existing opportunities for political participation and their effectiveness are better communicated. This includes citizens 'consultation hours and petitions, citizens' initiatives and referendums, but also party membership and, last but not least, the right to vote and be elected. It is important to find ways and means to significantly increase the opportunities and willingness to participate of poorly represented groups.

Second, need to new forms of participation, encounters and dialogue between citizens and politicians are tried out. The citizens were aware that they too were challenged. Because only those who actively contribute and participate can also have a say in the decision-making process.

What is the federal government doing?

The Federal Government is opening up a large number of dialogue opportunities in which citizens can make their voice heard. B. at the Citizens' Dialogue on the Future of Europe which took place in 2018 in all member states of the European Union. Citizens' dialogues are also taking place all over Germany around the anniversary activities of 30 Years since the Fall of the Wall and German Unity. Other federal ministries have joined.

A land of free and equal citizens

Our society is shaped by freedom and equality. They guarantee that everyone in Germany can develop freely as long as they do not restrict the rights of others. The citizens discussed freedom rights in all their facets: Freely expressing their opinion, being able to obtain information with the help of the independent press, practicing faith and religion undisturbed - that was very important to everyone.

"To be able to express one's opinion without being prosecuted is a great asset."from an online answer dated June 16, 2015

How about that Guarantee of freedom and equality is actually ordered and how Germany compares to other countries is very difficult to measure. The World Justice Project Index is one of the few international surveys that enables a comparison. It is based on a survey of citizens and on expert interviews.

Eight selected civil rights are measured individually and collectively on a scale from zero to one (optimal state): equal treatment and freedom from discrimination, the right to life and physical integrity, compliance with the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right to privacy, the Freedom of assembly and labor rights.

Development of eight selected freedom-related basic rights in Germany

in the international comparison Germany is a very free country, especially the freedom of expression and assembly are very pronounced. In 2019, the Federal Republic of Germany reached the sixth place out of a total of 126 countries examined. There is a need for improvement in Germany with regard to questions of equality, the elimination of discrimination and the right to privacy.

over Compliance with and protection of fundamental rights watch over the independent judiciary with the Federal Constitutional Court at its head and, last but not least, the free media. The General Equal Treatment Act and the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency serve to reduce existing unequal treatment.

What is the federal government doing?

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has been campaigning for more equal treatment since 2006. With the “Live Democracy!” Program, the Federal Government is combating ideologies that are anti-freedom and anti-democratic. The federal government is making more than 115 million euros available for this in 2020.