Posted on February 24, 2021

Immigrants and Their Children Shift Toward Center-Right in Germany

Bojan Pancevski, Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2021

Germans with foreign roots are increasingly voting for the center-right, providing a new pool of voters for the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel as the country’s social fabric becomes increasingly diverse and traditional political allegiances dissolve with integration.

This could have significant political implications for the country, which was home to the largest group of migrants in the world—13 million—in 2019, just behind the U.S., according to the United Nations. It also shows how decades of immigration into Europe has transformed the continent’s demographics and is reshaping politics in unexpected ways.

The finding, in a new study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank linked to Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union shows a majority of people of migrant origin in the country favor conservative, free-market or even far-right parties.

“We are seeing a process of normalization,” said Viola Neu, the author of the study. As migrants become economically and culturally more integrated, get naturalized and gain the right to vote, they tend to shift support from the center-left to the center-right, she said.

“People with immigrant backgrounds now vote like the majority does—not as a group tied to their origin, but according to their values and personal preferences,” she added.

Timur Husein, a Muslim politician who heads Ms. Merkel’s center-right party in the traditionally left-wing Berlin district of Kreuzberg, is one of a number of new faces in a party that still has “Christian” in its name but is becoming more open to non-Christian members and activists.

Mr. Husein has recently battled an initiative by local liberals to rename streets dedicated to Prussian generals who fought against Napoleon as part of an effort to remove references to wars and nationalism from public spaces. Just a few years ago, the coalition of Greens, Communists and Social Democrats backing the campaign could have counted on the support of people like Mr. Husein, born to Macedonian-Turkish and Croatian parents.

This is no longer true. In Germany, 53% of Turkish-origin voters said they would support conservative parties in 2019, up sharply from 17% in 2015 and closer to the parties’ popularity among the broader electorate.

This has mainly been a boon for the CDU, which remains the country’s most popular party despite a steady erosion in support over the past two decades. The study also shows rising migrant support for the Greens, which has long shed its radical origins to become the second-largest centrist party in the country. Both parties broadly favor the welfare state and free markets, but the CDU has maintained a more socially conservative profile.

There is no statistical data, however, on the political leanings of recent arrivals such as Syrian refugees, very few of whom have obtained German citizenship and are able to vote.


People of foreign background are natural conservative voters, said Serap Güler, a conservative politician. Most of Germany’s immigrant communities hail from Turkey, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union and North Africa—communities that are comparatively conservative in their values, often because they are religious. Many of these immigrants, Ms. Güler said, reject favorite progressive issues such as drug legalization, criminal-justice reform and nontraditional family models.

Yet the CDU was until recently suspicious of migrants, she said. Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who presided over German reunification, wanted to deport half of the country’s Turkish population in the 1980s because he believed they couldn’t assimilate.


{snip} Meanwhile, conservatives are reaching out to migrant communities, which are often younger than the general population and therefore attractive to parties with an aging membership, he said.

In a recent essay titled “The CDU Is the People’s Party of a Diverse Nation,” Health Minister Jens Spahn, a prominent CDU leader, and Düzen Tekkal, an award-winning filmmaker of Yazidi origin, call for a “cosmopolitan patriotism” embracing all of Germany’s ethnic groups.