The populist challenge in parliaments

The enduring electoral success of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) marks the first establishment of a right-wing populist party in the party system of post-war Germany. In light of this historical turning point, political scientists need to investigate the reasons for the AfD’s rise and how it transforms democratic competition in Germany. Many studies have already addressed these questions with a specific interest on the AfD’s electorate, its policy positions, political leadership and strategies. Furthermore, its role in the German state parliaments has been assessed in various case studies and comparative studies.However, major lacunae remain. Having a strong focus on the AfD, many studies neglect how the AfD interacts with established party groups and how the parliamentary arena has changed under its presence. Moreover, while studies are well informed by the literature on populism, too few insights are derived from the literature on legislative studies and party competition. Existing studies are also limited with regard to the parliaments, behavioural aspects and the period of investigation they study.Our project aims to fill this gap and pursues three specific goals. First, using various behavioural indicators, we will analyse the patterns of the AfD’s parliamentary behaviour as well as the underlying preferences and strategies. Second, we will examine the interaction between the AfD and established parliamentary party groups to gain a comprehensive understanding of party competition in the Landtage. Third, synthesizing insights from the literature on populism, party competition, and legislative studies, we will explain the variation in the AfD’s behaviour and in the patterns of parliamentary interaction. Our main focus is on parties’ parliamentary rhetoric, the framing of topics, issue attention, and ideological as well as issue-specific positions. We will analyse parliamentary speeches, parliamentary initiatives (e.g. parliamentary questions, resolutions, amendments) and behavioural data (e.g. voting behaviour for specific issues).Our project advances the state of the art in various respects. First, it provides comprehensive insights into the role of the AfD in parliaments, which will also be of interest to the international study of populism. Second, it employs and enhances the most recent techniques of computer-based text mining in order to compile a novel and extensive data set. These data not only allow for a rich description and robust tests of our hypotheses but will also enable other scholars to investigate questions that are beyond our project. Third, it promises robust and rich insights by using the most recent qualitative and quantitative tools of text analysis, created by the computational social science and eHumanities.


Funding institution: DFG

Funding period: 01.01.2022 – 31.05.2025

Funding budged: € 93.482,08


  Name Working area(s) Contact
Prof. Dr. Christian Stecker
Chair | Managing Director of the Institut for Political Science
Comparative Politics and German Government
+49 6151 16-57355
S3|12 437
Andreas Küpfer M.Sc.
Research Associate
Comparative Politics and German Government
S3|12 515

Further PIs

Prof. Dr. Andreas Blätte

Prof. Dr. Marcel Lewandowsky

Prof. Dr. Jochen Müller

Funded by