Under-18 Election Merkel Scores Big Among German Youth

A recent poll suggests German youngsters are surprisingly conservative, with more than a third giving their vote to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. But the overall majority would still belong to the center-left, if the youth were old enough to vote.

People usually say there's a left-wing bias among young people. But a recent survey conducted by polling company Infratest Dimap shows a plurality of German youths would give their vote to the conservative Christian Democratic Union   (CDU).

At 36 percent, the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union  (CSU), are well ahead of their main center-left rivals, the Social Democrats   (SPD). They took only 24 percent of the country's youth vote, followed by the Green Party  with 18 percent. The survey targeted Germans between 14 and 17 years old; the legal voting age is 18.

The Internet activist Pirate Party  is also popular among young people, with nine percent of respondents favoring them over the mainstream players. The far-left Left Party  and the business-friendly Free Democrats  garnered 4 and 3 percent, respectively -- both shy of the 5-percent hurdle needed to enter parliament.

According to the study, the two most important issues young people based their decisions on were education (11 percent) and environmental protection (9 percent). Almost two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) indicated they were in favor of young Germans being able to participate to a greater degree in national politics.

Only 23 percent of those taking part in the survey said they had a "strong interest" in politics. Fifty-eight percent indicated that they were "somewhat" interested, and 19 percent said that they had no interest whatsoever.

Under-18 Election

The survey was conducted on behalf of U18 -- a youth democracy project conducting a nationwide mock election on Friday. Organizers plan to set up 1,500 polling stations in youth centers, gymnasiums and schools across the country where children and youngsters can cast their own ballots. The project has also put on a number of preliminary events, including face-to-face meetings with politicians.

The ballots in the mock election feature the same candidate names as those given to adult voters. However the organizers will tally only the "second votes" given to political parties. German electoral law uses the nationwide tally of second votes to determine the distribution of seats in parliament.

The U18 project is meant to stimulate interest in politics among German youth, and is financed primarily by the government and the Federal Agency for Civic Education. The last mock election in 2009 election saw the SPD win 20.4 percent, followed closely by the Greens and the CDU with 19.9 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively. The Left Party reached 10.4 percent, while the Pirates became the fifth-strongest party at 8.7 percent. The Free Democrats fell behind, winning only 7.6 percent. The Animal Welfare Party was the unexpected success story of 2009, taking 5.2 percent of the youth vote.

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