Structural Patterns in the Rise of Germany’s New Right on Facebook


In the last years a new right-wing, populist and eurosceptic party emerged in Germany, the ‘Alternative für Deutschland’. Topics that were used by the party to draw attention to their program included the Euro-crisis and the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. We investigate some aspects of social media use of the AfD. Our goal is to relate the rise of this party to some quantitative measures of their social media usage. A particular focus will be placed on users that interact with AfD content as well as with content of other parties. Our analysis is based on more than 11 million interactions of more than one million users with the public Facebook pages of the major German political parties during the years 2014 and 2015. Investigating the time courses of social media activity and user interaction, we find that the rise of the AfD can be associated with an amount of social media coverage and user engagement that is unprecedented in the German political landscape. One main effect of this campaign is a substantial increase of user interactions with other parties from the right spectrum, suggesting a migration of voters from established right wing parties. In order to better interpret the dynamics of social media activity, we relate the analysed metrics to the textual content of the posts and classical survey data. These results suggest that the intense use of social media platforms poses a major success factor of this newly emerging right-wing party.

Data Mining in Politics workshop at the International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM)