Who Votes For Pirates?
German study on voting behaviour gives insights on Pirates’ target demographic
Who is likely to vote Pirate? Previously, there have been mostly educated guesses about the target demographic of the Pirates, tending to name young technology affiniados.
A recent representative study, carried out by Prof. Elmar Brähler and Dr. Oliver Decker from the University of Leipzig , examined all political parties, including for the first time the Pirate Party of Germany. It shows that the general assumptions about pirate voters aren’t completely wrong, but incomplete. There are several more aspects as to what makes a voter of the PPDE.
Starting out with basic socio-economic factors, the study finds that someone who votes Pirate is generally not wealthy. 10.8% of Pirate voters have a low household income of less than 1000 Euro, more than the followers of any other democratic party. 30% have, what the study considers a high income, 2500 Euro or more. This value is a little less than the median.
Also, many Pirate voters are highly educated. Almost a third of them have gained Abitur, the highest diploma that German secondary education can award. This quota is higher than for the followers of almost all all other German parties, with only one political competitor having a marginally higher number.
Unemployed people are not more likely to vote for the Pirates than for most of the other parties (in fact, a relative majority of them don’t vote at all). When it comes to fear of becoming unemployed, however, Pirate voters rank the highest. One might speculate that the relatively low paid jobs they tend to have are usually insecure or temporary jobs.
Not suprisingly, the average age of the Pirate voter is the youngest across the board, and almost 10 years less than that of the next youngest group of party supporters. Challenging the stereotype that Pirates are nerds and therefore predominantly male is the fact that the voter base is split almost equally between the sexes (55% male, 45% female).
When looking for differences in voting behaviour between urban and rural areas, the researchers found hardly any difference for voters of the Pirate Party. There is, however, a marked difference when considering the vote of Germans with foreign heritage. The German Pirate Party gets more than three additional percentage points, when only considering the voting preferences of this group. This is more than any other party of the political spectrum, almost all of which tend to be shunned by them in favour of not voting at all. A possible reason for this might be, that the grass-roots democratic approach and indiscriminatory rights of participation, which the Pirates propagate, might be attractive for a group who is generally having a hard time to gain ground in the traditional political elites made up by the other parties. Pirate voters also have the most contact with foreigners in their daily lives. Only 6.5% said that they did not have any foreigners in their peer groups, be it family, friends, acquaintances, neighbours or in the workplace.
Pirate voters tend to be unaffiliated with any religion (33%), at least slightly more so than followers of most other parties (right-wing extremists and socialists have a much higher percentage). Still, more than 65% say that they are either Catholic or Protestant. The reverse numbers show the same picture: Non-denominational voters are more likely to vote Pirate than those identifying as Catholic or Protestant.
Regarding subjective health issues, the researchers found out that the Pirates’ voters have the highest subjective level of health. They are also the voter group with the lowest tendency to feel depressed. In a related question about general anxiousness or fearfulness, Pirate voters ended up in the middle of the field, within very close range of most other parties.
The study also asked about media usage. Here, followers of the Pirates match their stereotype quite well. They have a slightly lower usage of classical media, such as printed press, radio and television, than all other voter groups. In turn, they have a much higher usage of new media than the others, and also come out above all the others on general online usage (gaming excluded), with an even clearer margin.
The PPDE’s election manifestos do of course, by now, cover issues that are beyond the very central and core values that all Pirate Parties share, including a social policy that has been interpreted, by some media outlets, as leaning toward the left. Nonetheless, the common core values are communicated often and loudly, and should weigh in heavily on the voters’ decision.
The overall results therefore do include the young and tech-savvy, but also show much more. Some of the results may be interpreted as interesting insights into who the Pirates’ voters are, and what motivates them. It can therefore be concluded that while local differences might play a certain role, overall the results of the study make up some of the most thorough and comprehensive scientific research done on the target demographic for Pirate values and aims to date.
About Paul Wardenga
I am a political science grad student at the University of Cologne with my interest focused on issues of European integration and EU politics. I’m trying to channel my activities within the Pirates accordingly, hence topics related to these issues will make up a large part of my work for the Pirate Times as well.