This week we have launched the first wave of the German Longitudinal Election Study´s panel component. What makes the German Election Study so appealing is its extensive reach into different facets of voting behavior. For each of these dimensions (media effects, campaign effects, long-term trends etc.) different research designs were developed and tailored to better understand each of these elements. The GLES is a service to the community of electoral researches. The GLES produces high-quality social scientific data sets on voter behavior (and media coverage) and make these publicly available. Noteworthy is the over-arching framework of the GLES which integrates these components in order to facilitate research across disciplinary boundaries. For example, identical coding schemes and question formats are used across all components.
I work for the panel component of the German Election Study. Prof Dr Harald Schoen is the principal investigator of this component. After a comprehensive pre-test in the summer, this week we have launched the first wave of the panel component. The component itself consists of three studies:
- Long-term panel: In this study, voters are surveyed over the course of three elections. From the past election we have retained a sample of about 2,000 respondents. One interesting methodological aspect: It´s a multi-mode study with parallel online and postal surveys. The long-term panel is an amazing data source. It allows to see if and how voters react to the changing political context they are embedded in: Whether shifts of party platforms actually make voters switch their vote choices (or even turnout decisions? Hint: Yes, but to a small extent), if characteristics of the specific election mobilizes citizens who previously abstained to turn out to vote this time or how long-term changes in political attitudes (such as political efficacy or satisfaction with democracy) interacts with voting behavior. These every-day-questions of electoral research consider temporal variation and should therefore be tested with long-term panel data sets which are heavily under-utilized (not just this one, but long-term panels on elections in general). It is surprising that in electoral studies we still rely so much on cross-sectional data (despite all their problems with biased retrospection and causal identification) where it is sometimes obvious that long-term data sets would be the more adequate choice.
- Long-term panel of the campaign panel: This is in unplanned but beloved child. The GLES started an online campaign panel in the weeks before the 2009-federal election. When the colleagues were setting up a replication for the 2013-election they discovered that many of the 2009-panelists were still active. So, they decided to recruit them again which is why for >1,000 individuals we can observe with amazing detail individual stability of dynamics not only within an electoral campaigns but also across electoral campaigns (2009-2013). We follow up on that and survey about 5,000 respondents that were active participants of previous campaign panels. Beginning with the second wave, they will be treated like ordinary members of our biggest project, the 2017 campaign panel.
- Campaign panel: Compared to its predecessors, the 2017 campaign panels evolves both in quality and in quantity. This campaign panel starts with a drastically expanded sample size of 15,000 individuals, allowing for very fine-grained analyses of even small subgroups of the electorate (strategic voters, young voters and so on). Second, this time the campaign panel starts long before the actual campaign. The campaign panel aims at better understanding campaign effects. To achieve this we need a benchmark to which stability and dynamics during campaigns is compared.
For more information on the GLES and to obtain the data sets, visit www.gles.eu.