Why are people single issue voters?

Parties in Germany

Jörg Hebenstreit

Dr. Jörg Hebenstreit is Post-Doc at the Institute for Political Science at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. In addition to party system research, his main research interests include election campaign financing, responsiveness and non-majority institutions.

Animal welfare party

The animal protection party was founded in 1993 out of the animal rights movement. Since then it has grown from a one-topic party to a multi-topic party. She regularly achieved her highest voting share in the elections to the European Parliament, where she won a supra-municipal mandate for the first time in 2014.

A delegation from the Animal Welfare Party before the handover of a petition against animal experiments. The actress Ingrid von Bergen (fourth from left) supports the action. (& copy picture alliance / Eventpress)

Origin and development

The "Human Environment Animal Welfare Party" (Tierschutzpartei) was founded by nine founding members on February 13, 1993 in Bonn. The party has its roots in the animal rights movement and sees itself as its extended political arm in the party system. The history of the Animal Welfare Party is also a development from a single-issue party to a multi-issue party. A program that was merely reduced to the policy field of animal welfare was not intended in this form even in the founding phase; Right from the start, the party wanted to effectively combine the issue of animal welfare with other issues of daily politics. This was already reflected in their naming (van den Boom, 1999: 71): The chosen name "Mensch Umwelt Tierschutz" (MUT for short) was already used by another registered association. Therefore, at its first federal party conference in Bonn on November 6, 1993, the party changed the short name to "Die Tierschutzpartei", but continued to use the abbreviation "MUT" in various places.

By 2012, state associations of the party had been founded in all 16 federal states. The party's first federal chairmanship was taken over by Prof. Ingeborg Bingener, who had already drawn up a basic program before the party was founded. Her successor in the Federal Presidency was followed by Dr. Gisela Bulla (1995-2000), Egon Karp (2000-2001), Jürgen Gerlach (2001-2007) and Stefan Bernhard Eck (2007-2014) (Giese, 2003). However, Eck resigned his office at the turn of the year 2014/2015 and resigned from the Animal Welfare Party in protest, because he accused it of increasingly approaching right-wing extremism and not consistently enough to distance itself from party members with a right-wing past. The animal welfare party lost its best-known member, Eck. In solidarity with Eck, seven other members of the federal executive board resigned from office (Donath, 2015). As a result of these party withdrawals, there was a special party conference in March 2015, which can be classified as a new beginning for the party. On this, all vacant board positions were filled and organizational reorganizations were carried out within the party. After the party had had three chairpersons for a long time since 2016, it has been led by a dual leadership made up of Matthias Ebner and Robert Gabel since 2019.

The development of the Animal Welfare Party can best be understood from the individual election results. In the first election, the Hamburg state election in 1993, the party received 0.3 percent of all votes. The party has never entered the Bundestag election with state lists in all 16 federal states because the Animal Welfare Party has not yet managed to collect the necessary support signatures everywhere. In her first federal election in 1994, for example, she only participated with state lists in Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia and achieved 0.2 percent of the votes. In the subsequent federal elections in 1998 and 2002, the party only managed to increase its share of the vote slightly to 0.3 percent. After the early dissolution of the Bundestag in 2005, the proportion of votes fell again to 0.2 percent, but four years later it was to rise to the best result at federal level to date (0.5 percent). However, this positive trend did not continue in the 2013 federal election and the share of the vote fell to 0.3 percent. In the last federal election in 2017, for which the party ran with state lists in 10 federal states, the animal welfare party achieved its best result so far at the federal level with 0.8 percent of the votes (+0.5 percentage points). In addition, the result of 0.8 percent of the votes represented the third-best result of those parties that missed the leap into parliament - only the FREE voters and Die PARTTEI (both 1.0 percent) were more successful in terms of the results of extra-parliamentary parties.

Since only 4,000 signatures in total are necessary for the approval of a common list for all federal states in European elections, the animal welfare party was always able to compete nationwide. In the 1999 election to the European Parliament, it won 0.7 percent of the vote, five years later it achieved its best result to date with 1.3 percent of the vote. In 2009, however, the proportion of votes fell slightly to 1.1 percent of the vote. This put the party in eighth place among the 32 parties that took part in the European elections. After the five percent hurdle in European parliamentary elections had been overturned by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2011, the highest judges from Karlsruhe declared the three percent hurdle set up as an alternative to be unconstitutional in 2014. With 366,598 votes (1.2 percent), the Animal Welfare Party not only built on previous successes in European elections, but also received one of the 96 German European Parliament mandates. This trend should also be repeated in the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, in which the party was able to increase its share of the vote by 0.2 percentage points to 1.4%. Because Martin Buschmann, who moved into the European Parliament as a member of the Animal Welfare Party as a result of the election, had withheld from the party any previous membership of the NPD, the party asked him to resign from his mandate and to leave the party in January 2020 (Tierschutzpartei 2020a). Although Buschmann resigned from the party in February, he refused to return his mandate and thus blocked the intended move up of the current federal chairman, Robert Gabel.

However, the results of state elections prove to be much more changeable. It achieved the best results for the state elections in Brandenburg in 2019 (2.6% and thus the previous maximum), the Berlin House of Representatives elections (2011: 1.5 and 2016: 1.9 percent of the votes), the state elections in Saxony-Anhalt in 2011 (2011: 1.6 and 2016: 1.5 percent of the vote) and in the Saxon state elections in 2009 and 2019 (2.1 percent and 1.5 percent). Since a trend towards the abolition of the threshold clause can be observed in local elections (Fehndrich / Cantow, 2014), it is often easier for small parties to enter local parliaments. For example, the Animal Welfare Party succeeded in making such a move in Darmstadt-Dieburg in 2001, in Frankfurt am Main in 2005, in Kassel in 2011, in Düsseldorf in 2014 or in Essen and Dortmund in 2020. In the municipal elections in Magdeburg in 2009, the animal welfare party moved into the city parliament of the Saxony-Anhalt state capital with 2.5 percent of the votes and one councilor. There she formed a common parliamentary group together with the SPD and the youth party "future! - The young alternative".

Electorate, membership and organizational structure

As is often the case with small parties, there is little empirical data on the electorate of the Animal Welfare Party. However, since the party's program does not target a specific class of voters, it can be assumed that the party's voters come from different classes. The Animal Welfare Party appears to be particularly successful with young voters. The party scores differently in the "U18 elections" for children and young people, but repeatedly exceeds the five percent threshold, including 5.2 percent in the U18 elections for the 2009 Bundestag election (www.u18.org, 2009) or with 5.01 percent for the 2019 European elections (www.u18.org, 2019).

Little data is also available on the membership structure. What is certain is that the party's membership has increased slightly since it was founded. The Animal Welfare Party started with a double-digit number in the year it was founded, had 548 members in 1998 and 1,062 members in 2006; by the end of 2014, the number of members had climbed to just under 1,200. In the course of the media coverage of Stefan Bernhard Eck and seven other members of the federal executive board, numerous other party members also terminated their membership. The spin-offs in Saxony-Anhalt in 2013 (animal welfare alliance) and in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017 (animal welfare list) also had a negative impact on membership development. In the meantime, however, the number of people joining the party is again significantly higher than that of leaving the party. According to the company, the number of party members will be around 2,000 in 2020, which is the highest level in the history of the party. (Animal Welfare Party, 2019a and 2020b). The high proportion of female party members, which amounts to 68 percent, is to be classified as remarkable. The level of activity of the Animal Welfare Party members, for example with regard to participating in demonstrations, is significantly higher than that of other parties. The reason for this is that the majority of the party members come from the animal welfare and animal rights movement, environmental and nature protection or from the peace movement, which are characterized by an above-average level of participation. [1] According to former federal chairman Horst Wester, the party has numerous members who are neither left nor right because the main concern of the party is the fight for animals (Donath, 2015).

As with any party eligible for elections, the organizational structure of the Animal Welfare Party is subject to the provisions of the Political Parties Act. This applies to both the vertical-regional structure and the functional organization. In addition to the federal executive committee and the federal party conference, there are also working groups, federal working groups (currently 17) and a federal arbitration tribunal. The federal party congress is the highest organ of the party; it meets twice a year (Lucardie, 2018: 509). The youth organization "Generation Environment, Animal Welfare and Sustainability" (GUTuN), founded in 2018, replaced the BOLD youth initiated in 2015. In cooperation with the regional associations, federal working groups and party members, it is the task of the federal board to plan, develop and implement new initiatives and party actions (Tierschutzpartei, 2015b). The animal welfare party is regionally divided into a federal association, 16 state associations (of which, however, not all are active), individual district and local associations and a few regional groups. The party has a party newspaper that has been published since 2018 under the name "Mensch Umwelt Tier" - previously the name was "MUT-Magazin" or "ZeitenWENDE".

Program and content positions

The later founding members had an elaborated program before the actual party was founded. It was expanded and adapted at the federal party conference in Frankfurt am Main in 2002, but the main features remained. Since then it has been regularly revised and expanded, most recently in November 2019. Paul Lucardie characterizes the animal welfare party as an "interest party without explicit ideology" (Lucardie, 2019: 509), but which in practice belongs to the ecological and socially liberal center. She describes herself as "'holistic' because she understands the three areas of humans, animals and nature as an inseparable unit and aligns her political demands with them" (Lucardie, 2019: 508). Ultimately, the party sees itself in its basic stance as an advocate for those "who cannot form a lobby themselves, in particular the sick and those in need of care, the disabled, victims of physical and emotional violence, children living in poverty and the homeless" (Tierschutzpartei, 2019b). Animals don't have a lobby either. The party's short name corresponds to its main focus, which makes up about a quarter of the party's program. The party sees animals as "fellow creatures" to whom universal rights are due. She wants to fix that in the Basic Law. A corresponding article should contain, among other things, a ban on animal experiments and non-species-appropriate animal husbandry (factory farming); in addition, the production and importation of furs, the importation of exotic animals, hunting and fishing as well as the keeping of circus animals are to be banned. In addition, the animal welfare party promotes a vegan lifestyle free of animal products. Even before the Greens, the party called for the introduction of a meat-free, vegetarian day (von Lübke-Schwarz, 2013). In terms of environmental policy, the party is aiming for an immediate phase-out of nuclear energy and a ban on genetic engineering. In order to reduce the greenhouse effect, the party also advocates recyclable raw materials and renewable energies and sees factory farming as one of the biggest "climate killers" (Tierschutzpartei 2019b: 17).

In terms of economic policy, everything in the party program is subordinated to the maxim "Ecology takes precedence over economy". The capitalism under the neoliberal ideology, which the party sees as the cause of the dwindling of justice and democracy, is to be regulated much more strongly. In some cases it provides extensive support to the grassroots democratic elements of popular initiatives and petitions. In order to increase participation, she wants to lower the voting age. In terms of family and social policy, she calls for the elimination of the splitting of spouses in favor of family splitting, equal rights for women and men and the right to self-determination for all people (Tierschutzpartei 2019b). In the expansion of the basic program decided on at the federal party congress in Frankfurt am Main in 2016, the party not only advocates testing an unconditional basic income and a fairer education policy, but also called for corporations that disregard human, animal or environmental rights to be more involved to take the duty (Tierschutzpartei, 2017b).


Monographs and edited volumes
  • ucardie, Paul, Die Tierschutzpartei (Human Environment Animal Protection Party), in: Decker, Frank / Neu, Viola (Ed.), Handbook of German Parties, 3rd revised. and exp. Ed., Wiesbaden 2018, pp. 506-509.
  • van den Boom, Dirk, politics on this side of power? On the influence, function and position of small parties in the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany, Opladen 1999.
Web pages and documents
  • Donath, Martin, Die Diktatur der Vegans, in: Jungle World from January 15, 2015, accessed on February 28, 2015.
  • Fehndrich, Martin / Cantow, Matthias, five percent hurdle, May 25, 2014, accessed on February 28, 2015.
  • Giese, Margret, 10 years of the Human Environment Animal Welfare Party - The Animal Welfare Party. A short summary of your career since the company was founded in 1993, published on 09/27/2003, accessible with the help of a wayback machine, accessed on 02/28/2015.
  • Baden-Württemberg State Statistical Office, EU election. Demographic composition of the electorate of the parties, press release of June 23, 2014, accessed on February 28, 2015.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2015a, short portrait. A party with an unmistakable profile, accessed on 02/28/2015.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2015b, party structure. Transparency is important to us so that everyone can keep track - from the base to the top, accessed on 02/28/2015.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2017a, Human Environment Animal Welfare Party (2017): The Animal Welfare Party introduces itself, accessed on June 3, 2017.
  • Tierschutzpartei 2017b, report on the 36th federal party conference, accessed on June 3, 2017.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2019a, membership record, accessed on September 23, 2020.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2019b, basic program, accessed on 23.09.2020.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2020a, Animal Welfare Party calls on Buschmann to resign, accessed on September 23, 2020.
  • Animal Welfare Party 2020b, The Animal Welfare Party introduces itself, accessed on 23.09.2020.
  • U18 The election for children and adolescents, 127,208 children and adolescents have voted: SPD narrowly wins, GRÜNE and CDU / CSU almost evenly, 2009, accessed on 02.28.2015.
  • U18 The election for children and adolescents, European elections 2019 results, 2019, accessed on 23.09.2020.
  • von Lübke-Schwarz, Marc, The party with a heart for animals, in: Deutsche Welle from 08/19/2013, accessed on 02/28/2015.