Bavarian state elections 2018: What are the parties doing well – and what not?

In the run-up to the 2018 state elections in Bavaria, the parties are once again very active and creative in capturing attention and sympathy. At the moment, the CSU is expecting a historic low – and the Greens are becoming the second strongest force. The SPD would also lose a lot of consent. In the following sections we will examine whether these trends are also reflected in the search behavior of voters, as well as in the content offered and ranked in search results. For this we examine the domains of the parties for the Free State of Bavaria:,,,,,, and This includes all parties currently represented in the state parliament, all parties that reached at least 2% in the last state election, as well as the AfD, which did not take part in 2013.

Note: As the source of the data used in this analysis, we use – unless otherwise noted.

Importance of being present in search results for the parties

At the beginning we have to ask ourselves why a representation of the parties in the search results is important at all. After all, these are also advertised through other channels. We need to understand the role of the search engine in the search for information. Google & Co. act as information brokers. In particular, such information is offered prominently (i.e. via good rankings), which is also in demand by the searchers. On the other hand, suitable contents of the parties can only be conveyed if they also exist. The analysis of the search results over time gives us insights into the target group approach of the parties as an intersection of supply and demand. In this case study we combine these insights with the analysis of search behaviour in Bavaria. In this way, it is often possible to derive a real need that is free from media and rhetorical distortions.

How many people are concerned with which parties?

In Bavaria, demand for AfD is particularly strong – particularly since the incidents in Chemnitz, end of August 2018:

Source: Google Trends

While these parties can be clearly identified by their names, the situation is different for the Greens. The domain of the Greens is searched for using a handful of different wordings, which makes the total volume of the search a little more difficult to handle for a cross-party comparison: 

Source: Google Trends

The target groups of the parties

The parties in Bavaria, especially the CSU, enjoy an extensive electorate. According to all indicators, however, this voter base is shrinking significantly, which is why the following groups in particular should be addressed (percentages estimated based on various surveys):

  • Undecided people (ca. 50%)
  • First-time voters (ca. 5%)
  • Protest voters (ca. 10%)

These target groups are becoming increasingly important in the light of current political circumstances, as their behaviour is often unpredictable until the ballot is cast, as they tend to take spontaneous decisions. A lot can literally happen before the ballot. It is therefore particularly important to offer this target group as many contact points as possible during the decision-making process up to the “Call to Action” in order to provide them with positive and recommended information about tthe respective party.

The following figure shows the search volume (Google Trends) for typical terms that are phrased in advance of an election for easier decision making: 

Source: Google Trends

Let us now look at whether these issues are also being taken up by the parties. Since rankings on the first search result page are of greatest relevance in practice, we examine the presence of the parties in ranks 1 to 10. The following figure shows all rankings of such search phrases that contain the words “Wahlomat” (an app helping to make up your mind), “Landtagwahl” (state election) or “Wahlprogramm” (election programme) in their wording and were in the top 10 at the time of the last measurement:

Open example in the Lab

The Linke, ÖDP and the Piratenpartei are not represented in this search query. The CSU is at least ranked as follows:

As you can see, only very specific search phrases containing the brand “csu” can be found here. The electorate must therefore search specifically for the party in order to obtain a result on the election programme. In a general search for the election programmes, the state elections or the electoral assistance “Wahlomat”, the CSU is not represented and does not appear.

The AfD (in the above figure: yellow) achieves most rankings here (15). Yetr, the special feature is that generic search phrases also reach very good rankings:

When searching for “wahlprogramm landtagswahl” or “landtagswahl wahlprogramm”, it appears in second place. This may also be due to the fact that considerably more Bavarians want to find out about the potentially controversial election programme of the AfD. After the intensive search for the AfD election programme, Google concludes that it has a general, generic meaning, which can result in a very good ranking.

First performance evaluation

After we have already examined a first detail aspect, we would like to take a step back for a better assessment and compare the domains in their entirety quantitatively. To do this, we take a look at the so-called visibility index (Sistrix), which can well illustrate the weighting of the presence relations:


Clearly, the CSU is well ahead of the other parties in this respect. This is certainly also due to the fact that the CSU enjoys a certain importance on the federal political level. Let us therefore consider the CSU in comparison to the other parties:



The CSU stands out from all other parties in quantitative terms. 

We would like to pay special attention to the high entry of AfD. The following figure does not show the presence of, but that of the federal political representation: But also in this comparison the CSU shows a stronger presence – even during the political discussions about the AfD MP Albrecht Glaser in September/October 2017, who according to the wish of the AfD should become Bundestag Vice President: 


We can therefore say that the CSU presents itself most strongly in the search results in purely quantitative terms. In the following, we will examine whether this is also the case at the qualitative level. To do this, we look at topics relevant to voters that the parties should serve.

Political topics

In which areas are voters interested and would they like to receive information directly from the party? To answer this question, we have studied the party’s programmes, worked out the basic topics and checked all parties for their presence in the search results. An important topic of interest to the Germans is, of course, the “flüchtlingskrise” (refugee crisis). It is interesting to note that the Germans are apparently even more concerned about the “diesel fahrverbot” (diesel ban). And (not only) the people of Munich are mainly interested in cheaper living space:  

Source: Google Trends

If we examine the search results for general queries in these contexts, we find only a few rankings of the parties in the top 100. The following example shows the increase in rankings in the context “mieten” (rent) for They succeeds to ascend through some current messages at least up to the third search results side for quite generic search phrases:

Open example in the Lab

Although the parties offer content on the requested topics, it seems that the searchers prefer to obtain their information through news portals or other independent sources. The content of the parties only appears prominently in the search results if was explicitly searched for it, e.g. “diesel fdp”: