State conservation programs aim to mitigate the effects of climate change, one of which is the loss of biodiversity. The restoration of biodiversity involves the introduction of extinct species. However, the return or rapid growth of certain species, such as wolves and wild boars, is associated with certain negative consequences. Not everyone liked the new situation. Concerning wolves, herd attacks have provoked complaints and reactions from breeders.
Thanks to conservation programs, the wolf (Canis lupus) has made a rapid and successful return to Central Europe. Germany has seen the spectacular return of a wild animal considered extinct for several decades. Nevertheless, the animals must seek prey. So while environmentalists rejoiced, local farmers saw the wolf as a threat to their properties. The case appeared as an ideal opportunity for political exploitation, and the far-right AfD began to invest in the “fear of the wolf”.
Has this policy, associated with the party’s anti-ecological positions, brought votes to the German far right? Have farmers and residents responded positively to the AfD’s anti-wolf campaign?
A recent study by Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg and Anselme Hager, Wolf attacks predict far-right votesuggests that “the re-emergence of the wolf is a plausible source of far-right electoral behavior”. [https://www.pnas.org/eprint/6SKFARH4WF3RDM38VKDV/full]
“Does the return of the wolf affect politics? 🚨 All over Europe, the wolf has made an impressive comeback, which has created significant tensions. How is this conflict played out electorally? @Anselmhager and I are looking for answers in a new article from @PNASNews,” tweeted Bernhard Clemm.
The study explores the relationship between wolf attacks and far-right voting behavior by establishing a city-level panel in Germany based on detailed local-level spatial data on wolf attacks.
“Using difference-in-differences models, we find that wolf attacks are accompanied by a significant increase in far-right voting behavior, while the Green party, if any, suffers electoral losses,” write the two researchers.
The study analyzed Twitter posts, election manifestos and Facebook advertisements to demonstrate that AfD politicians portray the wolf as a threat to economic sources.
“Municipalities exposed to wolf attacks on livestock are witnessing a significant increase in the vote shares of the far-right AfD (which first came forward in 2013), as our hypothesis hypothesizes. pre-analysis plan”, write Bernhard Clemm and Anselm Hager. “In federal elections – our favorite outcome given that they are taking place in all municipalities at the same time – the AfD wins between 1 and 2 percentage points once a wolf has attacked. In state-level elections, the coefficient is significantly higher, suggesting that the far-right AfD gains more than 5 percentage points after a wolf attack.
The two scientists collected 29,045 responses to a Civey online panel survey on whether “economic growth and environmental protection are compatible”.
“We geocoded these responses, constructed a weekly panel, and estimated a consistent negative coefficient: Wolf attacks make people less likely to support environmental protection over economic growth, plausibly leading them to support the anti-environmental AfD. Secondly, we studied AfD communication on the wolf based on three sources of data.
Thus, the AfD exploits wolf attacks to increase its political influence and advance policies against environmental protection. Thanks to this study, we have another piece of the complex political puzzle of the German far right.