Digital democracy Germany

Taking stock of the German election discourse online

Germany’s 2021 federal election – BTW21 for short (Bundestagswahl 2021) – marked a milestone, with former Chancellor Angela Merkel not seeking re-election after 16 years in power. Moreover, with the effects of the covid-19 pandemic still being felt, the election took place at a time when the electorate was more active online than ever before, reducing possibilities for conventional ways of face-to-face campaigning and increasing risks associated with online discourse: hateful speech, misinformation and polarisation.

What's #BTW21 got to do with it?

For four months, to address these risks during the election campaign, we analysed over 3 million posts from the most popular social media platforms - Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter - using hashtags and keywords.

From June to September, we cooperated with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel on a social media dashboard to make online debates more transparent and to give non-expert users an easy-access tool to understand online dynamics.

In our latest report, written by Finn Klebe, with contributions by Michael Meyer-Resende, Jesse Lehrke, Madeline Brady, Lena-Maria Böswald and Prihesh Ratnayake, we

  • trace the most important discourses and pertinent issues talked about online during #BTW21;
  • analyse how social media users discussed the electoral campaign and look at toxic commentary and personal attacks;
  • explore the spread of disinformation and more subtle information manipulation.

The report is available in English and German below.

Vor dem Hintergrund einer Bundestagswahl in Pandemiezeiten und einer Verlagerung des Wahlkampfes in die digitale Sphäre verfolgen wir in unserem neuen Bericht die wichtigsten Diskurse und einschlägig diskutierten Themen in den sozialen Medien, betrachten, wie Nutzer*innen über den Wahlkampf diskutierten, analysieren, ob toxische Kommentare und persönliche Angriffe im Netz ein geschlechtsspezifisches Phänomen sind, und untersuchen die Verbreitung von Desinformationen und subtilerer Manipulation von Informationen. Dieser Bericht wurde von Finn Klebe mit Unterstützung von Michael Meyer-Resende, Jesse Lehrke, Madeline Brady, Lena-Maria Böswald und Prihesh Ratnayake verfasst. Er ist auf Englisch und Deutsch verfügbar.


EN_German Election Report 2021 Download
DE_Abschlussbericht zur Bundestagswahl 2021 Download

This work is supported by

Stiftung Mercator