In 1990, during reunification, West German democratic institutions and the existing political party system were expanded to the East German states. Even after 25 years, the people of eastern and western Germany still differ in their political engagement and attitudes. However, these differences do not apply across the board by any means. A detailed analysis of survey data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study shows that differences both in terms of general interest and active participation in politics cannot be identified statistically in many years. By contrast, there are considerable differences between eastern and western Germany in terms of party attachments and actual turnout in national and state elections. The gap in turnout at national elections is not only evident over the years but is also clearly recognizable across all age groups. There are also still distinct differences in the political party systems of eastern and western Germany. In particular, the Left (Die Linke) plays a major role in eastern Germany but despite some electoral successes in some state parliaments, this party has not been able to establish itself to the same extent in the former West German states. What is more, according to our data, individuals' attitudes to the welfare state in the two parts of the country, which differed significantly at the beginning of the 1990s, have converged since.
reunification political participation and attitudes turnout