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Daniel Günther Wins Televised Duel against Torsten Albig

Researchers at the University of Freiburg evaluate the results of the debate ahead of state elections in Schleswig-Holstein

Freiburg, Apr 27, 2017

Daniel Günther Wins Televised Duel against Torsten Albig

Credit: Debat-O-Meter/University of Freiburg

In the run-up to elections in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, who was more convincing in the debate televised by NDR on 25 April 2017: State Premier Torsten Albig of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or his challenger, Daniel Günther of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU)? An app for smartphones, tablets and computers developed by researchers at the University of Freiburg, the "debat-o-meter," has provided an answer. More than 860 people used the debat-o-meter to evaluate the politicians' performance live, during the duel. They found that Günther was the clear winner. With each participant able to submit one evaluation, or vote, per second, the viewers delivered more than 190 thousand votes during the hour-long contest.

Before the debate began, 43.3 percent of those who took part said they would prefer to see Albig emerge as state premier from a direct election. Another 41.6 percent favored Günther, while 15.1 percent were undecided. In the survey administered ahead of the contest, the viewers said education and schools (35.1 percent of the respondents), infrastructure and transportation (26 percent) and social justice (14.4 percent) were the most important issues.

On a scale ranging from -2 to +2 Günther was given a slight positive grade of 0.32 in the pre-debate survey. Albig received -0.02, or neutral to so-so. After the debate, Günther had improved his score to 0.582, while Albig's rating slid to -0.176. When it came to assertiveness, Günther went into the debate the slight favorite, with 35.9 percent believing he would win. At the same time, 30.3 percent expected Albig to emerge the victor, while 33.7 percent were undecided. After the contest, 59.4 percent of the viewers said Günther had won the debate, 33.5 percent said Albig had prevailed, with seven percent undecided. Günther was able to win over a larger share of those who were "undecided" before the debate as well as a number of people who had believed initially that Albig would be the winner.

Günther's victory is also reflected clearly in the participants' voting intentions. Ahead of the duel, the largest groups intended to vote as follows: CDU (32 percent), SPD (22.5 percent) and undecided (31,5 percent). During the debate, the undecided camp shrank to 7.2 percent. In conclusion, the televised contest helped the researchers and many viewers to develop an opinion on the candidates. The SPD's share of the vote grew from 22.5 percent to 30 percent. But this was surpassed far and away by the CDU's results, which went from 32 percent to 49.5 percent.

The showdown featured many questions from the audience. These addressed municipal revenue sharing, educational policy, whether it should take eight (G8) or nine (G9) years to finish "gymnasium" and qualify for university studies, kindergartens and day-care centers, infrastructure and traffic, public finance, healthcare policy and internal security. The evaluations of the individual issues show that Günther did better across the board. Albig's best results came when addressing the issue of education, with the incumbent state premier scoring big after the following attacks on Günther. Albig said, "G8 was introduced by Carstensen [Albig's predecessor in office and a CDU politician). You're neglecting to mention that." Albig's worst performance was when he poked fun at the preceding CDU government, saying that they could not count bats and criticized that a CDU planning decision had caused him "years of lost time." Günther's best results came during the discussion of infrastructure, when he chided Albig's government for poor communication during the building of the A20 autobahn. He said, "The ministers don't speak to each other." His poorest marks were after Albig told him, "... today there are 300 more teachers there than there were before 2012."

Prof. Dr. Uwe Wagschal
Department of Political Science
University of Freiburg