Pioneer Briefing US Edition

The Decline of the SPD


Good Morning,

If the SPD (Social Democratic Party) were a stock rather than a political party, it would be in a long-term downward trend.

The SPD’s ability to innovate has significantly decreased, and its management team appears overwhelmed. Some of its hidden reserves have already been exhausted. The once prestigious asset in the political market is now experiencing a sell-off, and reversing this trend is increasingly difficult.

Olaf Scholz © imago

The SPD, once considered Germany's blue-chip stock, has diminished in value and is now an ideal candidate for a "hostile takeover." However, there are currently no interested buyers.

Manfred Güllner © dpa

Critical data regarding the SPD’s popularity and reputation were collected and measured by ARD Deutschlandtrend and Forsa CEO Prof. Manfred Güllner. The data confirm the need for restructuring within the SPD.

Here is the downward trend of the Social Democrats explained in eight graphs:

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #1 The Unpopular Chancellor

Satisfaction ratings of Olaf Scholz since the beginning of his term in office, in percent

1. Dissatisfaction with Olaf Scholz as chancellor has soared, making him the least popular chancellor since the ARD Deutschlandtrend surveys began in 1997.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #2 Olaf Scholz: Only Partially Suitable

Survey on the aptitude of Olaf Scholz as Federal Chancellor, in percent

2. Most Germans question Olaf Scholz's aptitude as chancellor because of his weak communication skills, uninspiring performances and occasional oversights.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #3 SPD: Helmut Schmidt Ahead

Percentage of all eligible voters who voted for the SPD

3. The SPD's quality as a product has deteriorated significantly. Support is dwindling; fewer and fewer Germans are voting SPD, from 38% under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to only 12% today.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #4 NRW: Core Constituency is Vanishing

SPD share in various elections in NRW, as a percentage of eligible voters

4. Voter loyalty has declined significantly in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Only 15% of eligible voters chose the SPD, compared to 39% in 1985.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #5 Ruhr Area: The Sell-Out

Voter decline of the SPD in local elections in the Ruhr region from 1979 to 2020, in percent

5. In the Ruhr region, the SPD's heartland, the party has lost more than 60 percent of its voter base since 1979, mainly due to poor customer relations.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #6 Hesse: The Downward Trend

SPD share in various elections in Hesse, as a percentage of eligible voters

6. In Hesse, once an SPD stronghold, the party's electorate share has plummeted.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #7 SPD: Dwindling Support Across Germany

SPD voters in the federal states in the last state elections, as a percentage of eligible voters

7. Over time, the SPD has seen a reduction in its base support at the state level, marked by diminishing membership and waning influence.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: #8 The Uncanny Decline in Membership

Number of members in the SPD since 1946

8. The alarming decline in party membership and voter turnout confirms the SPD's downturn. Since the 1970s, when Chancellor Willy Brandt represented the Social Democrats, membership has dropped drastically from 950,000 to 365,000.

Willy Brandt statue at the SPD party headquarters © imago

Conclusion: In light of these data points, "business as usual" is not advisable for the Social Democrats. The SPD needs to be restructured. What is required are managers with an entrepreneurial spirit and empathy for the consumer, not party elites with longstanding ties.

  • Today's Pioneer Podcast guest, Sophie Pornschlegel, discusses power and its various forms.

  • Decoupling: The Ukraine war has an ever greater impact on German-Chinese trade relations.

  • Pompeii: The latest find from the city mummified by the Vesuvius volcano is a room with a 15x6m work of art.

Volker Wissing © imago

Troubling times? Dark clouds are gathering over the government district in Berlin. The reason is an unenforced amendment of the Climate Protection Act, which the Federal Cabinet approved in June of last year.

What happened? The Climate Protection Act stipulates that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. To achieve this, annual emission limits have been set for various sectors, such as industry and transport. If these limits are exceeded, immediate corrective action must be taken.

The amendment of the Climate Protection Act aims to prevent such drastic measures. However, it has yet to take effect, much to the annoyance of Transport Minister Wissing (FDP). He has now issued an urgent letter to the parliamentary group leaders of the governing coalition. In the letter, Wissing writes:

The fact that the amendment is still not being enforced leads to significant legal and actual uncertainties that serve neither the climate nor the federal government's reputation.

The transport sector, for which Wissing is responsible, has missed its targets. If the legislative amendment does not come into effect before July 15th, 2024, Wissing must initiate an immediate course correction. He warns of the consequences in his letter:

To meet the sectoral targets for transport in 2024 alone, about 22 million tons of CO2 equivalents would need to be saved additionally on an ad hoc basis. (...) A corresponding reduction in transport performance would only be possible through restrictive measures that are difficult to justify to the public, such as widespread and indefinite driving bans on Saturdays and Sundays.

Conclusion: The SPD and Greens' delaying tactics are transparent. This maneuver serves not to protect the climate but to worsen it—especially within the coalition.

Author Sophie Pornschlegel © Instagram/sophie_anne_p

For the Pioneer Podcast, I spoke with Sophie Pornschlegel. She is the director of studies and development at the Brussels-based think tank Europe Jacques Delors and the author of "At the End of the Familiar Order: Why We Need to Rethink Power—A Critical Analysis of German and International Power Politics."

Her critique: Sophie Pornschlegel describes a global trend that indicates that "we are moving strongly towards traditional and, therefore, violent power politics."

Click here to listen to today’s episode of the Pioneer Podcast. 

The goal: With her book, she wants to discuss power and its legitimacy, as well as promote awareness of a democratic understanding of power.

When asked if we need to become military giants to have a say in power politics, she responds:

If we were to act like Xi Jinping and Putin, we would be moving in the wrong direction. We must maintain power with a commitment to democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and thus, a democratic understanding of power.

She continued:

Some people say, 'I won't become more powerful by being more moral.' That's not true because values can actually gain influence.

You can listen to the entire conversation about power and its very different forms in German here.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei © imago

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reiterated his threat against Israel following an attack on an Iranian government building in Syria. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu adopted a combative stance, declaring during a visit to an Israeli air base:

We have established a simple principle – whoever attacks us, we will attack them.

Benjamin Netanyahu © imago

Netanyahu greeted the fighter pilots, saying:

The Israeli people and I, trust you.

Ralf Brandstätter © dpa

VW-China CEO Ralf Brandstätter announced a plan to accelerate the delivery of VW electric vehicles in China by 30%, accompanied by a €2.5 billion increase in investment. In the fierce competition with Chinese rivals such as BYD and Nio, VW is unwilling to concede early defeat and sees this initiative as crucial.

With a more than 50% market share in car sales last year, Asia is a significant revenue driver for the Wolfsburg-based automaker. With the additional funds, VW intends to expand its development and production capacities in China to launch two new vehicle models by 2026. These models have been developed in cooperation with Chinese manufacturer Xpeng — a collaboration that started in the summer of 2023.

Conclusion: VW is determined not to give up the Chinese market without a fight. While it acknowledges American proposals for economic bloc separation, VW has not implemented them, opting to strengthen its position in China instead.

Olaf Scholz und Xi Jinping © dpa

The war in Ukraine is increasingly affecting German-Chinese trade relations, according to a recent study by the Ifo Institute. They surveyed 4,000 companies in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail sectors. The study suggests that "Russian aggression has significantly increased companies' awareness of geopolitical risks related to China.”

Reduced import dependence: More and more companies are reducing their imports from China. In industry and trade, the proportion of German companies dependent on key inputs or goods from China has fallen below 40%.

Clemens Fuest, President of the ifo Institute © imago

Production dependence remains unchanged: However, the proportion of companies that continue to produce in China has not changed. The high fixed costs associated with setting up production facilities make decoupling much less attractive than simply importing goods.

Europe left behind: Europe is not an alternative for most companies exiting China. Two-thirds of manufacturing companies considering decoupling only consider non-European options, compared to less than half in 2022. As a result, the researchers stress that "broadening and deepening the EU's network of trade agreements" must become more critical.

The study shows that fewer and fewer companies want to reduce imports of Chinese primary products in the future. In addition, many companies expect to increase imports from China — from four percent in 2022 to ten percent today.

Excavation site in Pompeii © imago

Once upon a time, nearly 2000 years ago, the ancient Italian city of Pompeii was covered in ash from the volcano Mount Vesuvius. Like a time capsule, everything that existed in this city was preserved. Recent excavations have uncovered valuable artwork among the approximately 5,000 people, pets and homes.

The discovery: A banquet hall with a 15x6m artwork. This was confirmed by excavations led by German archaeologist Gabriel Zuchtriegel in southern Italy.

Wall painting of Helena and Paris © imago

The more than 80 square meters of artwork feature various figures and stories against a black background. They include the Greek queen Helen and the Trojan prince Paris, whose kidnapping of Helen sparked the Greek war against the city of Troy.

Also depicted is Paris' sister Cassandra, who unsuccessfully warned the Trojans about the wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers.

Wall painting of Apollo and Cassandra © imago

Excavation director Zuchtriegel speculates that the artwork may have served as entertainment in a Pompeian home. The black background of the mural may have created the impression that the painted figures were moving in the flickering light of oil lamps.

Since 1748, excavations have brought the ash-covered city to light, revealing hidden treasures. More than 250 years later, one-third of the city remains buried in ash likely hiding even more magnificent works of art.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your weekend. Stay informed. Stay with me.

Best wishes,

Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer
  1. , Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer

Editorial Team

Eleanor Cwik, Alexia Ramos Gonsen, Nico Giese & Paulina Metzler

With contributions from Justus Enninga, Jan Schroeder & Tatiana Laudien.

Translation Team

Eleanor Cwik & Alexia Ramos Gonsen

Graphics Team

Aaron Wolf (Cover Art)


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