Who chooses to vote the Green Parties?

Green parties have rapidly become a familiar feature of the political landscape, particularly in Europe. The first green parties were formed in Tasmania and New Zealand in 1972, and the Swiss elected the first green to a national assembly in 1979. By the late 1990s, green parties were sufficiently established to have joined national coalition governments in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy, to have elected deputies in server other national parliaments and wide representation in sub-national government.

[1] In 1999, the first Green European Commissioner was appointed. The greens have clearly made their appearance and their message seems to have sufficient coherence and resonance to exert an electoral call that goes beyond national boarders. How do we account for the rise of green parties? Do they simply reflect a specific public concern about the state of the environment, or is their appearance a need for a new politics? Who are the people that green parties message appeal to? Green parties have achieved their main electoral success in Northern and Western Europe.

In four countries, West Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg, green parties averaged at least 5 percent of the vote during the 1980s and regularly won seats in national parliaments. The German and Belgian greens have proved most successful. The aim of this paper is to analyze the role of the German Green Party – Alliance 90/Die Grunen and to compare the social characteristics and political views of this party’s voters. Who are the people that choose to vote for this party? Why is the Green Party so popular in Germany compared to other countries?

Are the green parties going to last or are they simply something that will soon disappear? Andrew Dobson argues that ecological citizenship is a particular form of post-cosmopolitan, non-territorial citizenship, which stresses responsibilities rather than rights, and regards those responsibilities as non-reciprocal rather than contractual, thereby contrasting with traditional liberal and civic, republican notions of citizenship obligations. For him, ecological citizenship has for defining characteristics:[2] It is non-territorial.

Conventional notions of citizenship are located within the nation state, but because many environmental problems are international and do not respect national boundaries, ecological citizens have to operate both within and beyond the state. It takes place in both the public and the private realms. Citizenship is traditionally concerned with the way individuals behave in the public sphere, but the private acts associated with day-to-day lifestyles have public implications, so ecological citizenship must include the private sphere.

It is associated with virtues that enable citizens to meet their obligations; in particular, the social justice needed to ensure a just distribution of ecological space, whilst care is required for the effective exercise of justice. It involves a range of non-contractual responsibilities-notably an obligation to ensure that our ecological paths are sustainable – that are owed to strangers near and far, but without any expectation that they will be reciprocated.

Dobson’s model of ecological citizenship has attracted a number of criticism[3], such as for using the notion of “post-cosmopolitan” citizenship and over who is eligible to be an ecological citizen. According to Neil Carter “The Politics of the environment: Ideas, Activism. Policy”, “ecologism is an ideology built on two main ideas: a reconceptualisation of the human-nature relationship away from strong anthropocentrism and an acceptance of the idea of limits to growth.

It draws its subsidiary principles, such as participatory democracy, decentralization and social justice, from other political traditions, but the relationship is not all one way”. Established political ideologies have been influenced by the ideas developed by ecologism. With the rise of modern political parties as mass-membership organizations in the 19th century the relationship between the different hierarchical levels of party organization became the focus of early political sociology.