Germany is a party-based democracy. Five parties are represented in the 18th German Bundestag – CDU, CSU, SPD, The Left party and Alliance 90/The Greens. There are also around 25 small parties, whose influence is limited on account of the five percent hurdle. Some of them are represented, however, in various federal state parliaments. The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is the party with the most members (461,000). The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has around 459,000 members, its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria 147,000 (2014).
The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) embraces eight individual trade unions and has 6.1 million members. With 2.3 million members IG Metall, the metal workers’ union, which among other things represents workers in the automotive sector, is the single largest union. The trade unions’ ideas have weight and influence in political debates.
As industry’s umbrella organisation, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) unites 36 sector federations and speaks on behalf of around 100,000 companies.
Since the 1970s many people in Germany have been actively involved in environmental groups, citizens’ movements, and non-government organisations. With half a million members, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) is the largest environmental association.
Public opinion research
Numerous opinion research institutes regularly conduct research into the political climate in Germany. Institutes such as infratest dimap, Allensbach, Forsa, Emnid and Forschungsgruppe Wahlen have a particularly strong presence in the run-up to elections, but also with up-to-date weekly barometers that indicate the general mood.