Germany's Anti-Immigrant AfD Makes Gains Among Unemployed

14/03/2016_Frauke Petry
Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the AfD in Berlin, Germany, March 14. Petry's leadership has brought an increased focus on immigration. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Germany's hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is broadening its base among the disenfranchised working classes, in a marked shift which mirrors that of similar parties like the National Front in France and Britain's U.K. Independence Party (UKIP).

Data published in the Die Welt newspaper on Monday showed that the AfD won 32 percent of the vote among unemployed people in the state election in Baden-Württemberg last week, and 38 percent of the unemployed vote in Saxony-Anhalt.

In both states, the AfD won more votes from the unemployed than any other party.

Speaking to Die Welt, Roberto Heinrich of pollster Infratest Dimap said the AfD was increasingly mobilizing "socially precarious groups."

The data suggests a movement away from middle-class voters; in the Brandenburg state election in 2014, the AfD took 14 percent of the unemployed vote and was well represented among more professional classes.

When it was formed in 2014, the AfD was colloquially known as a "party of the professors" thanks to a strong focus on economically driven Euroskepticism.

But since the departure of the economist Bernd Lucke, one of the party founders, in 2015, the party has focused much more on immigration, seeking to capitalize on public concern over the refugee crisis.