While the long-term panel helps in understanding how and why political settings and behavior change at the individual level from one election to the next, the changes which occur in the 4-year time period between two elections (or between two panel waves) are not documented. Although commercial opinion research institutes publish public opinion surveys on a monthly basis, their data does not correspond with the main question of the GLES. These same institutes utilize inconsistent instruments while conducting their research. Therefore, the aim of the online tracking is to measure short-term changes between panel waves by implementing constant questionnaires at continuous intervals.
This survey is implemented four times annually, and started with the 2009 German Bundestag Election (Component 8, led by Prof. Dr. Sigrid Roßteutscher). This component is innovative not only due to its regularity, but also because of its methods. The component is implemented online and the respondents have been pulled, since 2012, from an offline recruiting pool. Every section contains around 1,000 respondents.
With the help of the online survey, this component will become a valuable resource in helping to answer questions that cannot be detected by other components. The tracking component further takes the multi-level system of the Federal Republic into account and also specifically includes elections in the states, as well as the European Parliament elections. The questionnaires of the respective cross sections contain core, module and, where necessary, country-specific questions.
The 2009 state elections were covered by a three-wave multi-level panel at the European, state and federal elections in 2009. Subsequently, LTW-Boosts (LTW= German State Election) with 500 respondents were implemented at the state elections. These LTW-Boosts provide information on settings and political behavior in state elections in comparison to settings at the federal and European levels. They take place simultaneously with the online tracking before the respective state election, so as to make sure that direct comparisons with the federal level are possible. With this design, the component represents significant innovation on behalf of German electoral research.