Cross-section surveys before and after a general election are an important component of each election study. Studying individual change in voting behavior is impossible based on cross-sectional data only, though. Since analyzing long-term individual change in political attitudes and behavior is a primary focus of GLES, conducting panel surveys covering several Bundestag elections is necessary (component 7, directed by Prof. Dr. Harald Schoen).
In the GLES long-term panel, a rolling three-wave panel is applied that was first established in a previous project covering the three elections from 1994 to 2002 by Falter, Gabriel, and Rattinger (ZA4301).
The recruitment of panel respondents is effected as part of the pre- and post-election cross-sections. Those respondents who express their willingness to be re-interviewed in the future form the target population of a new panel. For instance, in 2009 about 2,700 out of 4,300 cross-section respondents (ca. 63%) were willing to be re-interviewed. Each panel covers three Bundestag elections, so that the panel started in 2009 will be continued in 2013 and 2017. Respondents always remain in the same survey period in each wave (pre- or post-election).
The rolling three-wave panel design links the long-term panel component of GLES to electoral studies conducted by the principal investigator responsible for this part of the project for previous Bundestag elections. The respondents of the cross-section survey in 2002 were re-interviewed in 2009 for the third and last time. Data for this panel are available for download via GESIS (ZA5320). Additionally, the cross-section study by Kühnel, Niedermayer and Westle at the 2005 election (ZA4332) will be continued until 2013. A dataset comprising the surveys for this panel from 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 is also available for downloaded via GESIS (ZA5321).
The close connection to the cross-sections implies that the field time of the long-term panel and the cross-sections is largely identical. In addition, both components are surveyed with a very similar questionnaire and the same survey method (CAPI).
Since panel surveys are inevitably confronted with attrition it is decisive to continually motivate panel respondents to remain in the panel, especially between any two Bundestag elections. Short re-interviews are therefore conducted every year by CATI or mail survey. These annual interviews not only ensure the sustained motivation of respondents and keep addresses up to date, but also enrich the analytical potential of this component. Long-term panel data enable researchers to track individual changes in attitudes and political behavior that occur between consecutive elections. Both the period of time of each panel covering two full electoral terms and the continuity of the rolling three-wave-design pursued since 1994 are exceptional characteristics of this GLES-component, even in international comparison.