In just five years, from 1928 to 1933, the Nazis went from being a marginal force to winning the elections with almost 44% of the vote. At the same time, its leader, Adolf Hitler, participated in more than 500 acts throughout Germany. There were days when he was in five different cities, being the first politician to use the plane to go to rallies. However, an exhaustive analysis of the electoral results of those years shows that where Hitler gave rallies, the Nazi Party did not have an extra vote.
After his failed coup d'etat of 1923 and a brief stay in prison, Hitler parked his idea of seizing power by force and opted for the electoral route, he wanted to end democracy from within. For many, it is then that political Hitler emerges. of easy verb and a recognized skill for political discourse, he trusted his ability to mobilize the masses. Moreover, in a party as hierarchical and militarized as the German National Socialist Workers ' Party (NSDAP), all the protagonism was for the chief.
"From what we know about the Nazi campaign strategy, it wasn't just Hitler's idea of everything. He himself seemed to believe in the power of his rhetoric and thought it was possibly the most effective propaganda tool they had, more than newspapers, for example, "says the researcher at the Berlin Herthie School of Governance (Germany) and co-author of the study, Simon Munzert. "I wouldn't go that far to call Hitler the first modern politician, because this implies analogies with the generic modern politician, but the Nazi campaign and the tools they used were ahead of their time, at least in Germany," he adds.
Hitler was the first politician to use a plane to go to the presidential rallies of 1932
The leader's central role resulted in a frantic political activity in the five parliamentary elections and a double-round presidential election in which he participated. Since he was lifted the public speaking ban imposed on him by the judge to give him parole, in March 1927, until the night before the last democratic elections, in March 1933, Hitler participated in 566 political acts, most Rallies. At first, there were only a few hundred to their actions. But, already in 1932, until 100,000 they went to their appointment with the Nazi leader to the sport Camp Victoria, in Hamburg. It is estimated that 4.5 million people went to their rallies. What was the electoral impact of Hitler's speeches?
"Our results suggest that it was completely invaluable," says the German researcher. Along with his colleague from the University of Constance (also German), the Politologist Peter Selb, Munzert Review the electoral records of the six elections in 3,864 municipalities and 1,000 counties. In his work, advanced in the specialized publication American Political Science review, they included data on the location of the rallies, the people who attended or the number of members of the NSDAP in the cities to which he went. And compared their election results with those of the previous elections and those of nearby cities but not Hitler came to give speeches.
In the presidential elections, in which Hitler used the plane and its main rival, President Hindenburg, did not campaign, the researchers estimate that the average effect of their appearances on the increase in the percentage of vote of the NSDAP in the cities where he was It was only 2%. Still, Hitler lost those elections. "The effect was even smaller in the other elections and not distinguishable from zero," says Munzert. What if they observed, though without statistical significance, is that in many of the districts and counties where Hitler gave some speech, participation in the following elections was reduced. The authors point out that the intimidating activity and violence of the SA, the Nazi paramilitary force, could lead to abstention by other party voters.
"We are surprised at how marginal the effects of Hitler's appearances were, especially if we consider that those who heard him and historians confirm his exceptional ability for rhetoric," says Politologist Selb in a note. It should also be taken into account that Hitler's ability to reach mass audiences was therefore very limited. Its presence in the newspapers was very small, when not vetoed, and the Volkischer Beobachter, the newspaper Nazi, had a scarce circulation. As for the radio, the Nazis would show their dominance of the new medium already in power, not before. Hence the supposed weight of his speeches.
In their conclusion, the study's authors question the idea that charismatic leaders are key to explaining the success of the far-right parties in both the Europe of the 1930s and now. "The mystification of the power of the demagogues seems as wrong now as it was then," they write. To them, to put the focus on characters like Hitler causes that other factors so or more relevant are neglected: "The economic and political circumstances in which they triumphed electorally, the massive unemployment and the economic ruin, the lack of confidence in the democracy Between the elites and the population, the popular mistrust towards the established parties and weak institutions. "