Press release no. 45/21 of September 24, 2021

Background information on the 2021 Bundestag Election: forecast, extrapolation, result

WIESBADEN – Forecast, extrapolation, provisional result. These terms are often used by the media especially on election day. But what are the differences? “The returning officers announce official results as soon as the votes have been counted in the constituencies,” says Federal Returning Officer Georg Thiel. “It is for the electoral research institutes, however, to make forecasts as well as extrapolations based on the official results.” The differences are as follows:

Forecasts by electoral research institutes are first estimates of the election result on election day right after the polling stations have closed at 6 p.m. They are based on exit polls where voters are surveyed by the electoral research institutes outside the polling stations immediately after they have cast their votes. These forecasts show a first trend with regard to the election result.

Extrapolations made by the electoral research institutes on election night use official election results that are already available. The official results determined for a representative selection of constituencies are grossed up for that purpose and released after 6 p.m. The more official results are available, the more exact the extrapolated result will be.

The provisional election result is determined and announced by the Federal Returning Officer in the night of the election. It is based on the results reported by the Land returning officers, which contain the results of all constituencies of the electoral territory. 

The final election result is then established by the Federal Electoral Committee on the basis of the written records of all constituency and Land electoral committees. That result may differ from the provisional result announced on election night. The difference between the final and provisional result of the latest Bundestag election held in 2017 was 8,635 second votes. That is a difference of only 0.019%.

The Federal Returning Officer announces the final election result for the entire electoral territory in the Federal Gazette about three weeks after election day.


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