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Poll shows east-west split on migration

September 6, 2018

A survey in Germany reveals a significant east-west split in public faith in the government’s handling of migration. The figures also show a lower level of trust in public institutions among easterners than westerners.

People, in an event organized by the right-wing group 'Zukunft Heimat'
People, in an event organized by the right-wing group 'Zukunft Heimat' Image: Getty Images/C. Koall

There was a marked difference between Germany's western states and those in the east on whether concerns about migration were being taken seriously by the German government, according to a DeutschlandTrend survey published on Thursday.

Worries about the government's approach to migration were high across the board, with 49 percent of Germans overall feeling that the matter was not being properly addressed.

However, there was a stark difference in responses, with 46 percent of respondents in the former West German states and 66 percent of respondents in the former East German states saying they were not satisfied.

Infografik Deutschlandtrend Migration EN

Debate on the issue, in particular Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to keep borders open to migrants, was reignited in the past few weeks after right-wing protests that followed the stabbing death of a 35-year-old German man on August 26 in the eastern city of Chemnitz. An Iraqi and a Syrian man were arrested in connection with the crime, with a third suspect being sought.

The polling, commissioned by the public broadcaster ARD and conducted by infratest dimap, also showed significant differences in how much trust people placed in public institutions.

Easterners less trusting of institutions

Across Germany as a whole, the police did best with 81 percent rating their level of trust as high or very high. This was followed by the courts (65 percent), then media (46 percent), then government (43 percent).

Infografik Deutschlandtrend Trust in institutions EN

However the polling also showed a significant east-west split. In western states, 85 percent of people said they held a high or very high level of trust in the police, while only 69 percent of their eastern compatriots responded similarly.

Meanwhile, only half of easterners said they had a high level of trust in the court system, compared with almost seven in ten westerners.

Read more: Chemnitz and Kandel: How hashtags shape German politics

Just 29 percent of easterners said they trusted the media, compared with 52 percent of westerners.

Meanwhile, the government enjoyed the trust of 46 percent of people in western states compared with 39 percent in the east.

Little satisfaction with government's work

In figures showing how opinion was split across the political spectrum about the government's performance, only supporters of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the CSU showed a majority who were satisfied. Even then, 47 percent said they were not happy.

Infografik Deutschlandtrend Regierungszufriedenheit EN

More than two-thirds of supporters of junior coalition member the Social Democrats said they were not satisfied. That figure broadly corresponds to the proportion of party membership that voted to enter in to a coalition with Merkel's conservatives.

Read more: Far-right AfD to disband youth groups over police surveillance

Least satisfied were supporters of the far-right anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, 98 percent of whom were unhappy with the government's performance.

Surveillance of the far-right?

One question posed by pollsters showed that, despite fears about migration across Germany, there was also concern about the activities of the AfD.

When asked if they felt the AfD should by subject to formal surveillance by Germany's intelligence services, 65 percent of respondents agreed. The polling showed that most supporters of all political parties other than the AfD were in favor of surveillance.

Infografik Deutschlandtrend AfD Verfassungsschutz EN

The AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote in Germany's September 2017 election, parlaying concerns about Merkel's liberal immigration policies to become the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in five decades.

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.