A new Allensbach Institute poll says German leaders in politics and business have overcome their initial shock at the UK vote to leave the EU. Looking to the future, they see dim prospects for Britons on the horizon.
Political and business elites believe it's a mistake to have the public vote directly on far-reaching decisions such as leaving the EU. They probably believe the British people made the wrong decision when a majority voted for exiting the European Union. An opinion poll conducted among leaders in Germany saw 74 percent of them affirming that such decisions should, preferably, be taken by parliaments.
"Leaders were rather shocked by the Britons," said Renate Köcher, managing director of the Allensbach Institute, which conducted the survey. Now that the die is cast, most of them advocate adopting a clear position: Some 56 percent of those polled believe the EU should systematically deprive Britain of the advantages of membership.
"Now, almost 90 percent of business leaders find that the EU has to undergo comprehensive reforms," Köcher said, pointing out that politicians see this need to reform in much lesser numbers, at 63 percent.
In view of the new situation faced by member states, top-flight politicians and managers have come to their senses again. Britain's exit will only have minor repercussions, according to 77 percent, with only 15 percent expecting a major fallout.
Almost half of the business people expect few consequences for their respective businesses, with medium-sized companies in particular feeling rather safe (55 percent). However, as a result of the "Leave" vote, decision makers reduced their expectations regarding economic development. Prior to the "Brexit" referendum, 40 percent expected an upward movement. After the vote, that figure dwindled to a mere 32 percent. A narrow majority of those polled, however, still anticipate a stable situation.
More appreciation for the government's refugee policy
Once again, leaders' attitudes towards the federal government's refugee policy were an important subject in the intermittent poll. All in all, that policy was viewed more positively than one year ago. "This time, about two thirds of those polled agree with the current course. Obviously, this is because there was no further escalation of the problem. On the contrary, there was a marked dip in refugee numbers," Köcher said. However, 31 percent believe that this decline in numbers is a permanent one.
What's more, a relatively small number of those polled feel that Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet of ministers will succeed in combating the root causes of migration and flight in refugees' countries of origin. A total of 29 percent think it is possible to improve living conditions in the countries of origin in the medium term. Once again, politicians are much more optimistic than top business people in this respect (40 percent v 27 percent, respectively).
When it comes to judging the work of Germany's Grand Coalition, the majority of decision makers from the business world allocate bad marks: 54 percent are disappointed. Politicians, by contrast, hold Merkel's crew in a much higher regard, with 58 percent of them expressing their satisfaction. The Chancellor is currently viewed as a little less assertive (77 percent compared to the previous year's 83 percent). Only a little more than half of those polled still call her a prudent strategist (as opposed to 67 percent in 2015). However, Merkel received a boost when it came to assessing her competence and expertise. "No previous chancellor had similar expertise figures," affirmed Köcher. A majority (61 percent) still believe the Chancellor is "trustworthy" - 50 percent had expressed such a view in 2014, and a remarkable 70 percent in 2015.
A glimpse into the minds of decision makers
The elite opinion poll has been conducted on a regular basis since 1987. This time, 350 executives from major companies were sounded out in June and July, followed by 100 leading politicians. According to the Allensbach institute, those polled included 23 state premiers and federal government and state ministers.
The survey is drawn up on behalf of "FAZ" daily and "Capital" monthly publications, whose readers may view themselves as an elite group in its own right. Köcher, however, also has non-elite recipients in mind: she believes that they can make better judgments if they know what leaders think. What's more, "Capital" Editor-in-Chief Horst von Buttlar feels that the poll helps him find out what the subjects really think: "Usually, we only get filtered opinions of those polled," the journalist said.