Germany's governing coalition has shot up in approval ratings amid the massive public health crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has dropped.
Week-long curfews, the curtailing of civil liberties, shuttered shops and restaurants, apps that track peoples' movements, and unprecedented public debt are themes we might encounter in dystopian movies. But these days, with the German government imposing ever stricter measures to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, such flicks pale in comparison with reality.
Yet most Germans of voting age approve of the measures imposed, according to a survey commissioned by public broadcaster ARD and conducted by infratest dimap. Across the political spectrum, Germans deem the steps taken appropriate. Indeed, 72% of those surveyed said they are satisfied with the government's handling of the crisis. Only three out of ten are critical of the government.
A month ago, 25% of Germans said they feared they or their relatives could contract the novel coronavirus. Now, 51% worry this could happen. There is little variation between age groups in this context. While 53% of those over the age of 65 said they were worried about catching the virus, 45% of those under the age of 40 reported such concerns.
Germans support social distancing
A vast majority of Germans approve of the strict social distancing rules introduced across the country on March 23. Across the political spectrum, 93% believe they are appropriate.
According to the poll, about half of Germans would voluntarily install a smartphone app that tracks coronavirus infections and peoples' movements to warn users of a possible risk of contracting the pathogen. The other half rejects the app. Many cite data privacy issues.
Can German hospitals cope?
Two thirds of those polled said they have great or even overwhelming confidence that Germany's healthcare system and its doctors will manage to deal with the pandemic. Even so, four out of ten interviewees doubt Germany has sufficient resources to treat all patients. They are somewhat or even deeply concerned that not every patient will receive the medical treatment they need.
Civil liberties at risk?
Although there is broad support for the social distancing rules imposed across the country, four out of ten Germans worry civil liberties may not be restored after the pandemic has passed. Supporters of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Left party are most worried about this prospect. Also, 40% of those who identify as Christian Democratic Union (CDU) or Christian Social Union (CSU) voters share this fear.
Germans worry most about the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. 75% report great or extreme concern that Germany's economy will take a hit. So far, most Germans are not too worried about their own livelihood. Yet two-thirds of those interviewed said they fear their own financial situation could deteriorate.
Government's approval ratings up
Overall, the government's approval ratings are up. While in early March, six out of ten Germans said they disapproved the government's track record, this has now reversed. The governing coalition — comprising the Social Democrats (SPD), Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) — is the most popular government since public broadcaster ARD began commissioning this survey series in 1997.
The coalition is not only popular with SPD, CDU and CSU voters, however. Many supporters of the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) approve of the government's recent policymaking as well. As do half of Left party sympathizers. Still, only one in six AfD voters support the coalition.
CDU and CSU are most popular
How, then, would voters cast their ballots if a general election were held on Sunday?
The SPD is benefiting the least from the government's approval rating surge — only 16% of those polled would vote for them. SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is the only SPD lawmaker with improved ratings. He scored a rating of 63% (+17 compared to last month), which puts him almost on the same footing as Chancellor Merkel with a rating of 64% (+11).
Health Minister Jens Spahn's approval ratings (60%; +9) and those of Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier (51%; +13 compared to January) have reached record highs in this parliamentary term. Both Spahn and Altmaier belong to the CDU party. Evidently, Germans approve of lawmakers who take matters into their hands amid this crisis, as Bavarian state premier Markus Söder's approval ratings (58%; +16) indicate.