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EU vote: Germans worry about peace, security and immigration

May 31, 2024

The European Parliament election is just around the corner. In Germany, one in four people will not go to the polls. A new survey shows that those who do may want to punish the federal government.

German policeman as part of a border patrol in Greece
One of Germans' main concers is immigration and Berlin has already sent police to help the Greek coast guardImage: Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

The elections for the EU Parliament are the world's second-largest exercise in democracy after India's general election. Around 450 million EU citizens will be called upon to vote for the European Parliament from June 6-9. Germany fields 96 of the 720 EU lawmakers.

Campaigners have been out and about for weeks, but many eligible voters show little interest: Four out of ten say they are not planning to cast their ballot on June 9.

This is according to the latest ARD-Deutschlandtrend survey by pollster infratest-dimap which surveyed 1515 eligible voters aged 16 and over, between May 27 and 29.

They compared the results to those of the previous EU election in 2019. Back then, voter turnout in Germany was just over 61% — well below the 76% turnout in the last general election in 2021.

SPD, Greens, and FDP lose support

As things stand, the center-right bloc of Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) has a good chance of once again coming out on top. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrat Party (SPD), the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the environmentalist Green Party, which form Germany's ruling federal coalition government, are all set to fall behind their respective results from 2019. The Greens, in particular, are likely to remain far below the record 20.5% of the vote they garnered in the previous EU election.

The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), sees ascandal-ridden European election campaign taking its toll: The party is set to fare better than five years ago, but at 14% of the vote would fall short of its own expectations.

Blending left-leaning economic policies with conservative migration and populist pro-Russian foreign policy initiatives, the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW), a grouping that formed a few months ago when its leader and her allies broke away from the Left Party, stands to garner 6% of the vote, well ahead of the Left, the populist Free Voters and the FDP.

EU election: Will Germans vote left, right, or far right?

Shifting priorities, lack of enthusiasm

However, only half of those surveyed said they had decided whom to vote for. When asked about the key political issues determining which party they would choose, peace, social security and immigration came top. This choice of topics differs from the previous election five years ago, when climate and environmental protection topped the list of priorities for German voters.

In 2019, German voters had a much more positive take on the European Union than they currently do. Only four out of ten German respondents to the survey said they believe that EU membership brings mainly advantages for Germany. For 19%, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

Five years ago, 55% of respondents were in favor of transferring national powers to the EU, but support has now fallen to 48%.

Worried about the future

Many voters have a pessimistic outlook. BSW and AfD supporters are generally skeptical or even hostile towards the EU. However, half of all SPD, Green and CDU/CSU supporters also expressed concern about the EU's future. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Germany's CDU, is seeking re-election. Only four out of ten respondents support her ambitions — mainly supporters of the CDU/CSU, SPD and Greens.

The infratest-dimap pollsters also conducted a separate national poll for which they surveyed 1479 eligible voters.

In this poll, the majority expressed concern about increasing far-right extremism in Germany. A majority shared the outrage over a video that went viral last week, showing young partygoers on the posh holiday island of Sylt, singing racist chants. It is not an isolated incident in Germany. However, 75% of AfD supporters said they had no problem with it.

Two-thirds of respondents see the AfD as a threat to democracy in Germany. A growing majority of 75% accuse the party of having too many right-wing extremists in its ranks. At the same time, however, 44% of respondents agree with the AfD that immigration should be curbed. The survey showed 18% support for the AfD, which puts it in second place nationwide, although it has seen a 4% drop in support since January 2024.

74% of respondents expressed general dissatisfaction with the work of Berlin's coalition government of SPD, Greens and FDP. Only a quarter approve of what it has achieved since taking office at the end of 2021.

Only one in five Germans believe, however, that the CDU/CSU, which governed Germany for decades and again has a lead in the polls, would be better at solving the current problems. Half of all respondents said they expect no improvement and one in six expects things to get even worse if the CDU/CSU regain power in Berlin in the 2025 general election.

This article was originally written in German.

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