Few Germans afraid of coronavirus | In Depth | DW | 06.03.2020
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In Depth

Few Germans afraid of coronavirus

Most Germans are not overly worried about the coronavirus outbreak and feel the country's health officials have the situation under control. But they're more divided on accepting refugees and Germany's political makeup.

Medical face masks and disinfectant have become hard to come by in Germany lately. It's no wonder as growing numbers of coronavirus infections are being reported in the country. Few people in Germany are bulk buying food– even though demand for pasta, canned food, wheat, oil and toilet paper has shot up.

Read more: When will 'hamsterkauf' become an English word?

While fear of contracting the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has increased in recent weeks, most Germans (76%) remain calm, a representative survey shows. The study was commissioned by public broadcaster ARD, and carried out in March by pollster infratest-dimap.

Watch video 02:35

How worried are Germans about the coronavirus?

It shows that 51% of those surveyed approve of German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who this week called the virus a "worldwide pandemic" that has yet to "reach its peak" in Germany. The approval rating makes him Germany's second-most popular politician behind Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has an approval rating of 53%. Spahn is Germany's most popular health minister in the history of the poll.

Poll of Germans' views on the coronavirus

Don't forget to wash your hands!

Spahn has been making daily public announcements on the virus and advising people on what they can do to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19. But are they heeding his advice to carefully scrub their hands, and avoid large events drawing big crowds? This was one question asked in the survey.

Graphic showing Germans are washing their hands more often

Quarter of Germans prefer tough stance on migration

The poll also looked at how Germans feel about the turbulent situation along the Turkish-Greek border, where thousands of migrants have gathered but are being blocked by Greek border forces from entering the European Union.

Read more: Opinion: What happened to Europe's stand on human rights?

According to the survey, 57% of Germans approve of letting them enter would like to see them distributed throughout the bloc. 41% of those asked, however, oppose this.

Graphic showing Germans' views by party to taking in refugees

The survey indicates that 42% of Germans would prefer to prevent all refugees from entering the EU. Supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were found to be especially opposed to refugees (87%), followed by 54% of those backing the free-market Liberals (FDP), and 44% of those who support the Christian Democrats (CDU) or its Bavarian sister-part the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The survey also focused on whether people think Germany and France should take in refugees if other EU states fail to take concerted action. 

Watch video 03:43

Refugees pushed from both sides of the Turkey-EU border

Can the EU-Turkey migrant deal be salvaged?

Only about a third of respondents said they would like to see greater financial assistance for Turkey to save the EU-Turkey migrant deal – 59% said they oppose such payments.

The 2016 deal that obliged Turkey to prevent asylum-seekers from traveling on towards Europe in exchange for €6 billion, meanwhile, was never a hit with Germans in the first place. It is supported by most FDP (75% in favor and 23% against) and CDU/CSU voters (61% to 31%), as well as SPD supporters (57% to 39%). Most AfD voters reject the deal (31% to 69%). Green (50% to 47%) and Left party (46% to 54%) supporters are somewhat divided over the agreement.

Read more: Migrants at Turkish-Greek border: 'We want another life'

The fallout from the Thuringia debacle

The latest Deutschlandtrend poll also examined people's opinions on the CDU. Many party members find it hard to accept its decision to ban all cooperation with Germany's Left party and the right-wing AfD.

Read more: Opinion: Thuringia's election atonement

But this puts the CDU in an awkward position in eastern Germany, where it has become increasingly difficult to form parliamentary majorities without including the Left party or AfD.  What do Germans make of the CDU's refusal to cooperate with either? Many, the poll shows, take a nuanced view on the issue.

infographic showing if Germans agree the CDU should cooperate with the Greens and AfD

Who should lead the CDU?

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) recently announced she will step down as CDU leader. A party conference will be held in late April to pick her successor. Former CDU parliamentary group head Friedrich Merz, North Rhine-Westphalia's state Premier Armin Laschet, and foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen are all vying for the top job.

None of the three candidates, however, is particularly popular with those surveyed. Roughly a third of interviewees (35%) said they would support Merz, while a quarter (24%) expressed support for Laschet. Only a small number of respondents (12%) said they backed Norbert Röttgen. Among those respondents who identified as CDU voters, Merz had the greatest support (40%).     

AfD approval ratings are down

The next CDU party leader will, most likely, also run for the chancellorship. If a general election were held right now, the CDU and Greens would probably win enough seats to form a coalition government.

The survey shows that the SPD is growing in popularity, and that only 12% of those polled would cast their ballot for the AfD. Germany's grand coalition — comprising the CDU, CSU and SPD — no longer has the approval of most Germans. Instead, judging by parties' approval ratings, an alliance between the CDU and Greens would be possible, as well as a coalition comprising the Greens, SPD and Left party – or among the CDU, Greens and FDP.  

Graph showing how Germans would vote if elections were held on Sunday

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