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German government approval drops ahead of Easter

Wesley Dockery
April 1, 2021

Germans increasingly disapprove of the federal government's performance, particularly in combating the pandemic, as coronavirus infections spike across the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Image: Markus Schreiber/AP Photo/picture alliance

The German government is facing a massive loss in public support ahead of Easter, according to the latest Deutschlandtrend monthly survey. 

Only 35% of Germans said they were satisfied with the federal government this April, with 64% expressing their disapproval towards Berlin. This is a massive shift from November of last year, when around 70% expressed approval.

Graphic showing share of people voicing either satisfaction or dissatisfaction with German government.
Spotting the change in mood during 2021 is not particularly challenging

The survey showed 58% of Germans were either satisfied or very satisfied with Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership, making her the most popular political figure in the survey. Bavarian state premier and Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Markus Söder is the second most popular at 54% approval, with Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas ranking third at 43% satisfaction.

Germany hit by 3rd virus wave

How do Germans view the federal and state response to the pandemic?

The survey showed only 19% of Germans were satisfied with the federal and state response to the coronavirus pandemic as of April, with 79% disapproving of the current approach. As recently as December, public approval of the pandemic response hovered around 60%.

Graphic showing evolution of people's satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the cooperation between Germany's federal government and its states when combating the pandemic.
The cooperation between Berlin and the states has come into sharp focus after some difficult meetings this year

The poor approval comes as infections rise across the country, with the German government also struggling to implement an efficient vaccine rollout. Merkel has called on citizens to respect social distancing rules during the upcoming Easter holiday.

Merkel recently apologized for a botched five-day lockdown plan during the Easter holiday, scrapping plans for last-minute extended restrictions for this Thursday and this coming Saturday. The U-turn resulted in calls for a vote of confidence in her government from opposition parties. 

How would Germans vote if an election were held this weekend?

As the pandemic worsens, Germans are increasingly souring on Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, with the CDU experiencing nearly a 10-point drop in support since mid-December. According to the April survey, if federal elections were held this Sunday, only 27% of Germans said they would vote for the CDU, with 22% voting for the Greens and 16% saying they would choose the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

	Infografik DT Sonntagsfrage April 2021 EN
The CDU/CSU has shed 6 points in a month, and roughly double that over the past six

In mid-December, the CDU had 36% support, with the Greens at 20%. The SPD remained at 16% during that time.

How do Germans view Merkel's possible successors?

Germans react to CDU leader-elect Armin Laschet

The survey also gauged how Germans view Merkel's most probable successors. CDU leader Armin Laschet and Söder are the top possible chancellor candidates for the CDU/CSU in September's federal election.

Only 19% of Germans believed Laschet would be a good CDU/CSU chancellor candidate as of April, with 54% saying Söder would be a good candidate. Söder has consistently outperformed Laschet in the poll on who would make for a better chancellor candidate.

Merkel recently criticized Laschet, who is also the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia. Merkel claimed Laschet and some other state leaders were refusing to implement tougher coronavirus restrictions, despite rising infections.

Laschet is seen as a centrist who would more closely mirror Merkel's consensus-based politics, while Söder has previously expressed more conservative views on issues such as migration. Söder has also taken a more draconian line in the pandemic than Laschet, who has often argued for soft touch restrictions. Here too, opinions seem to be swinging towards Söder, with a majority currently favoring a tougher lockdown.

The survey of 1,348 people was conducted from March 29 to March 30, with Germans being asked questions both online and by telephone.