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Germans' support for Russia sanctions steady — can it last?

July 8, 2022

Russia is supplying less and less gas and prices are rising. What will happen to solidarity with Ukraine when life gets tougher in Germany?

A heater in the color of the German flag, before wallpaper with euro symbols
With gas supply reduced, prices are rising and Germany is starting to feel the pinchImage: Michael Bihlmayer/CHROMORANGE/picture alliance

Never before in Germany's postwar history has a government had to deal with so many problems at once. In office for seven months now, the coalition of center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) started out with a pledge to lead Germany into a climate-neutral future. But then Russia invaded Ukraine in February, with serious consequences for Germany's economy — especially the defense and energy sectors.

As Russia cuts gas deliveries, Germany's energy supply is under threat and prices are rising. Now coal power plants, which are particularly harmful to the climate, are making a comeback.

About 1,300 eligible voters were polled in June by infratest dimap for the latest DeutschlandTrend survey. Fifty-two percent said they wanted to see Germany hold to its climate protection goals despite the current problems. Party preferences make a big difference: 83% of the Green voters — who are often young, urban and well-educated — want to stick to the goals.

Overall, 43% of respondents want to cut back on climate protection. This is the view of 69% of supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and 56% of the supporters for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union, which traditionally do well in rural areas and among the elderly.

Person holds up a sign at a Fridays for Future demonstration in Hanover
A majority of German voters — especially young people — put climate change atop their list of concernsImage: localpic/IMAGO

Dissatisfaction in many policy areas

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the government's response to the war in Ukraine. Sixty-six percent are not happy with the government's efforts to secure energy supplies. Sixty-seven percent find fault with budgetary and financial policy. Seventy-six percent found the government's attempts to ease the burden of rising prices to be insufficient.

Rising inflation is also reflected in the personal economic outlook of respondents. There is great concern about how things will develop in the coming year, though there are major regional differences. Seventy-two percent of respondents in western states rate their own economic situation as positive, but just 59% of respondents in the states of the former East Germany do.

But the majority of respondents said they were in favor of continuing the measures that are already in place. Two-thirds would like the €9 ($9.15) monthly ticket for regional trains and public transport to be extended beyond August. Fifty-six percent of respondents want the fuel tax reduction extended, with the exception of Green Party supporters: 80% of them oppose government investment in making fuel less expensive.

Graphic showing that respondents expect their personal economic situation to deteriorate

Will solidarity with Ukraine hold?

With every week that the war continues, the economic consequences for Germany become more apparent. Nevertheless, the majority of the population still backs the sanctions on Russia. 

Around 60% said they supported measures against Russia even if energy supplies were a problem and that was even if local businesses were disadvantaged. Fifty-seven percent said they supported the measures even if energy and grocery prices continued to rise.

There are major differences between western Germany and the east, where the majority still rejects sanctions on Russia.

Again though, responses differ along party lines. A majority of supporters of the Greens, CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP are in favor of maintaining the sanctions. Eighty percent of AfD voters oppose any sanctions that also have a detrimental effect on the German population.

Berlin party without restrictions

COVID-19 wave rolling

COVID-19 infection numbers have been rising markedly in recent weeks. Still, most protective measures have been scrapped. Opinions differ as to whether this is the right thing to do. Forty-seven percent say they support the government's health policy; 51% are opposed.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the SPD, has been warning of a dramatic rise in infections in the fall and winter, when more people will again be indoors. He announced that fresh restrictions would then be imposed.

Over 60% of respondents support the mandatory wearing of medical masks in public places, mandatory testing for all public events and mandatory vaccination of the vulnerable. School closures, however, are seen as unacceptable: 76% of respondents oppose them.

infographic showing respondents' party preferences

The Greens win, and the SPD loses

Overall, the federal government again failed to win over the majority of respondents in July. Although some politicians continue to buck the trend: Green Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck continues to be the most popular, just ahead of Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Only 44% of respondents say they are satisfied with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and FDP chairman and Finance Minister Christian Lindner has only 37% support.

The CDU and CSU remain the strongest political force, with 27% support. The Greens have risen to 23%, five points better than their 18% in September's general election. The SPD, however, continues to lose ground.

Support for the other parties remains unchanged, with the Left Party below the 5% threshold necessary to enter parliament.

This article was originally written in German.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

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