In less than 100 days, Germans will go to the polls to vote for a new parliament. The latest opinion polls show that the coronavirus pandemic is overshadowing all other concerns.
It's summertime. Germans are preparing for their vacation, coronavirus infection rates are low. But still: The delta variant is spreading across the country at considerable speed — 50% of all infections are now with the delta variant and even those who have been vaccinated twice now face restrictions again: Everybody who returns to Germany from the UK, Portugal, or Russia now has to quarantine for two weeks upon return.
62% of the 1,300 German voters polled in the latest survey from pollster infratest-dimap said they are expecting a fourth wave of COVID-19.The fate of children is the biggest concern: Will schools reopen after the summer break? Whether schools are prepared has been a topic of heated debate over and over again in the past year.
Despite the fear of another dramatic rise in infections, Germans have a positive view of economic development; 60% of those polled believe the country's economy is healthy and growing. Green party supporters are the most optimistic: 87% of them say the economy is in good shape.
If the general election were now rather than on September 26, Angela Merkel's conservative bloc — the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) — would again emerge strongest. They would get 28% of the vote — down from 33% at the last election in 2017.
The Green party, which was leading in the polls briefly in April, would come second at around 20%, almost doubling their support compared to 2017.
The Social Democrats (SPD), currently in government as the junior coalition partner to the CDU/CSU, would come in third. While they won over 20% of the vote in 2017, they now stand at 15% in all opinion polls. This would be the SPD's worst result in postwar history.
According to the latest poll, the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is currently the biggest opposition party in the German parliament, the Bundestag, would lose support compared to 2017 and garner 11% —the same as the pro-market Free Democrats (FDP), which has seen its support rise over the past few months. The Left party would barely manage to pass the 5% threshold for representation in the parliament.
As no party is likely to get a majority of seats, coalition building will begin after the vote. The survey suggests that 39% of voters would like the conservatives to continue to head the government, to ensure stability and continuity. 19% of those polled would prefer a government headed by the Green party, but 22% say they have no preference.
The top candidate of the strongest party is expected to become Germany's next chancellor. Germans do not vote directly for a head of government. So the CDU's Armin Laschetpossibly has the best chances. Angela Merkel is not standing for reelection. Still, with the Green party naming a chancellor candidate for the first time — 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock,who has since been through a rollercoaster in opinion polls — the question of who is the most popular candidate has been getting a lot of attention from domestic media. Lately, SPD candidate Olaf Scholz, currently finance minister, has turned out to be more popular than his party and ahead of the other two candidates.
German voters overall seem not to have an appetite for radical change: Only one-third of those polled said they wanted fundamental policy changes.
This article was translated from German.
While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.