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Germany's far-right AfD sees poll numbers surging

June 2, 2023

Polls see Germany's center-left coalition government in free fall while the far-right populist AfD is reaping the benefits. It currently polls on par with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats.

AfD campaign poster reading: 'Germany. But normal. AfD'
The AfD is campaining for a 'normal' Germany, opposing the center-left governmentImage: Revierfoto/dpa/picture alliance

Never before have voters in Germany been this unhappy with the current coalition government: Only one in five says they are doing a good job. The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) are plummeting in the polls, after only one and a half years in office.

This is according to pollster infratest-dimap who surveyed 1300 eligible voters on May 30 and 31, 2023, and published the results in its monthly "Deutschlandtrend."

The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is the main beneficiary. Its approval ratings have gone up by another 2% since May and, if elections were held now, would win 18% nationwide putting them on a par with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's SPD. In several eastern states, the AfD has long been the strongest party.

The center-right bloc of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the regional Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) which led most West German governments since the end of WW II, is polling at a steady 29%.

In the general election in 2021, the CDU/CSU managed only a weak 24.1%. The SPD, however, won 25.7%, the FDP 11.5%, and the Green Party 14.8% of the vote. In the following months, the Greens saw their support rise to 23% by the summer of 2022 but have been losing ground again since then, slipping again to 15% this month. The FDP polls at 7%. And the opposition post-communist Left Party would narrowly fail to clear the 5% threshold required for representation in the Bundestag.

Why is the AfD gaining ground?

In the latest survey, the pollsters paid particular attention to the AfD sympathizers. They asked them what their main reason would be to vote for the far-right and found that it is mainly dissatisfaction with all the other parties, and especially the government. Only 32% claim to fully support the AfD's policies.

When asked about the issues that prompt them to vote for the AfD, an overwhelming majority of respondents named the far-right's critical stance on immigration. 47% said they side with the AfD in its opposition to the government's climate and environment energy policies, and 43% said they were concerned about the economy.

The coalition partners in Berlin have been arguing for months about conversion plans to switch to climate-friendly heating in houses. Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has drafted a law to come into effect in 2024, mandating that all new heating systems installed would have to use 65% renewable energy instead of oil or natural gas.

Voters are split on the issue: 45% believe the ban on fossil fuel heating is fundamentally right, while 49% oppose it. 67% say they are worried that they won't be able to shoulder the financial burden of installing the new heating systems.

Support for Ukraine

At the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, in May, several Western countries, including the United States, announced their intention to supply US-built F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Ukraine has also asked for German Eurofighter combat aircraft, but the government is hesitant. And this seems to be in line with the general sentiment: Only 28% of respondents in the latest survey support the delivery of German fighter jets to Ukraine. Only Green Party voters are split on the matter.

Overall, support for weapons deliveries to Ukraine is declining, only a minority believes that the arms deliveries should be stepped up.

The call for diplomacy is mounting: 55% now say the German government's attempts at reaching negotiations to end the fighting should be intensified. 80% support imposing sanctions against Russia, with 42% saying they could even be expanded.

This article was originally written in German.

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