Poll: Brexit vote boosts support for EU in Germany | News | DW | 08.07.2016
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Poll: Brexit vote boosts support for EU in Germany

The Brexit debate has boosted appreciation of the European Union in Germany - which also helps Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ruling coalition. The Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party lost out in the bargain.

The Brexit debate seems to have brought some Germans closer to the European Union. At least those are the findings of the monthly Deutschlandtrend political opinion polls conducted by Infratest dimap. Just over half of those surveyed, 52 percent, said EU membership was beneficial overall; only 11 percent said Germany was hindered by membership.

The previous poll, conducted just before the UK's referendum vote to leave the European Union, delivered an approval rate of 39 percent. The authors of the survey suspect that the intensive reporting on the issue of Brexit and reports on the benefits of EU membership contributed to improving public perception of the bloc within Germany. The majority of those questioned said the EU provided security (74 percent) and prosperity (79 percent).

Three-quarters of Germans would like to see more intensive cooperation within the European Union, for instance on refugee policy, energy issues and data protection. Precisely what form of cooperation is desired seems unclear, considering that 61 percent of those surveyed were of the opinion that the European Union already meddles too much in domestic politics.

Skepticism over referendum

The British plebiscite, delivering a very narrow majority on an extremely broad question with major implications, also sparked a debate on a different topic: Does holding a referendum make sense on a key issue?

Compared with findings in 2011, Germans have become considerably more wary about the value of referendums as a democratic instrument. But the opinion is mixed - with 42 percent of citizens saying a referendum delivers a better answer than parliament can, and 49 percent saying it does not.

Voters for the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) were, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost unanimously in favor of public votes - with 88 percent approving of them. Less-educated participants also delivered a more favorable appraisal than the average, at 44 percent, while just 23 percent university graduates praised referendums' merits.

Bump for Merkel

As always, Infratest dimap also asked what's known in Germany as the "Sunday question," namely: "If general elections took place this Sunday, which party would you vote for?"

Compared to previous months, the atmosphere improved slightly for the ruling coalition of Christian and Social Democrats.

Thirty-four percent said they would vote for the Christian Democrats (CDU) or Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), up 2 points from June's figures. CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel also received a boost in her personal approval rating - 59 percent satisfaction with her work is a 2016 high.

Coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) also climbed, by one percentage point, to 22 percent. All the opposition parties held station, bar one.

As the grand coalition regained support, the AfD's numbers slipped 3 points, to 12 percent nationwide. It seems at least plausible that the Brexit debate and the discussions about the benefits of EU membership put a dent in the Euroskeptic party's support. However, 12 percent would still comfortably suffice for the AfD to qualify for the first time for national parliament representation when Germany votes in general elections just over a year from now.

The Deutschlandtrend survey consulted 1,004 people for this month's research, interviewing them on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

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