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Ukraine, economy are Germans' concerns for 2023

January 5, 2023

The war in Ukraine, inflation and a fair distribution of financial burdens are the top issues on German voters' minds, according to the January 2023 edition of the monthly Deutschlandtrend survey.

The Brandenburg Gate illuminated during New Year's Eve celebrations
German voters have shifted some priorities in the new yearImage: Christophe Gateau/dpa/picture alliance

A new year has begun, but the crises of 2022 continue to shape German politics, according to an infratest-dimap survey of 1,314 eligible voters conducted online and by telephone from January 4 to 6.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war was the main response when voters were asked "What is the most important problem that German politicians should deal with?" However, the level of concern has fallen considerably since the summer of 2022.

Energy security was stated as the main concern of one in five respondents, followed by climate change. That 13% of those polled now cite immigration as a topic of major concern (up 9% from June 2022) may be a reflection of the renewed debate triggered by violence against police and emergency workers on New Year's Eve, which populists are seeking to blame on migrant youth.

Overall, support for the government's policies on Ukraine remains high: 41% say they consider Germany's weapons deliveries adequate, and 35% deem the sanctions against Russia to be appropriate. The federal government's diplomatic efforts, on the other hand, have fallen short of respondents' expectations: 52% would like to see them stepped up.

Before Germany's reunification in 1990, East Germany (GDR) had close relations with the Soviet Union. In today's eastern Germany, this is still reflected in widespread support for Russia and corresponding skepticism towards the NATO alliance. Now, 40% of respondents in eastern Germany said they felt that arms deliveries to Ukraine were going too far, while only 29% saw the amount as appropriate; 34% of respondents in eastern Germany felt that sanctions against Russia were too harsh.

Energy security

Half of German households heat with natural gas, and industrial production is also dependent on this source of energy, which was provided mainly by Russia. But now, there are no more Russian gas or oil supplies and energy has become much more expensive, driving up the cost of living. This is disproportionately affecting low-income households. More people are feeling left behind. Back in September 2021, around one in two German voters said they believed that conditions were fair in German society, the figure is currently only at 36%.

The mood resembles that of 2010, during the economic and financial crisis. Now, in particular, low-income earners and those with a low level of formal education, as well as supporters of Germany's far-right and far-left are critical of the government's response to the multiple crises. Across party lines, 53% say the financial support pledged by the government to offset the price hikes is inadequate.

Still, the majority of respondents have a positive outlook on what 2023 holds in store for them personally. Only one in five said they expect a turn for the worse. This may be put down to the low unemployment rate. Despite the high inflation, few companies have had to lay off staff — on the contrary: There is a marked shortage of skilled workers. Therefore, the pollsters asked about solutions to this problem.

Immigration of skilled workers

Few respondents favor the proposal to increase the retirement age beyond the current 67 years. But there is widespread support for proposals to increase qualified immigration. A large majority of respondents believe that a wage hike would make jobs more attractive.

The pandemic, one of the issues that topped the list of concerns for the past three years, is now perceived as less and less of a problem. Currently, a number of restrictions are still in place, including requirements to wear masks on public transport and to isolate at home in case of infection. Most of the respondents still see the measures as adequate.

Support for the federal government, which was in steady decline throughout 2022, has seen a bit of an uptick. Still, only one in three respondents gave the government good marks. In January yet again, the current three-way center-left coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), environmentalist Greens, and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) would lose its majority if there were a general election right now.

The center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), with their regional Bavarian partner the Christian Social Union (CSU), would come out strongest with 29%. This conservative alliance has been in power for most of (West) Germany's post-World War II governments.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany remains strong, at 15%. Its supporters are vehemently opposed to the current government and its policies. All other parties have been adamant that they would not team up with the far-right. The post-communist Left Party again polled at 5%, which is the threshold for any party to gain representation in the federal parliament, the Bundestag.

This article was originally written in German.

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