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Ukraine war sparks major shift in Germany's energy opinions

Rebecca Staudenmaier
April 7, 2022

To cover the energy gaps from Russia, most Germans are now willing to tolerate longer nuclear plant running times, as well as oil and gas imports from other totalitarian states, a new poll has shown.

Protesters hold signs reading "embargo on Russian oil and gas" at a demonstration in support of Ukraine outside the German Bundestag in Berlin
A new opinion poll shows that the war has forced attitudes to shift in Germany Image: Annette Riedl/dpa/picture alliance

Russia's invasion of Ukraine — and the difficult untangling of Europe's reliance on energy imports from Moscow — have prompted a major public re-think of Germany's energy policies, a new poll has shown.

A majority support suspending the country's nuclear power phase out, with 53% saying the plants should stay open for now, according to the latest Deutschlandtrend opinion poll.

The findings represent a substantial shift in public opinion over keeping the lights on at Germany's remaining nuclear power plants. The final plants are currently slated to close later in 2022, most have shut down already.

A graph showing the Deutschlandtrend poll results regarding German public support for different energy policy solutions
In another surprising shift, most Germans also said they back 'temporary' speed limits on the country's infamously limit-less Autobahn

Another 58% said that boosting oil and gas imports from Qatar or Saudi Arabia would be a good idea to cover the Russian energy gap.

And an overwhelming majority support more quickly and extensively expanding renewable energies in Germany, with 87% saying the measure would be a good idea.

Public opinion in Germany is more split on the issue of importing fracking gas from the United States, with 45% considering it a bad idea.

In terms of boycotting Russian energy imports, 50% said they were in favor, while 42% said they opposed it.

A graph showing the Deutschlandtrend poll results regarding German public support for the country's parties
Only the Greens saw modest gains in support compared to March

Government's response 'does not go far enough'

The poll also revealed growing discontent with the German government's responsein the Ukraine war.

In the latest survey, some 45% of people said Berlin's response Russia's invasion "does not go far enough" — compared to 27% who believed so in March. This increasing public belief in too little action also coincides with the German government taking steps that until recently had seemed unthinkable — most notably halting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (seemingly for good), sending weapons to a hot conflict in Europe, and significantly boosting its defense spending.

Some 91% said they were very concerned about the people in Ukraine, while 80% were worried that Germany's economy would be hit hard by the conflict.

German politicians, including President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have come under fire in recent days by Ukrainian officials over Berlin's past Russian policies.

Support for Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition government — comprised of his center-left Social Democrats (SPD), environmentalist Greens, and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) — has stagnated in the polls.

Only the Greens logged a slight improvement, rising three points compared to March.

Most back COVID vaccine mandates

While lawmakers rejected an effort to implement a vaccine mandate for people over 60 on Thursday, public opinion is still narrowly in favor of such a measure.

A graph showing the Deutschlandtrend poll results regarding German public support for obligatory COVID-19 vaccines
A bid to implement a COVID jab mandate for over 60s in Germany failed in parliament earlier on Thursday

The Deutschlandtrend poll showed 46% of those surveyed support obligatory COVID jabs for all adults. Another 13% backed a measure that would apply for people over 50-years-old.

A majority of those surveyed, 57%, said they believed the government's relaxation of pandemic curbs was a bad idea.

Edited by: Mark Hallam