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Germans are more optimistic about their future than their European neighbours

The refugee crisis, Brexit, growing populism – recently there has been a spate of events and trends that have completely transformed the political landscape in Europe. But in Germany, these changes predominantly seem to be fostering the need for stability. Our new "eupinions" study shows that the Germans are much more optimistic and satisfied than other Europeans.

Unity and satisfaction at a time of upheaval – this, in a nutshell, describes the prevailing mood in Germany, according to our latest "eupinions" opinion poll. What is striking is that the Germans feel significantly more positive than their European neighbours and that they rate their own country much more highly than the EU. Moreover, the political centre is stronger in Germany than it is in any of the other major EU countries. The opinion poll results are representative of the EU as a whole as well as the six largest member states France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain.

The positive mood among German citizens was most noticeable when they rated the current state of their country and its democracy. In both categories, Germans feel a greater sense of optimism than any of their fellow EU members. 59 percent of Germans are content with the development of their own country and 63 percent are satisfied with German democracy. German citizens' approval of their own country's development has skyrocketed since March 2017. In spring, only 32 percent of Germans felt that their country was moving in the right direction. By summer, that figure was up to 59 percent. 

Large dissatisfaction in Italy

Italians were the least satisfied with their own country, with only 13 percent approving. In France, which has elected Emmanuel Macron as its new President, pessimists are still in the majority, although their numbers have fallen significantly. While only 12 percent of French people felt that their country was moving in the right direction in spring, this figure jumped to 36 percent in summer 2017.

It appears as if German citizens have few economic woes too. Three quarters of people (77 percent) believe the economic situation has either improved (34 percent) or remained the same (43 percent). In Italy, the bottom country in this category, over half of the respondents (54 percent) believe that the economic situation has worsened.

Strong in the centre, weak on the fringes: political attitudes in Germany

Compared to the other major EU states, it is noticeable that political attitudes in Germany are very moderate and predominantly centrist. 80 percent of Germans consider themselves to be centrist, which is a greater share than any of the other five major EU countries. The majority of those Germans (44 percent) place themselves on the centre-left. France has the strongest political fringes compared to the other EU states. Around one half of French people revealed that their views are either left (24 percent) or right (25 percent) of centre.

Whether in Germany, France or the EU as a whole, one rule seems to apply: those who are dissatisfied lean more towards the right. Of those who consider themselves to be right-wing in Germany (7 percent), 63 percent are dissatisfied with the state of democracy in Germany and 65 percent are dissatisfied with the state of democracy in the EU. 77 percent of them believe that the EU is moving in the wrong direction, and only half of those in Germany who consider themselves to be right-wing would vote in favour of their country remaining in the EU.

There are therefore significant differences in all of these categories between those who consider themselves to be right-wing, and those who hold centre-right, centre-left or left-wing views. This means the same trend that exists in other European nations can be observed in Germany too. However, the proportion of Germans who consider themselves to be right-wing (7 percent) is still very low – compared to a 25-percent share in France, for example.

This is how the citizens in the largest EU member states - except the United Kingdom - and in the EU-28 would vote if their countries held a referendum about their EU memberships.

Germany benefiting from strong economic figures

Anyone wanting to know why no real political controversy was emerging in the current Bundestag election campaign could find the answers in the current "eupinions" figures, stated Project Leader Isabell Hoffmann:

"Brexit, Trump and the dramatic election campaigns in France, Austria and the Netherlands have seemingly made a real impression on many Germans and convinced them that their country is doing well in relative terms."

Isabell Hoffmann, "eupinions" Project Leader

The country was still benefiting from its broad political centre and its good economic figures. One decisive factor would be whether, following its probable entry into the Bundestag, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party succeeded in using controversial issues such as asylum and migration to profoundly polarise the political debate, just as its European sister parties had done.