As with previous elections, Qriously has conducted a series of polls in Germany to measure election sentiment leading into the German election, to be held on 24 September.
After a tense election campaign, our results show Merkel is likely to remain as Chancellor – with her CDU / CSU coalition still the biggest party in the Bundestag – but we also see a dramatic surge from the far-right AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), who look poised to break the 10% barrier easily.
MERKEL TO REMAIN CHANCELLOR
After removing undecided voters, and those who self-identify as less likely to vote (or indicate they would not vote at all), we see Merkel’s CDU / CSU coalition clearly in the lead with 31% of the vote. We also have SPD on 23% – a similar result to other pollsters, and indicating that a CDU / CSU coalition with SPD remains a likely proposition.
Although the AfD are unlikely to enter into coalition with either of the major parties – given the negative consequences this would have for Merkel or Schultz – this does emphasise how frustrated many Germans are with the current political system, again echoing France’s election earlier this year, where Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen shocked the French electoral establishment.
AfD’s SUPPORT BUOYED BY CONCERNS ABOUT REFUGEES
When we asked German voters to give us their assessment of the most important issues facing Germany, immigration and refugees topped the list – seen as a major concern by 59% of the German electorate.
Clearly, not all of those respondents are voting for AfD; but it does imply that refugees and the overall immigration levels to Germany are a hot-button issue in German politics today, even among centrist voters, and that some voters feel strongly enough about the issue to switch allegiances from the centre-right CDU / CSU to the more extreme AfD.
More damning for Chancellor Merkel personally, is a direct question about her approach to refugees in Germany. 61% of voters said that the number of refugees in Germany was now too high – implying a strong discontent with the way the Chancellor has handled the situation. Germany’s open-door policy clearly still resonates negatively with voters, even years after the initial waves of refugees arrived in Germany.
Despite the above figure implying dissatisfaction with her refugee policy, Germans still see Merkel as a far more effective leader than her rival, Martin Schulz. Her personal popularity remains strong, despite the widespread conception that her government mishandled the refugee crisis.
However, despite her obvious strength over Schulz, there is a sizeable 33% of respondents who are uncommitted either way, many of whom are seeking a third option for Germany. This implies that Merkel’s fortunes may be beginning to turn – that the refugee crisis, and other perceived missteps, still have the potential to topple her – even if she remains in power following Sunday’s election.
MANY GERMANS ARE WORRIED ABOUT RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM
Despite AfD’s strong performance this election, 51% of voters indicate they are worried about the rise of right-wing extremists – a far greater proportion than the respondents worried about left-wing extremism (just 20%).
THIS DECISION WAS A TOUGH ONE
If we take all likely voters, 20% are still undecided. Up to a week before the general election, almost a fifth of the electorate is yet to make up their minds. This implies that the decision is a tough one for many Germans.
Taken together, our results imply that Germany is a country that is becoming increasingly fractured politically. The population is widely concerned about immigration, with a portion of society (about 14%) choosing to vote with AfD to express their dislike of the situation; but many people still support Merkel, and over half of the German electorate is disturbed by the meteoric rise of AfD and what that might mean for German democracy.
Regardless of the rise of AfD, Germany’s personalised proportional representation electoral system makes it very unlikely that they will form a part of the next government. Merkel will almost certainly remain Prime Minister, most likely in the same coalition as the current government (CDU / CSU / SPD).
But the rise of the AfD will send shockwaves around Germany, and – with 14% of the vote – they look poised to make their voices heard on the Bundestag opposition benches. The rise of the far-right in Europe continues.
1313 likely voters, interviewed from 15 September to 21 September 2017
Weighted on gender, age, region and past vote (2013) to match German census figures.