Our first poll on the 2021 German Federal Election points to a close race for the most Bundestag seats this September, with the three leading parties all putting forward candidates that have never before run for Chancellor. As Angela Merkel’s sixteen years in power come to an end, Germany will accordingly have a new leader following the election, with the next Chancellor widely expected to be either the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU)’s Armin Laschet or Alliance 90/The Greens’ Annalena Baerbock. 

The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that many Germans are in fact glad to have a new leader being elected in the September election: 41% of German respondents say they are happy Angela Merkel is not running for Chancellor in 2021. Alternatively, a quarter (26%) say they are unhappy that Merkel is not running, while 19% say they are indifferent. 

But while a plurality of Germans are happy Angela Merkel is not running, a third (32%) of respondents say they would have been more likely to vote CDU/CSU had Angela Merkel decided to remain as the party’s leader. That being said, a further third (32%) says they would be neither more nor less likely to vote CDU/CSU in this scenario, and 30% say they would be less likely, showing extensive division among the German public on the matter.  

The considerable proportion of Germans who say they would have been more likely to vote CDU/CSU under Angela Merkel than they are now—despite many being happy she is not running—is likely related to the substantial disapproval of the CDU/CSU’s new leader: 41% disapprove of the CDU/CSU’s selection of Armin Laschet as their candidate for the 2021 Federal Election. 

28% conversely approve of Armin Laschet’s selection, a figure which increases to 46% for 25-to-34-year-olds. Armin Laschet is least popular among older respondents, with a majority of those aged 55 to 64 (55%) and 65 and over (50%) disapproving of the CDU/CSU’s choice to make him their candidate. 

The German public’s disapproval of Armin Laschet’s selection as the CDU/CSU candidate may partially be a consequence of their lack of familiarity with him, as over half of respondents say they know some (38%) or nothing (24%) about Armin Laschet and what he stands for. Still, a considerable 31% say they know many of his policies. 

Among those who know at least some of Armin Laschet’s policies, a plurality (43%) say they have an unfavourable view of Armin Laschet, compared to 24% who say they have a favourable view and 30% who say they have neither. Further, a plurality of all age groups say their view of Armin Laschet is unfavourable except 25-to-34-year-olds, 40% of whom say their view is favourable. 

When it comes to Armin Laschet’s main opponent, Annalena Baerbock, the German public appears slightly more in favour of her selection as Alliance 90/The Greens’ candidate for the Federal Election. 35% of respondents approve of Alliance 90/The Greens’ choice of Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for the election, though a close 32% disapprove. Approval of Baerbock’s selection is highest among 45-to-54-year-olds (40%), though 36% of this age group also disapproves. 

Respondents appear to be about as familiar with Annalena Baerbock as they are with Armin Laschet: 34% say they know many of Baerbock’s policies, 33% say they know some, and 25% say they know nothing. 

Of those who are familiar with the Alliance 90/The Greens candidate for the 2021 Election, a plurality (42%) say they have a favourable view of Annalena Baerbock—roughly the same proportion as those who say they have an unfavourable view of Armin Laschet. By contrast, 30% say they have an unfavourable view of Annalena Baerbock, whereas a quarter (26%) have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view. Views of Annalena Baerbock are most positive among 45-to-54-year-olds, with almost half (49%) of the age group saying they have a favourable view of her.

Another candidate running for Chancellor in the 2021 German Federal Election is Olaf Scholz, the current Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor from the Social Democratic Party (SPD). A third (33%) of respondents approve of the SPD’s selection of Olaf Scholz as their candidate for the Federal Election, 29% neither approve nor disapprove, and 28% disapprove. 

A plurality (38%) of respondents say they know some of Olaf Scholz’s policies, whereas 28% say they know many of his policies and 25% say they know nothing, similar figures as were reported with respect to Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock. 

While a plurality of respondents familiar with the candidates’ policies say they have an unfavourable view of Armin Laschet and a favourable view of Annalena Baerbock, a plurality (37%) say they have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view of SPD candidate Olaf Scholz. The remaining respondents are split between having a favourable (32%) or unfavourable (30%) view of Scholz. 

One further candidate in the Federal Election is the Free Democratic Party (FDP)’s Christian Lindner, about whom two-thirds of Germans say they know some (39%) or nothing (29%), with just a quarter (26%) saying they know many of Christian Lindner’s policies. Overall, 32% disapprove, 29% approve, and 28% neither approve nor disapprove of the FDP’s selection of Christian Lindner as their candidate for Chancellor. 

When Germans were asked about which of these candidates they felt best embodies a series of characteristics, a considerable proportion of respondents selected ‘don’t know’ or ‘other,’ potentially highlighting a degree of both dissatisfaction with the available candidate options and unfamiliarity with their platforms on various issues. That being said, Annalena Baerbock leads by a substantial margin with respect to embodying the characteristics ‘tells the truth’ (19%), ‘cares about people like me’ (22%), ‘is in good physical and mental health’ (28%), ‘represents change’ (34%), and ‘has the better environmental strategy’ (37%)

SPD candidate Olaf Scholz is narrowly the most-selected candidate for embodying ‘can work with foreign leaders’ (19%), knows how to get things done’ (19%), and ‘has the better foreign policy strategy’ (19%), along with tying Armin Laschet as someone who best embodies ‘can build a strong economy’ (19%). 

Armin Laschet has a slight lead over the other candidates with respect to the characteristics ‘is a strong leader’ (15%) and ‘understands the problems afflicting Germany’ (19%), and ties with Annalena Baerbock as someone who ‘stands up for the interests of Germany’ (19%). 

As concerns the characteristic ‘looks most likely to be the next Chancellor,’ 27% select Annalena Baerbock, 23% select Armin Laschet, 12% select Olaf Scholz, and 5% select Christian Lindner. 

Overall, it is clear that Annalena Baerbock is currently riding a wave of momentum, with a plurality of German voters viewing her favourably and identifying her as looking the most likely to be the next Chancellor. The German public appears ready for a change in their leadership, with a plurality expressing they are happy Angela Merkel is not running again, and Annalena Baerbock may end up being the change that many voters seek.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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