According to the latest poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on the 17th and 18th of July, 66% of respondents in Germany approve of Chancellor Merkel’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Merkel, who has announced she will be stepping down at the end of her fourth term in 2021, has received consistently high public approval in Germany for her performance throughout the crisis with 65% of respondents approving of her handling in May and 63% approving in June.
Germany began relaxing its lockdown at the beginning of May, far earlier than other European countries, after effectively reducing its caseload. However, in late June, lockdown was reimposed on two counties in North Rhine-Westphalia after hundreds of workers at a meat-packing plant tested positive for the virus, pushing the national R number above 1. When asked for their view on the government’s response, a majority of respondents (58%) agreed that the steps taken to deal with the rise in cases were adequate.
Approval of the government’s response has slightly dipped compared to how the German public responded to the government’s actions in May and June. When asked about the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, 66% and 65% of respondents agreed that the government’s response was adequate respectivelyin May and June, respectively. To further highlight the change in sentiment further, 25% of respondents in July felt that the government response fell short in combatting the recent rise in cases compared to just 15% of respondents in May and 16% of respondents in June who said the government’s overall response fell short. ]
In terms of navigating day to day, the German public feels about as safe doing most activities in July as they did in May. For example, 50% of respondents felt safe going to a hospital in July for something unrelated to coronavirus compared to 51% in May and 65% of respondents felt comfortable visiting their friend’s house in July compared to 63% in May.
The German public is becoming increasingly optimistic, with a plurality (47%) believing that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind them compared to 37% who think that the worst is yet to come. Their outlook seems to be more positive compared to June when 44% believed that the worst was behind them versus the 42% who believed that the worst was yet to come.
Despite a plurality of respondents believing that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is over, a majority (57%) of respondents think another round of lockdowns in Germany is likely, compared to just 17% who think it is unlikely.
When asked whether they would approve of a second national lockdown if the number of coronavirus cases were to rise, 70% of respondents said they would approve while just 20% would disapprove. It would seem that any discontent around the handling of the crisis in light of the current rise in cases is about the government doing too little rather than being too strict.
When it comes to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, respondents were not so optimistic with a majority (64%) of respondents thinking that the worst was yet to come compared to 27% who thought that the worst was already behind Germany.
With regards to the economic crisis, a plurality (46%) of respondents agree that Merkel is someone who can get the economy going again however 35% of respondents disagree.
Though this plurality feels they are in good hands, Merkel has a significantly lower confidence rating for her handling the economy compared to other skillstraits. For example, 79% of respondents agreed that Merkel could work with foreign leaders.
As the financial pressures of the pandemic continue to mount, Merkel’s established strengths in areas such as international relations may be supplanted by concerns about the domestic economy. So far, Merkel’s ratings show no sign of dipping, but whether they do or not, the real question will be who is poised to replace her.