Political panel survey: Germans feel strongly threatened by current crises

Respondents see a clear division in society, especially when it comes to income and the topic of gender sensitive language

The majority of Germans feel that their security is threatened by the current crises: over 78 percent of respondents to the latest "Politikpanel Deutschland" (Political Panel Germany) survey conducted by the University of Freiburg regard the war in Ukraine as threatening or very threatening. The war in eastern Europe thus overshadows all other problems. In second place is the fear of inflation and rising prices (72 percent). Of the participants in the online survey, 65 percent perceive the climate crisis as rather or very threatening.

Graphic 1 (In German): Die heutige Zeit ist von vielen Krisen geprägt. Für wie bedrohlich halten Sie die folgenden Krisen?

The Freiburg political scientists Uwe Wagschal and Dr. Sebastian Jäckle , in collaboration with Dr. James Kenneth Timmis from the Medical Center - University of Freiburg, interviewed more than 8,000 people from all over Germany on political and social issues for the Political Panel Germany survey.  In the current survey, the long-dominant Corona issue only ranks fifth among threatening crises, behind the issue of national debt, with only 29.6 percent of respondents still seeing a major threat here.

Clear differences by party preference

Depending on their voting intentions, respondents differ significantly in their perception of the threat: for example, only 47 percent of AfD supporters see the Ukraine war as threatening or very threatening, whereas more than 80 percent of CDU/CSU, SPD and Green Party supporters do. The perception of the climate crisis also varies greatly: 48 percent of AfD supporters do not see the climate crisis as a threat at all, while only 0.25 percent of Green supporters view it as non-threatening.

Society divided on many issues

One focus of the current political panel survey is the division of society. More than 80 percent of respondents see society as fairly strongly or very strongly divided when it comes to income and wealth distribution. When it comes to gender issues (e.g. gender sensitive language), nearly 70 percent see such a strong split. "Obviously, strong differences can be observed in society when it comes to attitudes toward values and norms," Jäckle explains.

He adds that this also applies with regard to a so-called cancel culture, such as the tendency to block other people on the basis of their views and attitudes and to exclude them from events. Here, too, a majority sees society as divided; at the same time, almost 30 percent of respondents are unfamiliar with this term or have no opinion on it. The least division is seen between East and West Germany, with only just over 30 percent of respondents seeing a strong division here.

Graphic 2 (in German): Für wie gespalten halten Sie die Gesellschaft in Bezug auf die folgenden Bereiche?

Germans want to reintroduce compulsory service - especially the elderly

The issue of compulsory service (including military and civil service), which was recently raised by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, meets with overwhelming approval among the population. Between 60 and 70 percent of respondents over the age of 30 are in favor of compulsory service, with the strongest support among respondents over 60. The youngest group of 18- to 30-year-olds, on the other hand, rejects compulsory service by a majority, although here, too, around 42 percent have a positive attitude toward it.

There is virtually no difference between the age groups when it comes to the question of whether society is dependent on the population’s volunteerism. Around 85 percent tend to agree or agree completely with this statement. The vast majority of those who have done service in the past (for example, military or civilian service) remember it as a good and meaningful experience.

Graphic 3 (in German): Was halten Sie von der Forderung einer Dienstpflicht für junge Menschen?
In Prozent der jeweiligen Altersgruppe

Graphic 4 Wie würden Sie Ihren damals abgeleisteten Dienst im Nachhinein beurteilen?

Overview of facts:

  • The Political Panel Germany is a survey conducted by the Department of Political Science at the University of Freiburg. It has been held at irregular intervals since the 2017 federal election.
  • The current results can be accessed at www.politikpanel.uni-freiburg.de.
  • For the current survey, more than 8,000 people from all over Germany were asked online about political and social issues. The survey ran from June 30 to July 17, 2022. The data of the participants was weighted according to the socio-demographic characteristics age, gender, federal state and voting intention and thus adjusted to the real distribution in the population.
  • Uwe Wagschal is Professor of Comparative Government in the Department of Political Science at the University of Freiburg. Dr. Sebastian Jäckle is an academic advisor there. Dr. James Kenneth Timmis is a staff member at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg.

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