Angela Merkel remains most popular politician in Germany

Angela Merkel is still the most popular politician in Germany 14 years after she became chancellor, according to a new poll which also highlighted attitudes towards climate change.

Angela Merkel remains most popular politician in Germany
Angela Merkel is still Germany's favourite politician, according to the poll. Photo: DPA

Despite a tense political landscape which has seen Germany become increasingly polarized since Merkel's decision to accept an influx of refugees in 2015, the chancellor is still favoured by well over half of the population, according to a new poll.

A total of 56 percent of Germans said they were satisfied with Merkel, who belongs to the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). That's an increase of two percentage points compared to the last survey conducted earlier in July, stated the Deutschlandtrend opinion poll for public broadcaster ARD.

SEE ALSO: Merkel at 65 – 10 photos that tell the story of the 'eternal chancellor'

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) took second place with 51 percent (plus six points) and in third place was Health Minister Jens Spahn, of the CDU, who scooped a 48 percent satisfaction rate, an increase of 12 percentage points.

Commentators tweeted about the results of the poll

A representative random selection of voters across Germany were surveyed between July 29th and 31st by Deutschlandtrend.

SEE ALSO: Should Germany be worried about Merkel's health after trembling spells?

Germans want action to fight climate change

The poll showed a large majority of Germans are in favour of taking drastic action to tackle climate change.

Almost every participant – a huge 97 percent – said they supported the introduction of more innovation and research into fighting climate change.

A total of 92 percent of respondents believe rail travel in Germany should be cheaper – an intiative recently proposed by the Green party – while the same amount backed expanding renewable energy. 

And a total of 71 percent of respondents think that air travel should be more expensive.

But there still appears to be strong resistance to introducing a carbon tax, with 61 percent against it. 

Greens and CDU come out on top

When it comes to which political party to support, the environmentally friendly Greens have been riding high in recent months – and even took the second spot after the CDU in the European Elections earlier this year.

READ ALSO: 'Surfing the Zeitgeist': How the Greens won over Germany

In the latest poll, the Green party tied with the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, with 26 percent, a plus point of one percent for Merkel’s Union.

Next, came the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) with 14 percent (plus one point) and lagging behind was the SPD with 12 percent (minus one point).

The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) remains at eight percent, while The Left (die Linke) dropped one point to seven percent.

UK ‘not to be trusted' according to majority 

Boris Johnson became the new UK Prime Minister last week – a step in the wrong direction according to most Germans. A total of 67 percent expect the relationship between the UK and the EU to deteriorate under Johnson. 

Meanwhile, only 37 percent of Germans consider the UK a trustworthy partner, a drop of 17 percentage points since the last survey in February.

Russia and the US both ranked low in the poll, although respondents said Moscow is more trustworthy than Washington — with 28% saying Russia is trustworthy, compared to 19% for the US.

A total of 89 percent of Germans in the poll said France was a trustworthy partner.

Split opinion on raising Germany's defence budget

Meanwhile, Germany has repeatedly been slammed by the likes of Donald Trump for its lack of defence spending. Deutschlandtrend asked what respondents thought about increasing the funding for Germany's military.

Half of respondents (50 percent) said they supported an increase in spending of the German defence budget to two percent of the GDP.

The proposal was clearly backed by voters of the FDP (66 percent), CDU/CSU (61 percent) and the AfD (55 percent). There was slightly less support from SPD voters (47 percent) and the Greens (46 percent), while there was a lot less support from Left voters (13 percent).

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.