As Russia continues its military assault on Ukraine and its people, a new poll sheds light on how Germans feel about the war.
A large majority – 77 percent – of those surveyed are afraid that Ukraine will become completely occupied by Russia, according to the representative ARD-DeutschlandTrend survey.
Two-thirds of Germans (69 percent) expressed concern that there would be a large war in Europe, and that Russia would attack further countries in Europe.
In the summer of 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, just three out of ten Germans expressed fears of a new major war on the continent.
Strong support for refugees sanctions against Russia
A huge proportion – 91 percent – of Germans are in support of taking in refugees from Ukraine, the poll found.
Supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are less positive than others, but a majority (68 percent) is still in favour of accepting refugees.
🔹91% of Germans are in favour of taking in refugees from #Ukraine, according to a new national poll.
— Thomas Sparrow (@Thomas_Sparrow) March 3, 2022
Just over half – 53 percent – of respondents consider the German government’s reaction to the situation in Ukraine to be appropriate, while around a quarter of people do not think Germany’s actions have gone far enough. About 14 percent think the government has gone too far.
Among party supporters, only the majority of AfD supporters think that German policy has reacted excessively.
Sanctions on Russia by Western allies including Germany also meet with majority approval among the population as a whole – most notably the exclusion of important Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system (82 percent), and also the decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline (67 percent).
The majority of people also express concern that the economic situation in Germany could worsen or that there could be bottlenecks in energy supplies. But around two-thirds of those surveyed said they would support measures against Russia even if such energy shortages or higher living costs were to occur.
Shift in sentiment on weapon deliveries
At the weekend, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would break with decades of its trademark restraint on military matters – a policy linked to its WWII legacy and guilt – by sending German weapons to arm Ukraine against invading Russian soldiers. Scholz also said Germany would increase military spending significantly.
This shift is supported by a majority of the German population, the new poll found.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they welcomed the deployment of additional Bundeswehr (German army) units to Eastern European NATO countries.
And 65 percent said they supported government plans to borrow €100 billion to modernise the German army.
Rapid turnaround in 🇩🇪public opinion:
65% support 100bn package of defense spending.
61% support weapons for 🇺🇦(complete reversal compared to last poll).
(ARD Deutschlandtrend) pic.twitter.com/mJG9gigLor
— Thorsten Benner (@thorstenbenner) March 3, 2022
Germans are divided on whether the German government has delayed military aid to Kyiv for too long: 45 percent say they have, and 46 percent disagree.
As recently as the beginning of February, only 20 percent of those polled were in favour of Germany supplying weapons to Ukraine. With the Russian invasion, this view has changed completely: seven out of 10 Germans also think it is right that Germany’s annual defence expenditure should be increased to at least two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the coming years.
The majority of those in favour say that their attitude has changed as a result of the Russian invasion.
The greatest support for the planned spending is from supporters of the conservative CDU/CSU, FDP and SPD. AfD and Left supporters are split on the issue.
Approval for Ukraine to join the EU
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj called for his country to join the EU immediately at the beginning of the week. In response, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reiterated that she sees Ukraine as part of the European Union in future.
A majority of Germans (63 percent) also believe that Ukraine should be admitted to the EU in the long term, according to the poll.
Germans’ perception of Ukraine has also changed abruptly in the current crisis. Despite the current unstable situation in the country, a majority (63 percent) sees Ukraine as a partner that can be trusted – 33 percentage points more than in January.
At the same time, Russia’s reputation among Germans is falling to an all-time low.
Just six percent see Russia as a trustworthy partner for Germany (-11). In the current crisis, Germans’ relationship with NATO appears to be solid. 83 percent of respondents emphasise the importance of the military alliance for peace in Europe.
Two-thirds (68 percent) believe that the Bundesrepublik has been too lenient towards Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.
Satisfaction with German government rises
The government has also regained the trust of Germans with its current action in the Ukraine crisis, according to the poll. At the moment, 56 percent of eligible voters are satisfied with the work of the coalition (+18 compared to February), while 41 percent are dissatisfied.
If a federal election were held on Sunday, the SPD would gain 25 percent (+3) of the vote, according to the poll. The CDU/CSU would get 26 percent (-1) and would therefore be the strongest force by a narrow margin.
The representative survey conducted by infratest dimap involved talking to 1,320 eligible voters from Monday to Wednesday of this week.