After sixteen years as Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel will step down from the role this year, her successor to be decided by a new Bundestag following the 26 September Federal Election. In our first voting intention poll for the election, we find the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) virtually tied with Alliance 90/The Greens for the second vote, with 22% saying they will vote for the CDU/CSU and 21% saying they will vote for Alliance 90/The Greens. A further 16% say they will vote for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), 12% for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), 11% for Alternative for Germany (AfD), and 11% for The Left.
When those who say they do not know which party they will choose for their second vote in the Federal Election are included, the CDU/CSU again lead by just 1%: 19% say they will vote for the CDU/CSU, and 18% say they will vote for Alliance 90/The Greens. After weighting by likelihood to vote, 13% of the sample say they still don’t know how they will use their second vote.
In the first vote, which determines the candidates that will represent voters’ constituencies in the Bundestag, the CDU/CSU have a slightly more comfortable lead over Alliance 90/The Greens: 24% say they will vote for a CDU/CSU candidate as their first vote, and 20% say they will vote for an Alliance 90/The Greens candidate. Meanwhile, 16% say their first vote will be for the SPD, 12% for the FDP, 12% for AfD, and 10% for The Left, indicating that—for the most part—voters’ choices do not seem to differ significantly between their first and second vote.
If we include respondents who say they don’t know how they will use their first vote (12%), 21% say they will vote for the CDU/CSU and 18% for Alliance 90/The Greens.
Our sample includes 53% of respondents say they are ‘certain to vote’ in the Federal Election, including 71% of those who say they will vote for Alliance 90/The Greens as their second vote and 65% of those who say they will vote for the CDU/CSU.
Although the polls suggest that the election will be a tight race between the CDU/CSU and Alliance 90/The Greens for the greatest number of seats in the Bundestag, a greater proportion of respondents expect the CDU/CSU (32%) rather than Alliance 90/The Greens (21%) to win the greatest number of seats. Even so, 26% say they don’t know, reflecting expectations for a potentially unpredictable election.
69% of those who say they will vote for the CDU/CSU as their second vote expect the CDU/CSU to win the greatest number of seats in the Bundestag, while 50% of those who say they will vote for Alliance 90/The Greens expect their own party to win in this regard.
With respect to which candidate Germans would prefer as the next German Chancellor, respondents are divided: 20% say they would prefer Annalena Baerbock of Alliance 90/The Greens as the next German Chancellor, whereas 19% say they would prefer Armin Laschet of the CDU/CSU. Among likely second vote Alliance 90/The Greens voters, 67% say they would prefer Annalena Baerbock as the next Chancellor, compared to 47% of likely CDU/CSU voters who say they would prefer Armin Laschet.
The substantial surge in popularity enjoyed by Alliance 90/The Greens—which is currently the sixth-largest party in terms of Bundestag seats—is likely related to the significant importance many Germans are assigning to the environment in this Federal Election: 44% of respondents identify the Environment as a key issue most likely to determine how they vote, an option selected more than any other issue. Other key election issues identified by Germans include the coronavirus response (37%), healthcare (34%), education (31%), and immigration (30%).
For likely CDU/CSU voters, the most-selected options for issues likely to determine how they will vote are economic growth (42%) and the environment (41%), whereas 78% of likely Alliance 90/The Greens voters chose the environment.
Following sixteen years in power as the major party in varying coalition governments, the CDU/CSU is therefore now facing a serious challenge from Alliance 90/The Greens. This challenge has been compounded by widespread frustration with the current German Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Two-thirds (65%) of Germans say the current Government has not handled the coronavirus crisis well, and 68% say they are not satisfied with Germany’s vaccination programme so far.
Overall, a plurality (44%) of respondents say the current German Government is incompetent, whereas only 19% say the Government is competent, placing its net competency rating at -25%. Alternatively, 29% say the Government is neither competent nor incompetent.
Setting aside the unfavourable views of the public about the current German Government’s pandemic response, 46% of respondents approve of Angela Merkel’s overall performance since she became Chancellor. With 30% disapproving, Angela Merkel’s net approval rating is currently at +16%.
Interestingly, approval of Angela Merkel is similarly high among a majority of those who say they will vote for the CDU/CSU (68%), SPD (63%), and Alliance 90/The Greens (63%) for their second vote. Meanwhile, disapproval of Merkel is highest among likely AfD voters, at 72%.
Altogether, the German Federal Election is poised to be one of the most closely watched elections of 2021, and for good reason: the results of our first voting intention poll indicate that the fight for the greatest number of seats in the Bundestag may be a close one, with the CDU/CSU at risk of losing its pole position for the first time since 2005. With less than five months until election day, the CDU/CSU are virtually tied with their main opponents, Alliance 90/The Greens, who have benefitted significantly from the German public’s growing concerns about both the environment and the Government’s pandemic response.