With the next German Federal Election set to take place on 26 September 2021, the race to replace current Chancellor Angela Merkel—who is not running for a fifth term—and her Government is heating up. The latest voting intention poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in Germany finds the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leading narrowly over the Christian Democratic Party/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU).

When asked for which party they will vote as their second vote—which determines the number of candidates from each party’s list that will be sent to the German Parliament—24% say they would vote for the SPD, while 22% would vote for the CDU/CSU. Both the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Alternative for Germany (AfD) currently receive 13% of the vote each. A further 10% of respondents would vote for The Left and Alliance 90/The Greens, respectively, and 8% say they would vote for another party.

Compared to our last German voting intention poll from June 2021, these figures mark a clear improvement for the SPD—which has gained six points—whereas both the CDU/CSU and the FDP have lost one point. Support for the Greens has dropped by five points, and support for The Left has dropped by two points. The AfD has not seen a change in its vote share compared to June 2021.

When those who say they do not know how they will vote in the Federal Election are included, the SPD leads by only 1%. After weighting by likelihood to vote, 10% of the sample say they do not know how they will vote, including 6% of those who voted for the CDU/CSU in the last Federal Election in 2017 and 10% of those who voted for the SPD.

Currently, 62% of Germans polled say they are ‘certain to vote’ in the Federal Election on 26 September. At 69% and 68% respectively, 2017 voters of the CDU/CSU and the SPD are nearly equally likely to say they are ‘certain to vote,’ as are 71% of 2017 AfD voters, 70% of 2017 FDP voters, 76% of 2017 The Left voters, and 73% of 2017 Alliance 90/The Greens voters.

The environment is the main issue that respondents consider most likely to determine how they will vote in the upcoming Federal Election. When asked to select up to three issues which will most determine how they will vote in the election, respondents select the environment (45%), immigration (38%), and healthcare (33%). Other issues likely to determine how respondents will vote include welfare spending (30%), education (29%), economic growth (28%), and the country’s coronavirus response (28%).

37% of respondents expect the SPD to win the greatest number of seats in the Bundestag in the upcoming Federal Election. 28% expect the CDU/CSU to win the greatest number of seats, and a significant 17% are unsure.

With Angela Merkel having announced in 2018 that she would not seek a fifth term as Chancellor, the race for her succession is now open. A plurality of 29% of Germans would prefer to see current Federal Minister of Finance and SPD candidate Olaf Scholz become the country’s next Chancellor. A significantly lower proportion of 13% would prefer to see CDU/CSU candidate Armin Laschet succeed Merkel. A further 10% would like to see the FDP’s leader Christian Lindner as the next Chancellor, and 9% would prefer to see Alliance 90/The Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock take over Merkel’s position. A noteworthy 24% of respondents say they would prefer another candidate as the next German Chancellor, and 14% are unsure.

After 16 years in office, Angela Merkel herself enjoys a significantly positive overall net approval rating of +26%, with 50% approving and 24% disapproving of her overall job performance since she became Chancellor of Germany. Satisfaction with her handling of the coronavirus pandemic may in part explain this high net approval rating, as 43% of respondents approve of the Chancellor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 31% disapprove, and 23% neither approve nor disapprove.

However, the current Government’s net competency rating stands is definitively negative, at -15%. 39% of respondents find the Government incompetent, 24% find it competent, and 28% find it neither competent nor incompetent.

Affirming this negative net competency rating, disapproval of the Government’s overall performance regarding specific policy areas mostly outweighs approval.

The policy area on which respondents express the greatest degree of disapproval is immigration. 51% of Germans disapprove of the Government’s performance in this area, compared to 21% who approve and 25% who neither approve nor disapprove. Net approval is further negative regarding the environment (-18%), housing (-17%), foreign policy (-9%), defence (-8%), and crime/policing (-7%).

Whereas a plurality of Germans approve of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the same is not true of the overall Government’s performance on the coronavirus pandemic. Here, a narrow plurality of 40% disapproves, compared to 37% of respondents who approve and 20% who neither approve nor disapprove.

Public opinion is evenly split on healthcare, where 35% approve and 35% disapprove of the Government’s performance. The only policy areas in which the Government enjoys a positive net approval rating are cultural issues (+9%), the economy (+3%), and public transportation (+2%).

With no political party likely to achieve a majority of Bundestag seats in the upcoming Federal Election, a coalition government appears inevitable. Given the narrowness of the race, Germany could even end up with a three-way coalition for the first time in the country’s post-war history. As Germany’s two biggest traditional parties may be unable to govern either individually or in a two-way ‘grand’ coalition, the Greens or the FDP may ultimately find themselves in a kingmaker role when it comes to forming Germany’s next Government.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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