With its strong focus on proportionality, the German electoral system is one of the most complex in Western Europe. Voters are able to elect constituency representatives to the Bundestag with their first vote, and with their second vote, they have a say in the party split of their state’s delegation to the Bundestag, which is allocated proportionally. Once all Members of the Bundestag have been apportioned and sworn in, they elect the Chancellor, a political office that has been occupied by Angela Merkel for the past sixteen years.
The latest poll conducted in Germany by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that 55% of Germans would support a change in Germany’s electoral system so that the Chancellor is elected directly by the voters. Meanwhile, only 14% of German respondents say they would oppose such a change. Interestingly, support for directly electing the Chancellor increases with age: 65% of respondents aged 65 and over say they would support a change to a directly elected Chancellor, whereas 46% of those aged 18 to 24 would be supportive. Nonetheless, even among the younger age groups, pluralities would still support this change.
In addition to supporting the direct election of their Chancellor, our polling also finds that a plurality of Germans (41%) would support the introduction of a two-term limit for German Chancellors. Unlike for the issue of directly electing the Chancellor, the question of term limits is more contentious, with 31% saying they would be opposed. Likewise, responses to this question also differ because the results do not vary significantly with age: similar proportions of all age groups support or oppose the idea of term limits for German Chancellors.
On this front, a plurality of German respondents (41%) say they are happy that Angela Merkel, who is completing her fourth term, is not running for Chancellor again this year. Meanwhile, 26% say they are unhappy that she is not running, and 19% say they feel indifferent about her deciding to retire. Respondents from older age groups are the most likely to say that they are happy Merkel is not running again: 49% of those aged 65 or above expressed this view, compared to only 22% of those aged 18 to 24.
Even so, while there would be significant support for introducing changes such as term limits or the direct election of the Chancellor, a clear plurality of German voters (49%) still say they approve of the electoral system currently used for Federal Elections in Germany, with only 18% saying they disapprove.
Thus, the German public would be open to changes in the electoral system yet does not appear actively dissatisfied with the current system. In other words, the status quo is acceptable, even if there may be a willingness for change and dynamism.
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.