With its widespread testing program and relatively lower number of deaths, Germany has not found itself much in international headlines for a failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. While the public health crisis is no doubt a serious one, it is not attracted as much attention as acute hotspots such as New York and northern Italy. Rather, most looking towards the central European nation are thinking about the next crisis: the economic one. After briefly flirting with a recession last year, the outlook for the German economy––indeed for the European economy––could not be bleaker.
When we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies polled members of the German public on Sunday and Monday, we asked respondents to rate their level of concern on a scale of 1 to 5. A majority (54%) of respondents either selected 4 out 5, which was described as “I am very worried and think there will be a recession” and 5 out 5, described as “I am extremely worried and am expecting the worst.”
Thinking about their personal situation in life, 9% of German respondents expected their financial situation to become “dire” and 21% expected it to be “quite negatively impacted.” The other 70% of respondents expected to, at worse, be “somewhat negatively impacted in the short term” with 3% stating that they think their financial situation will actually improve.
For this reason, we were not too surprised that Germans broadly supported the deployment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) without restrictions.
Although many southern European states would prefer the so-called ‘corona-bonds’ to the ESM which, they remember, placed signed significant burdens on Greece in 2015. That the German public may support measures that go well beyond what was undertaken in response to the 2008 recession could suggest a middle ground to this crisis.
To be sure, despite these pessimistic expectations, let us be under no illusions that the German public is itching for social distancing restrictions to be lifted. A strong majority of respondents indicated that they were more concerned about their country’s public health system.
Respondents to our German poll were therefore clear: yes, they are deeply concerned about the economy, addressing the pandemic remains the priority, then comes the economy.
This poll is part of Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ ongoing research into public opinion on the coronavirus outbreak and government’s reaction to the crisis. Further results from our polling in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Spain and Germany is featured here.