It’s Not You, It’s Us: Germans Ready to Let Merkel Go

Germans approve of Angela Merkel’s job performance, but they are ready for someone else to take over.

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Twelve years into the Merkel era, Germans are ready for a change.

A Politbarometer poll conducted for ZDF television found that one in two voters want Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat, to become chancellor after the election in September.

Only 38 percent prefer Angela Merkel to stay.

Good job

It’s not that Germans are unhappy with Merkel. 71 percent believe she is doing well against 24 percent who disapprove of her job performance.

It are mostly supporters of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party who dislike Merkel. They are still angry that she allowed in more than one million asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016.

There is barely a naysayer among Merkel’s own Christian Democrats. 94 percent of them approve of the job she is doing.

Merkel is surprisingly popular among Green party voters: 78 percent approve of her chancellorship. Two in three Social Democrats do.

Another grand coalition

Before Schulz became the Social Democratic candidate in January, the expectation was that Merkel would win reelection and try to form a coalition government with the Greens.

That now seems unlikely. The Christian Democrats are still polling in first place, but the Social Democrats have climbed up in the polls from around 20 percent support last year to almost 30 percent today. The support has come from moderate Christian Democrats on the right and Green party voters on the left, as a result of which those two parties would now fall short of a majority.

A left-wing alliance between the Social Democrats, Green and Die Linke might just get a majority, but it would be a narrow one. The Social Democrats would also risk upsetting center-left voters if they made a deal with Die Linke for the first time. It is fiercely anticapitalist and still wants Germany to leave NATO.

The liberal Free Democrats are expected to return to parliament, but they wouldn’t have the numbers either to get the Christian Democrats to a majority.

All of which means another grand coalition is the likeliest outcome. The question is who will lead it: Merkel or Schulz?