Germany Monitor: Only four out of ten East Germans are satisfied with democracy

Carsten Schneider actually has good news.

Germany Monitor: Only four out of ten East Germans are satisfied with democracy

Carsten Schneider actually has good news. "It's time for a new look at East Germany," writes the Federal Government Commissioner for East Germany in his annual report.

East equal to Nazis, doping and the Stasi? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. International investors such as Tesla and Intel are currently pumping billions into the eastern German states, which have a lot of space, specialists and green energy to offer. "East Germany is on the upswing," reports Schneider. But then pushes afterwards: "At least spoken in principle".

As positive as some of the investment signals of the past few months have been, the harmonization of economic conditions in East and West is making little progress 32 years after unification. And the mood is bad. This applies nationwide during the crisis, but especially for eastern Germany. The annual report sheds light on this in a detailed survey of 4,000 people in East and West, the so-called Germany Monitor. From page 88 of the annual report, the situation looks anything but rosy. At the presentation, Schneider spoke of some frightening numbers.

Satisfaction is also falling in western Germany

Some of the results: Only 39 percent of the East Germans surveyed said they were satisfied with the way democracy works in Germany - compared to 48 percent two years ago. In West Germany, the value fell from 65 to 59 percent.

Only 32 percent of respondents in the East believe that "the well-being of our country is important" to politicians. In 2020 it was still 41 percent. In western Germany it went down from 51 to 42 percent. Only 43 percent in the east and 58 percent in the west think that one can always express one's opinion freely without getting into trouble - also a significant decrease.

Only 26 percent are satisfied with the policy of the federal government in the east (2020: 42 percent), nationwide it is 35 percent (2020: 53 percent). Only 36 percent of those surveyed nationwide were satisfied with the measures taken by the federal government in response to the war in Ukraine. When it comes to corona policy, it is 38 percent nationwide. Only 23 percent in the East and 33 percent in the West are satisfied with social justice in Germany.

The pollster responsible for the survey, Holger Liljeberg, made it clear that satisfaction with the political situation is not only declining in the East. "It's going downhill all over Germany," said the managing director of Info GmbH. In the study, he devises a complicated system of cluster groups based on satisfaction with political institutions: Liberal-Open; petty-bourgeois conservatives; conformist skeptics; and disgruntled populists.

The latter must probably give politicians the most headaches. "That's where it gets down to business," said Liljeberg. For many in this cluster, trust in the government is close to zero, they do not feel represented in the media at all and sometimes move in isolation in alternative information bubbles, seeing the Russian propaganda broadcaster RT as "truth" on topics such as climate, corona or war. The same applies here: In the east, the proportion of politically distant groups is higher. But of the "disgruntled populists" only 28 percent lived in the east and 72 percent in the west. There are also structurally weak regions in the Saarland, in Lower Saxony or in the Ruhr area.

Despite everything, the pollster sees opportunities to get back into conversation with "non-political" groups. "These are people like you and me," he said. He gave the politicians the task of tackling the urgent and sometimes existence-threatening problems in the current crisis and working towards equal living conditions.

Schneider picked up the thread and referred to the government's ongoing efforts to initiate further relief. But that also has to sit, said the SPD politician. In view of the energy bills, many "beads of sweat stood on their foreheads". He also sees the demonstrations, which are now almost daily, as an outlet for people who fear for their existence. People should please be sensitive to whom they were chasing, behind which slogans and flags. "Otherwise I take it seriously, but also true."

"German unity is still not complete"

In order to reach the disgruntled people again, one shouldn't come across as arrogant or lecturing, or communicate pathetically about the war, said Schneider. "You can also regain trust." The federal government has already made important decisions, such as raising the minimum wage, which should particularly benefit the East. Schneider announced a concept to bring more East Germans into management positions by the end of the year. He advised the East Germans to "self-empower" or to be more self-confident in asserting their interests.

The Eastern Commissioner for the FDP parliamentary group, Hagen Reinhold, argued very similarly to Schneider: more self-confidence in the East and communication on an equal footing. He called the trend in attitudes towards democracy questionable. But "it's a pan-German problem."

The Leipzig Greens MP Paula Piechotta, on the other hand, expressed alarm. The current crisis shows "that the insufficient debate about our divided past and common future makes us more susceptible to social divisions." It shouldn't be the case that extremists capitalize on the crisis. "The report by the Eastern Commissioner also shows above all that German unity is still not complete."