Sunday, November 05, 2006

German faith in democracy erodes

Over half of Germans are unhappy with the way democracy works according to a recent poll. When asked, “Are you satisfied with how democracy functions in Germany?” 51 percent answered negatively. Approval of democracy in Germany has dropped 11 percentage points since the same survey was taken a little over a year ago. In addition, only 27 percent of Germans regard the current situation as “just”. As an article in Der Spiegel puts it, “According to a new survey, a majority of Germans say they are dissatisfied with the way democracy functions in Germany -- a surprising result for a country which is one of the pillars of the European Union and is widely regarded as a model of democracy and civil society.”

The mood may be a reflection of dissatisfaction with the current make-up of Merkel’s grand coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats. It certainly reflects a disproportionate unhappiness of East Germans with democracy over West Germans -- an east/west trend seen elsewhere in Europe.

According to Der Spiegel:

The results confirm findings released by the University of Leipzig this summer. A study there found that only 27 percent of eastern Germans were satisfied with how democracy functions in Germany. In western Germany, every second person surveyed answered in the affirmative. Trust in political parties in the country is at a new low, the Leipzig psychologist Elmar Brähler commented at the time.

ARD's new survey also puts Germany well below the European average when it comes to satisfaction with democracy. An EU poll this spring found that, on average, 56 percent of Europeans were happy with their system of governance. Denmark led the pack with 93 percent while Croatia and Bulgaria tied for last place with a mere 22 percent each. Most countries with above average levels of satisfaction were in Western Europe, while the populations of formerly communist Eastern European countries tended to have below average levels of satisfaction -- suggesting that they are not as grateful for having traded totalitarianism for democracy as might have been expected.


Larry Gambone said...

I suspect the lack of support for "democracy" in the East is a result of the poverty and social disturbance that came with the abolition of the Stalinist regimes. Many people feel that they were better off under Stalinism. You can blame the UK and US in large measure for this. It would have made more sense to convert Stalinism into democratic socialism, rather than trade it for gangster capitalism.

Anonymous said...

I've been surprised to hear UU say much the same thing. Last summer I took a course at SWUUSI, the UU SW district's summer camp. 25 or so adult UUs in a room. Rev Dennis Hamilton asked us a question about how we felt about civil society and government in the US. (Sorry I don't have the verbatim question.) The results were overwhelmingly negative. "A fraud." "Despicable" "A complete loss" "very worried" "full of grief". I gave the only optimistic assessment.

Hey, the US has a lot wrong with it; it always has. But we've overcome so much, and there's so much vitality in our nation. Some things are getting worse, but many things are getting better. We UU say we believe in the democratic process. Well, do we? Do we believe that it works?

I believe in democracy. For me, that means that, notwithstanding our many sin and errors, our nation — any democratic nation — will flourish. If you believe that USA is a lost cause... it's hard for me to understand what you mean when you say you believe in democracy.