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Mobility has become significantly more expensive in Germany since September 1. In June, July and August, the energy tax on fuel was reduced and regional public transport cost only €9 ($8.95) per month. But now fuel prices have skyrocketed all at once, and bus and train fares have returned to their usual levels with further price hikes looming due to rising energy prices.

At the same time, more and more people are receiving mail from their gas and electricity suppliers, who are also raising their prices significantly. How can people deal with this? This question, more than any other, currently dominates the public debate in Germany and therefore also the political agenda.

The German government has announced a third “relief package”, but has so far not specified what exactly it will contain.

Citizens, on the other hand, have concrete expectations. This is shown by the latest ARD Deutschlandtrend survey conducted by pollster infratest-dimap, which interviewed 1,324 voters online and in telephone interviews between August 29 and 31.

Overall, not even one in three respondents (29%) say government assistance should be limited to low-income households. Given the price increases to date and those expected to continue, almost half of all respondents (45%) favor measures that would also ease the burden on middle-income households. Such an “average” German income is set at €3,500 per month before tax, health insurance and unemployment. One in five would like all citizens to be supported, regardless of income.

For three months this summer, traveling by regional transport throughout Germany was possible with a monthly subscription for 9 euros. 52 million of them have been sold. The ticket was attractive not only because of its low price, but also because it was valid nationwide and eliminated the confusing patchwork of regulations in the many regional transport associations.

There is significant interest in such a simple ticket in the future. And 59% of people questioned by infratest would be ready to pay significantly more than nine euros.

A shortage of natural gas – which half of all households in the country use for heating – and rising energy prices pose a huge challenge to policymakers. How to attenuate the effect of high prices without weighing too much on the coffers of the State? Who really needs help? And what support is needed to avoid social upheaval? At the same time, financial pressure is taking its toll on support for a tough foreign policy toward Russia.

infographic showing that support for sanctions is falling

Just over half of respondents are in favor of maintaining existing sanctions, even in the face of rising prices, bottlenecks in energy supply or disadvantages for the local economy. However, immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early March, that figure was over two-thirds.

Four in ten now oppose sanctions against Russia, if they have negative consequences and burdens for Germany itself. This attitude is even more widespread in the east of the country, the former communist GDR, which united with West Germany in 1990 and had close ties with the Soviet Union.

Rarely has a German government had to deal with so many massive problems at the same time as the current coalition of centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and business-oriented Liberal Democrats (FDP).

Fewer and fewer voters are impressed with the crisis management skills of their leaders: only 31% of those polled say they are satisfied with the work of the federal government, which is a new low.

September Voter Support Survey FR

In recent weeks, cracks seem to appear within the coalition. And that seems to be reflected in the survey results: while supporters of the Social Democrats and Greens say they are mostly satisfied, two out of three FDP voters are unimpressed.

The reputation of the leaders of the three parties is also in decline. Chancellor Olaf Scholz falls to a new low, as does FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner. Even Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Greens has lost support significantly and has to settle for his second-lowest score since taking up the economy ministry. Green Party Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock remains the most popular politician. But she also lost all support and faced as much approval as rejection.

Annalena Baerbock speaking at a Goethe Institute event in August 2022

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock continues to have high approval ratings

The wind has changed in Germany, compared to the result of the federal elections a little less than a year ago. At the time, the SPD won 25.7% of the vote – now it would only get 17%. Pollsters attribute this to the chancellor’s poor performance and his disenchantment with the party’s foreign policy, social justice and fiscal policies.

The neoliberal FDP is also seeing an erosion of support – with the exception of fiscal policy, where the finance minister’s refusal to raise taxes on corporations and the country’s wealthiest seems to be bearing fruit with the electorate. of his party.

The Environmental Greens, on the other hand, have managed to make themselves known. They continue to be seen as credible and competent in climate and environmental policy, but they have also increased their visibility in all other policy areas, especially foreign policy. At the same time, they were able to score points on the new issue of energy supply security which arose in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

This article was originally written in German.

While You’re Here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what’s happening in German politics and society. You can sign up for the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter here.

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