Germany perceived as a trustworthy partner for Australia as Chancellor Angela Merkel bows out

High levels of support for female leaders in Australia

After 16 years in office, Angela Merkel is not running again as a candidate for Chancellor in Germany's upcoming federal election on September 26. As a long political era comes to an end, a new global study by Ipsos, conducted online among nearly 20,000 adults across 28 countries, examined people's views on Merkel's impact on their own country, Europe, and the world.

In Australia, half the respondents (52%) agree that Germany has been a trustworthy partner for Australia on global issues under Angela Merkel, with only one in ten (25%) disagreeing. Just under two in five (38%) were not sure.

When asked about their opinion of Angela Merkel, 57% of Australians surveyed were favourable with only 12% unfavourable, giving a net favourability of 45%. Three in ten (31%) indicated they were not familiar with Angel Merkel.

In addition to people's views on Angela Merkel and Germany's role in the world, the Ipsos study examined more general attitudes on global leadership. In Australia the findings included:

  • A high level of support for female leadership: In Australia, twice as many agree as disagree (53% vs. 21%) that the world would be more peaceful and successful if we had more female political leaders. In Australia, women display a higher level of agreement than men (60% vs 46% in Australia). Both of these patterns are seen globally.
  • Strong leaders wanted: Almost nine in ten Australians surveyed (88%) agree that the world needs strong leaders to solve global challenges. Australia was second only to China (90%), Australia (88%), and just ahead of Russia (87%).
  • Time-limited power: At the same time, most in Australia (69%) agree it is important that political leaders are replaced regularly, so they do not become too powerful. Interestingly, we were among the least likely to agree with this idea, only ahead of Saudi Arabia (45%).

Ipsos Australia Director, Jess Elgood, said: “As Australians, the majority of us look back favourably on Angela Merkel’s time as German Chancellor and feel that, under her leadership, Germany proved itself a trustworthy partner to Australia.

“When we consider the qualities that are needed by global leaders, Australians are more likely than most other countries to value strength.  Also, in line with global opinion, half of us feel that more female political leadership would bring greater peace and success to the world. However, unlike many other countries, Australians are not worried about our leaders remaining in office too long and accruing too much power.  This possibly reflects our recent experience over the last decade of regular changes of Prime Minister, that has left us with an appetite for greater political stability and continuity.”

Key global findings:

  • On average, across 11 European countries, more than half of respondents (53%) agree that Germany has been a trustworthy partner for their country on European issues under Angela Merkel, with only a quarter (25%) disagreeing. Net agreement (% in agreement minus % in disagreement) is highest in the Netherlands (+58), Sweden (+50), and France (+44), but it is barely positive in Hungary (+4), Turkey (+7), and Italy (+9). Across 16 non-European countries, agreement is even higher, with 55% believing that Germany has been a reliable partner for their country on global issues; only 14% think it has not. Net agreement ranges from 57 points in India to 15 points in Japan.
  •  Across the same 11 European countries, excluding Germany, more agree (40%) than disagree (31%) that Merkel’s policies have had a positive impact on their country. However, sentiment varies widely, with net agreement ranging from +41 points in the Netherlands to -9 in Italy. Countries where people who think Merkel’s actions during her 16-year tenure have had a positive impact on their nation outnumber those who disagree by more than 20 points also include Spain (+31), Belgium (+22), and Sweden (+21). In addition to Italy, countries where fewer agree than disagree include Russia (-8), Hungary (-3), and Great Britain (-1). Opinions on whether the future of Europe depends on strong German leadership show a similar pattern. On average, four out of ten (40%) European adults agree that it does while 33% disagree. Agreement is highest in Spain (52%), France (45%), and the Netherlands (45%), and lowest in Great Britain (36%), Hungary (31%), and Poland (29%).
  •  On average, across all countries where those surveyed were asked about their opinion of Angela Merkel, more than half (58%) have a very or somewhat favourable opinion of her while only one in five (20%) view her very or somewhat unfavourably. The outgoing German chancellor wins the highest approval ratings in neighbouring European countries – the Netherlands (77%), France (75%), and Belgium (75%) – and her lowest ones in Japan (42%), the United States (41%), and Malaysia (37%), largely due to lack of familiarity. In Germany, more than two-thirds (67%) have a favourable opinion of their current head of government, while three in ten (30%) think poorly of her. Also of note, Angela Merkel enjoys positive net favourability in every country surveyed (+38 on average globally); only in Italy (+13), Poland (+10), and Hungary (+5) do positive and negative views of her almost balance each other out.

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Vast majorities around the world favour strong political leaders – but also limits on power

In addition to people's views on Angela Merkel and Germany's role in Europe and the world, the Ipsos study examined more general attitudes on global leadership. Among the global findings: 

  • High level of support for female leadership: On average, twice as many agree as disagree (54% vs. 28%) that the world would be more peaceful and successful if we had more female political leaders. This view is held by majorities in 18 of the 28 countries surveyed with the greatest support in Brazil, (72%), Peru (70%), and Colombia (70%). In Germany, which has now been governed by a woman for 16 years, less than half (46%) of adults agree that female leaders would make the world more peaceful and successful; almost one in three (32%) disagree. Americans (42%), Russians (41%), and South Koreans (33%) are those least likely to be convinced of the merits of female leadership. In every country, women display a higher level of agreement than men (by an average difference of 13 percentage points). 
  • Strong leaders wanted: Four out of five adults (81%) on average across all countries surveyed agree that the world needs strong leaders to solve global challenges. Agreement is highest in China (90%), Australia (88%), and Russia (87%), and lowest in South Korea (68%), Japan (67%), and Italy (67%).
  • Time-limited power: At the same time, more than two-thirds in all but one of the 28 countries surveyed agree it is important that political leaders are replaced regularly, so they do not become too powerful. This opinion is most prevalent throughout Latin America, especially in Colombia (87%), Chile (82%), Peru (81%), and Brazil (81), as well as in South Africa (83%) and the U.S. (81%).

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This study did not have any external sponsors or partners.  It was initiated and run by Ipsos, because we are curious about the world we live in and how citizens around the globe think and feel about their world.

These are the results of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 19,514 adults, aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and aged 16-74 in 23 other countries, between Friday, July 23, and Friday, August 6, 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult populations under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey represent a more urban, educated, and/or more affluent section of the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as a reflection of the views of this more ‘connected’ segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

The Global Country Average reflects the average result for all countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not total 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of ‘don’t knows’ or not stated responses.

Sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. The precision of online surveys conducted on Global Advisor is measured using a Bayesian Credibility Interval. Here, the poll has a credibility interval of +/-3.5 percentage points for countries where the sample is 1,000+ and +/- 4.8 points for countries where the sample is 500+. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please go to: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2017-03/IpsosPA_CredibilityIntervals.pdf.   

As a foundation member of the Australian Polling Council Ipsos complies with the Council’s Code of Conduct.  The purpose of the Code is to provide journalists and the public with greater confidence and trust in publicly released polling and survey data. We strongly encourage the inclusion of methodological details in any reference to published Ipsos results.

This study is compliant with the Australian Polling Council Code of Conduct. The Long Methodology Disclosure Statement for the study will be available at https://www.ipsos.com/en-au/disclosure_statements within two business days.

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