Global views on Angela Merkel and German leadership

Overall, Germany is widely perceived to have been a trustworthy partner under outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The author(s)
  • Robert Grimm Public Affairs, Germany
Get in touch

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' Global Advisor online platform, conducted online among nearly 20,000 adults across 28 countries, examines people's views on Merkel's impact on their own country, Europe, and the world.

Top 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.

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. Here are the top 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%).

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 author(s)
  • Robert Grimm Public Affairs, Germany