Donald Trump terrifies Germans above all else

Nothing scares Germans more than the US president's policies and their global impact, according to a new survey. Concerns about refugees and integration came in second and third place.

More than two-thirds of Germans — or 69 percent — are extremely concerned that US President Donald Trump's policies are having a dangerous impact worldwide, according to the annual survey "The fears of Germans" by the R+V Infocenter.

"Trump's ruthless 'America First' politics, his aggression in regard to international arrangements and his equally aggressive trade and security policies, even towards allied countries, scare the majority of the population," said Manfred G. Schmidt, a professor at Ruprecht Karls University in Heidelberg and a consultant for R+V Infocenter.

It was one of the highest percentages ever recorded in the survey, which has cataloged German fears since 1992.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

A whopping 63 percent believe that German authorities and institutions are unable to cope with refugees and asylum-seekers, 63 percent also fear that increased migration will spark further tension between Germans and asylum-seekers and refugees. Both figures are higher than in the survey released in 2017.

Lack of trust in politicians

More than 60 percent of those polled put little store in politicians, fearing that they are not up to the job. Nearly half mark their performance as a 'fail' or a mere one grade above that. Both percentages show a significant increase from last year's survey. Just 6 percent marked their work as "good" or "very good."

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Alexander Gauland

Co-chairman Alexander Gauland said the German national soccer team's defender Jerome Boateng might be appreciated for his performance on the pitch - but people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbor." He also argued Germany should close its borders and said of an image showing a drowned refugee child: "We can't be blackmailed by children's eyes."

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Alice Weidel

Alice Weidel generally plays the role of "voice of reason" for the far-right populists, but she, too, is hardly immune to verbal miscues. Welt newspaper, for instance, published a 2013 memo allegedly from Weidel in which she called German politicians "pigs" and "puppets of the victorious powers in World War II. Weidel initially claimed the mail was fake, but now admits its authenticity.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Frauke Petry

German border police should shoot at refugees entering the country illegally, the former co-chair of the AfD told a regional newspaper in 2016. Officers must "use firearms if necessary" to "prevent illegal border crossings." Communist East German leader Erich Honecker was the last German politician who condoned shooting at the border.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Björn Höcke

The head of the AfD in the state of Thuringia made headlines for referring to Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame" and calling on the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past. The comments came just as Germany enters an important election year - leading AfD members moved to expel Höcke for his remarks.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Beatrix von Storch

Initially, the AfD campaigned against the euro and bailouts - but that quickly turned into anti-immigrant rhetoric. "People who won't accept STOP at our borders are attackers," the European lawmaker said. "And we have to defend ourselves against attackers."

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Marcus Pretzell

Pretzell, former chairman of the AfD in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and husband to Frauke Petry, wrote "These are Merkel's dead," shortly after news broke of the deadly attack on the Berlin Christmas market in December 2016.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Andre Wendt

The member of parliament in Germany's eastern state of Saxony made waves in early 2016 with an inquiry into how far the state covers the cost of sterilizing unaccompanied refugee minors. Thousands of unaccompanied minors have sought asylum in Germany, according to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) - the vast majority of them young men.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Andre Poggenburg

Poggenburg, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, has also raised eyebrows with extreme remarks. In February 2017, he urged other lawmakers in the state parliament to join measures against the extreme left-wing in order to "get rid of, once and for all, this rank growth on the German racial corpus" - the latter term clearly derived from Nazi terminology.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Alexander Gauland - again ...

During a campaign speech in Eichsfeld in August 2017, AfD election co-candidate Alexander Gauland said that Social Democrat parliamentarian Aydan Özoguz should be "disposed of" back to Anatolia. The German term, "entsorgen," raised obvious parallels to the imprisonment and killings of Jews and prisoners of war under the Nazis.

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

... and again

Gauland was roundly criticized for a speech he made to the AfD's youth wing in June 2018. Acknowledging Germany's responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era, he went on to say Germany had a "glorious history and one that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years. Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history."

Terrorism, the debt crisis and the environment

Fifty-nine percent of Germans are still concerned about terrorist attacks in Germany, although the number has dropped in recent years.

Nearly the same number applies to fear over the impact of the eurozone's debt crisis. Germany's taxpayers, Schmidt pointed out, are still at risk of paying the lion's share in case of an EU country defaulting on payments.

Read more: Climate change takes a toll on our minds too

The survey also shows 48 percent of Germans are worried about climate change and believe it will have a dramatic impact on the environment. More than half think there will be more natural disasters in future.

The researchers point out that none of the categories showed significant regional differences.

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The annual survey is commissioned by insurance firm R+V Versicherungen. Around 2,400 Germans across the country were polled between June 8 and July 18, 2018.

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World | 15.02.2018

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