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OMGUS Survey of Trends in German Public Opinion (1945-48)

Between October 1945 and January 1948, the Americans carried out opinion polls in their occupation zone and in West Berlin on general trends in politics, the economy, and society. The results showed that more and more people regarded the supply situation as critical. Only about half of Germans had an adequate income. Germans continued to show signs of political apathy and many exhibited a lack of interest in obtaining regular information about the political situation. Among the parties, the Christian Democrats were losing support, while the conservative LDP/DVP was gaining ground. The percentage of Germans who did not fundamentally reject National Socialism remained high, and the willingness to accept responsibility for the war was declining. In the face of negative developments in the Soviet occupation zone, the rejection of Communism, on the other hand, was growing stronger. In equal measure, both the native population and newcomers regarded the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe as unjust. The majority of Germans no longer believed that the occupation would lead to a unified Germany or that the Allies were cooperating. Confidence in Allied efforts to rebuild Germany was generally on the decline, and confidence in the U.S. recovered only after the announcement of comprehensive economic aid within the framework of the Marshall Plan. Most Germans expected that the U.S. would be the world’s most influential power in the years ahead.

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Trends in German Public Opinion

Sample: the number of respondents varied from 365 in the first survey to 4,000 interviewed in January 1948; the total number of persons interviewed was over 16 million in the American Zone and West Berlin.
Interviewing dates: from October 26, 1945 to January 5, 1948 during which time more than fifty full-scale surveys were conducted. (43 pages)

This report summarizes in graphic form major trends of German opinion in the American occupied areas, and covers seven major issues: reorientation, politics, media, the occupation, economic affairs, food, and expellees.

Reorientation. In surveys conducted in 1947, an average of 52 per cent accepted National Socialism as a good idea badly carried out; this was a rise of five percentage points over the previous year but only two points higher than it had been in 1945. If forced to choose between communism and National Socialism, a plurality preferred the former in 1945, most people rejected both in 1946, and by 1947, although the "neither" category remained large, more chose National Socialism, and almost no one picked communism. Two years after the war's end, the number of Germans willing to assume responsibility for their country's part in bringing on the war continued a downward trend. About four in ten AMZON Germans felt that some races are more fit to rule than others.

Whereas before January 1948 over half the public had accepted the right of communists to speak on the radio, after this date only a little more than a third did so. From the outset, large majorities of AMZON Germans said that, if they had to choose, they would prefer a government guaranteeing jobs rather than one that promoted personal liberty.

Politics. The number of Germans who claimed to be informed about politics continued to drop after 1947 and the number of people who did not wish to see their sons enter politics remained at over 75 per cent. In all surveys, about a third of the people said that they thought about politics, with the rest leaving this task to "the others." In early 1947 a high of 72 per cent said that they thought political meetings were of value, but by the end of that year the figure had dropped to 45 per cent; in early 1948 it had again risen, but only to 58 per cent. Confidence in the motives of local German officials showed a definite downward trend; disenchantment with the performance of these officials was also growing.

Throughout AMZON, the CDU/CSU lost half the popular support it had enjoyed in the fall of 1945. Meanwhile the LDP/DVP gained, particularly in Wuerttemberg-Baden. At the same time, the number of people liking none of the parties tripled.

Media. Regular newspaper readership declined between early 1946 and the spring of 1947, leveling off at about half the AMZON population; in West Berlin about three-quarters claimed to be regular readers. In January 1948, 56 per cent of the AMZON population were regular or occasional radio listeners; more than four in ten consistently claimed to be nonlisteners. In January 1948 only 47 per cent felt that they were getting more accurate news coverage than during the war; the "no opinion" replies rose sharply from 22 per cent in January 1947 to 49 per cent in January 1948. In early 1946, 50 per cent of the AMZON public felt that newspaper coverage was more complete than that given on the radio; by January 1948 the two were given equal ratings.

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