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OMGUS Survey of Trends in German Public Opinion (1945-49)

After the economic upswing that followed the currency reform in the summer of 1948, concerns about the supply of food and consumer goods finally showed a noticeable decline. The currency reform was met with broad approval, even though many now faced growing concerns over earning an adequate living. Skepticism about the Germans’ capacity for democracy remained, and more than half of those surveyed ranked economic security – of the kind held out by the Socialist planned economy, for example – higher than political liberty. On the other hand, a large majority supported the course – embarked upon in 1947/48 – toward a partial government for western Germany. However, interest in politics and the willingness to inform oneself about politics tended to remain low. The two large parties together had suffered a massive loss of support. The percentage of those who did not fundamentally reject National Socialism remained high, though willingness to acknowledge Germany’s responsibility for the war was on the rise again. What had grown substantially in the West was the rejection of Communism. Thanks to the Marshall Plan, confidence in American efforts to rebuild Germany was growing, but confidence in Germany’s own inherent powers was also slowly increasing. In the face of growing tensions between East and West, Germans favored integration into a Western European union. Most expected that the U.S. would become the most influential power in the world in the years ahead and expected another World War in the medium term. Although Berlin had proven a source of conflict, a large majority supported the Allies’ commitment to the city.

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Trends in German Public Opinion

Sample: an unspecified number of persons in the American Zone, West Berlin, and Bremen.
Interviewing dates: from October 1945 to February 1949 during which time sixty-seven full-scale surveys were conducted. (71 pp.)

This report summarizes in graphic form major trends of German opinion in the American occupied areas, covering ten major issues: cares and worries, reorientation, politics, economic affairs, food, international relations, Berlin, the occupation, media, and expellees.

Cares and Worries. Up to June 1948, the outstanding trend was the rise in anxiety over food. By April 1948, 54 per cent of the AMZON public mentioned this as the greatest worry. The next in importance was adequate clothing and shoes, which had risen to four in ten by 1948. Anxiety about prisoners of war and missing persons leveled off at about ten per cent in 1947. The category "unemployment and no means of support" dropped in 1947 to about 12 per cent.

The currency reform produced a remarkable shift. From the April 1948 high of 54 per cent, concern about food dropped to 19 per cent by July 1948, and by 1949 it was as low as ten per cent. Concern about clothing and shoes also sharply declined from 40 per cent in April 1948 to one per cent in February 1949. From July 1948, money trouble took over as the all-pervading claimed worry. Indeed, well over 60 per cent mentioned financial problems, far exceeding the peak figure of 54 per cent that had mentioned food as a major concern.

Reorientation. A plurality of Germans appeared doubtful of their ability to carry on democratic self-government. If forced to make a choice between a government offering economic security and one guaranteeing civil liberties, six in ten Germans said they would pick the former. The same number, however, said they would not give up the two civil rights of the franchise and freedom of the press; four in ten would do so.

In 1946 the average figure for the number of persons who felt that National Socialism was a good idea badly carried out was 40 per cent. In 1947 it had risen to 52 per cent and by 1948 it was 55.5 per cent. Given the choice between a communist and National Socialist government, the trend was from neither to National Socialism: In November 1946, 17 per cent selected National Socialism; in February 1949, 43 per cent preferred it, as against two per cent for communism. During this period the "neither" vote dropped from 66 per cent to 52 per cent.

From November 1946 until January 1948 majorities held that Communists had a right to radio time. From then on the trend changed and by February 1949 about six in ten opposed giving Communists a chance to air their views.

On the question of war responsibility, more Germans in January 1949 than in November 1947 blamed Germany for the outbreak of World War II.

Politics. The number of Germans who claimed to be informed about politics dropped from 1945 to 1947 and interest in politics remained consistently low at about four in ten. Disinterest did not, however, imply lack of opinion. Approval of the idea of a West German government was consistently high and most people felt that its establishment would not prove a permanent bar to unification. Although confidence in local government officials was not very high, there was a definite upward trend.

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