Majority of Germans fear the EU will undermine their social security & national finances

  • New research from Demos (UK) and d|part (Germany) shows the majority of Germans holds concrete fears about the EU
  • Citizens’ fears about the EU are not simply a generalised anxiety, but a response to concrete concerns about issues such as a loss of social security (53%), increasing payments to the EU (52%), job losses (45%) and the loss of German culture and national identity (42%)
  • Education levels matter for the degree of concern, with more educated citizens reporting significantly less fear regarding the EU

New research conducted by Demos and d|part for a major project on fear and populism in Europe shows German citizens express substantial concern about the European Union. The research shows that citizens do not hold abstract anxieties, but rather fears grounded in specific, concrete issues.

More than 50 per cent are afraid of a loss of social security (53%) and increasing EU payments (52%). Near majorities were also found to be very concerned about the loss of jobs (45%), and the loss of national identity and culture (42%) as a result of further EU integration.

The study shows that German women are generally more concerned with regard to the EU than men – but especially so when it comes to a potential loss of social security, jobs or increasing EU payments.

Education and age also matter: Germans under 35, and those who have at least some experience of higher education, are significantly less worried about the EU than older citizens, or those with lower degrees of education.

No significant differences were found in the level of concern expressed for those aged 35-54 years or older, but education continues to make a difference: the more education citizens hold, the less afraid they are of the EU.

The study further illustrates how concerns about Germany’s future in the EU are not directly related to requests for Germany to leave the EU. Only one in six respondents wished for Germany to leave the EU.

In contrast to other countries included in the study – in particular the United Kingdom, France and Sweden – Germans remain positive about the EU in general. A quarter of respondents would like to see Germany promote further European integration. One in six Germans wants their government to work for the formation of a single European government.


% of respondents expressing concern with regard to the European Union


Fears (mean scores with 95% CI) by sex    


Fears (mean scores with 95% CI) by age


Fears (mean scores with 95% CI) by education 


Fears (mean scores with 95% CI) by old (West)

NOTE: high fear levels are represented with low scores on the graph, and low fear with high scores


% of respondents expressing attitudes for Germany’s long-term policy in the EU

Commenting on the results, Christine Hübner, partner at d|part and lead researcher for this study, said:

“Our study shows that people in Germany have concrete concerns about their future in the EU and that these cannot simply be equated with generalised anxiety. It is important to understand and address concrete fears about the EU in Germany. Once again we see how much education matters for how citizens perceive the EU, and that is not just higher education: at any level, the more educated, the less afraid Germans are.”

Sophie Gaston, Head of International Projects at Demos, said:

“Our research shows that fear, in all its manifestations, is becoming a consistent theme across Europe – but equally so are we seeing a breakdown of trust in between citizens and their representatives across many member states. The German study shows that there is clearly a more concrete basis for many of these fears, which, whether grounded in reality or not, must be acknowledged and addressed by politicians for trust to be restored. When concerns are considered to be abstract, they are much more easily dismissed.”



About the Project: Nothing to Fear but Fear itself?

This major pan-European research project from the UK-based think tank, Demos, seeks to capture how an emerging culture and politics of fear is gripping the European Union as a whole, and its unique manifestations within member states. The project addresses five levels of impacts: party politics, public policy, social cohesion and integration, media rhetoric, citizens and identity.

Demos is undertook extensive pan-European research, as well as conducting specific analysis on the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, and commissioned exclusive new academic research within five other member states to provide a snapshot of the ‘flash-points of fear’ on the ground in Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

The project is supported by two high-level workshops in Brussels, bringing together thought leaders from across the European Union, to map local level impacts and devise solutions at EU, national and grassroots levels. For more information, visit:

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Visit:

About d|part

d|part is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan think tank based in Berlin. d|part’s projects have built the foundation for discussions about the state of public opinion and political participation in Germany and Europe.


The survey to underpin the analysis of this research was conducted by YouGov for Demos between 23 August – 7 September 2016. YouGov surveyed 2125 German adults (aged 18+) online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults aged 18+ on age, gender and region. The YouGov panel also took account of other factors such as: last political vote, education, political attention. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.

Media Contact

Alex Porter, Demos                                       [email protected]
Ph. +44 20 7367 4200                                   +44 7969 326069 (out of hours)

Christine Hübner, d|part                              [email protected]
Ph. +44 7934 592546