Was Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine a Watershed for German Public Opinion?
55 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 2, 2022
This paper addresses the question of whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a historical turning point (Zeitenwende) in public opinion on foreign and defense policy in Germany. To this end, we provide a theoretical analysis of how the concept of a historical turning point can be applied to public opinion. We identify the permanence of the change in attitudes as well as its significance as necessary conditions to speak of a historical turning point. In the remainder of the paper, we focus on the argument that change in different types of orientations are significant to different degrees. Change in core postures is more significant than change in policy attitudes; change in attitudes thematically distant from the Russian invasion is more significant than change in attitudes directly related to the event. Empirically, we present a panel data analysis of attitude change triggered by the Russian invasion. Analysis of data from several waves of the GLES panel survey collected before the invasion (2017-2021), and in one wave after (May 2022), shows that there were large shifts in policy attitudes directly related to the event. Postures remained essentially unchanged, as did thematically distant attitudes. We conclude that there has been no historical turning point at the level of public opinion (yet).
Keywords: Foreign policy attitudes, core postures, panel data analysis
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