History still plays an important role in the Polish-German relations. Political polarisation is clearly visible in Polish opinions about Germany, as the recently published 2020 Polish-German Barometer shows. Once again, we present a new publication prepared in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation and the Deutsches Polen Instutut.
Nearly one-third (30%) of the associations Poles have with Germany are related to the war. Statements describing Germany as a country of strong economy and prosperity represent 14% of Polish respondents' associations, while 8% are related to culture, tourism and language. Whereas on the German side, the latter group of associations with Poland is the largest (29%), and it has increased. Associations connected with history account for 7%. Germans tend to link Poles with crime and disorder (4%) less frequently than in recent years. "It is very gratifying that for Germans Poland is more and more often an attractive country for tourists, associated with beautiful places to rest", comments co-author of the study, Dr. Agnieszka Łada from the Deutsches Polen-Institut. ”On the Polish side, there is a clear increase in emotional associations connected with World War Two, the most difficult chapter of our common history and the percentage of these connotations has risen from 21% since 2016”. At the same time Poles think less and less frequently of Germany as a country with a higher standard of living and development.
The Polish-German Barometer surveys have been conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation since 2000, currently also with the Deutsches Polen-Institut and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation. They allow us to monitor the dynamics of changes in the mutual perception of Poles and Germans. Until now, the image of Germany in Poland in particular was good and improving. Compared to the 2018 study, the image of Germany in Poland has become less positive. The percentage of positive opinions about the development of the economy or functioning of the state has decreased, whereas the percentage of negative opinions has not increased. More Poles are equivocal in their assessments. At the same time, the image of Germany in the eyes of Poles is better than the image of their own country.
describes this data Dr Jacek Kucharczyk from the Institute of Public Affairs, co-author of the study report. "On the other hand, German respondents assess Poland as a country better than in 2018 (when a regression of positive opinions was noted), but still about half of Germans have no opinion or have ambivalent opinions about Poland when they assess the functioning of Polish democracy, freedom of the media, the level of corruption or bureaucracy. In contrast, German assessments of their own country are largely positive,” he adds.
"The opinions of Poles about the condition of Polish democracy or the economy, for example, are strongly divided and correlate with their political preferences,"
Polish-German relations are seen as good by 72% of Poles and 55% of Germans, and as bad by 14% of Poles and 25% of Germans. On the Polish side, there has been a significant improvement, on the German side, we have seen some deterioration. "This year, we have asked what the respondents mean by assessing the relations as 'good' or 'bad'," says Dr. Łada, "It turned out that the respondents in both countries who regard the condition of Polish-German relations as good, when asked about the cause, first of all point to common economic interests (40% of Poles and 51% of Germans), and in the second place, they mention the actions of their own government (29% of Poles – the Polish government, 23% of Germans – the German government). On the other hand, the largest group of respondents who consider Polish-German relations to be bad, blame the Polish government (40% on the Polish side, 36% - on the German side) or attribute it to divergent economic interests (30% of Poles and 31% of Germans)".
The majority of Poles (52%) and Germans (66%) believe that Polish-German relations should focus on the present and the future, although the percentage of Poles stating so has been decreasing over the years (in 2011 - 73%, in 2018 - 60%). In 2020, 36% of Poles believe that the focus should be on the past. On the German side, the change is smaller. The percentage of respondents who prefer to deal with the present and the future in the mutual relations has decreased by four percentage points, while the percentage of those who opt for the past has increased by six percentage points.
The results also show the importance of visiting the other country. As Agnieszka Łada points out,
"People who have visited the neighbouring country usually have better opinions about that country and its inhabitants than the respondents who have never been to the other country before. This trend is particularly pronounced among respondents from Germany. It is an important signal that it is worthwhile to invest in the Germans' visits to Poland".
"Once again, the Polish-German Barometer surveys show that on the German side, the respondents' party preferences rarely have impact on the differences between answers to questions about Poland and Polish-German relations. On the Polish side, however, the political polarization is evident," adds Jacek Kucharczyk. "The supporters of the ruling party usually differ significantly from the voters of the opposition, especially the Civic Coalition. The former have a worse opinion of Germany as a country and its policy, take a worse attitude towards Germans and advocate focusing the mutual relations on the past rather than the future". The study has shown that similar trends can be observed by analysing differences in the preferred TV channels. The viewers of the state-controlled TVP channels usually have different, more critical opinions about Germans than the viewers of private and politically independent TVN channel. In some cases, there are also significant differences depending on what newspapers and magazines the respondents read.
A neighbourhood with history in the background: a look across the borders. Polish-German Barometer 2020. Key conclusions
Full results of the study: Jacek Kucharczyk, Agnieszka Łada, Sąsiedztwo z historią w tle: spojrzenia przez granice, Barometr Polska-Niemcy 2020, Instytut Spraw Publicznych/Deutsches Polen-Institut/Fundacja Konrada Adenauera, Warszawa/Darmstadt 2020