Most Important Issues: Germans, Unlike Americans, More Worried About Climate Change Than War Or Terror

Germany Climate Change Protest
Germans hold banners as they protest next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, beside the U.S. embassy, against the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate-change deal, June 2. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The German public is more worried about climate change than war or terrorism, according to a survey that shows the yawning gulf between Germans and Americans on the issue.

According to the poll, conducted by Kantar Emnid Institute for the publisher Funke Mediengruppe, 71 percent of Germans said they were most personally worried by climate change. Potential future wars were named as the most worrying issue by 65 percent and terror attacks by 63 percent.

In the U.S., Gallup regularly asks Americans for what they consider to be the most important problem. The surveys are not directly comparable as Gallup allows respondents to choose only one option, while the German poll allowed multiple answers. But on Gallup's July survey just 3 percent of Americans named "Environment/pollution" as their top issue, putting it behind terrorism, jobs, unemployment, poor governance and others.

Torsten Schneider-Haase, head of political research at Kantar Emnid, said environmentalism was not a partisan issue in Germany, according to The Local.

"Environment and climate protection have already greatly mattered to people in Germany for years," Schneider-Haase said. "The fight against climate change has been understood as a cross-party effort, and not only associated with the Green party."

The gap between Germans and Americans on the issue may help explain the ongoing clash between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over climate policy. Trump announced in June that he was pulling America out of the Paris climate agreement, a decision Merkel has said that she "deplores."

But Germany may be more in step with global public opinion than America. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, climate change and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) are seen by people across the world as the two most significant threats to their country, with 62 percent naming ISIS and 61 percent naming climate change in the survey of citizens in 18 countries.

Meanwhile, though the climate change issue has the potential to be exploited by any party, the prominence of security issues in the German poll may comfort Merkel ahead of the country's elections in September, in which she is seeking a fourth term.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party is traditionally associated with a tougher approach to security and law and order.