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Differences between East and West (November 12, 1990)

With the help of a wide-ranging opinion survey, the magazine Der Spiegel sought to determine which attitudes were shared by East and West Germans and which differences of opinion needed to be reconciled if unification was to succeed.

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The Newcomers Lack Self-Confidence
Spiegel survey in the all-German Federal Republic: What unites and separates Germans in East and West

The Spiegel commissioned three institutes to determine what unites and what separates Germans in the old FRG and the ex-GDR, the ways in which they resemble each other and the ways in which they differ.

The Emnid Institute in Bielefeld interviewed 2,000 adult men and women in the East and another 2,000 in the West (and an additional 100 youths between 15 and 17 in both East and West). Here in the old FRG, Emnid used its own interviewers; over in the ex-GDR, the Westphalians tapped into a personnel network established by the East Berlin Usuma Institute for its own use. The institute was only founded this year.

Leipzig’s Central Institute for Research on Youth, which was only allowed to conduct surveys as “confidential classified information,” or even as “secret confidential information,” for the state and party leadership during the Honecker years, interviewed an additional 1,200 East Germans.

Some of the Saxons’ questions originated from the time before the Wende*; others came from the seven surveys carried out by the institute afterwards, numerous new questions were added.

Interviewers from the three institutes were already at work when Germany was still split into the acronyms FRG and GDR (from mid-September until the beginning of October). The responses were tallied by computers in Bielefeld and Leipzig and then evaluated by institute experts at a time when the GDR no longer existed.

This study thus became the opening balance sheet, as it were, for the all-German Federal Republic, which has gained 16 million new citizens on top of its previous 63 million since October 3.

In the future, assuming that these survey figures are updated, politicians and contemporary historians will be able to determine if, how, and when that which belongs together actually grows together.

Approximately 100 subjects were addressed, interviewers sat for about an hour in the living rooms and kitchens of interviewees between Aachen and Görlitz, Rostock and Passau.

Most of the questions were identical or posed in analogous form in East and West; a dozen direct comparisons were asked for.

Other comparisons were drawn later in the institutes. It was thus determined, for example, that the united Germans’ attraction to each other was not really as great as might be assumed, given the black-red-gold** enthusiasm seen on Bild title pages and sometimes on television screens: West Germans liked the French, and East Germans liked the Austrians just as much as the compatriots from whom they had been separated for so long.

[ . . . ]

* The German term Wende refers to the events that led to the downfall of the Communist regime in 1989/90 – eds.
** The colors of the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany – eds.

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