In the aftermath of World War II, a high percent of German university students were actively engaged in politics, particularly during the hectic 1960s. Recent studies indicate there has been a change in their attitudes towards a more conservative stance. The German Ministry of Education asked the University of Constance to survey political views of contemporary German college students. The results indicate a sharp switch from political activism towards distancing themselves from the political arena. Of the 8,000 students surveyed in 25 college across the nation, only 37% described themselves as interested in politics compared to the 1983 figure of 54%. Fewer said they were on either the political left or right and preferred a middle perspective or none at all.
Tino Bargel, who conducted the survey, told Focus magazine, “students have the impression that they cannot influence their professional career nor political decisions.” This level or resignation had previously been characteristic among younger people or those without professional qualifications. Bargel believes there is a new more middle-of-the- road spirit among university students or a feeling of resignation as their personal lives become the center of concern.
The study revealed a more conservative stance on social issues. Today, 52% believe in “hard punishment of criminals” compared to 29% who had that attitude in 1985. About one fourth of students support limitation on immigration and 17% are concerned about “excessive foreign cultural influences.”
The recent election in the United States witnessed student activism whether for Barack Obama, John McCain or candidates such as Ron Paul. Is the global economic crisis making students so concerned about their own futures that social issues recede into the background?