This eupinions slides was carried out for and presented at the 2022 U.S.-German Futures Forum in Münster, Germany. The data was collected in September 2022, with just 3,000 online interviews held – 1,831 in Germany and 1,109 in the United States.
Rapid transformation processes shake up economies, put a strain on democracies and disrupt societies. Digitalization is a driver of transformation. Its effects on democracy have been debated over the past years.
Against this backdrop, we asked:
1. What people know about digitalization
2. How people feel about digitalization
3. And whether they believe digitalization is good for democracy
In a first step, we wanted to find out whether people are familiar with the term ‘digitalization’. 91% of Germans claim to know what digitalization is. 50% of Americans do. This is the largest gap we observe in the data.
To create a common understanding, we added a short definition. It read: Digitalization describes the process of converting from analog to digital: letter to E-Mail, landline to smartphone, newspaper stand to social media feed, supermarket to online shop.
Here people are being asked to give us their general assessment of digitalization. 2/3 believe that digitalization is more of an opportunity than a threat. The positive largely outweighs the negative in the minds of most Americans and Germans.
Now we become more specific and enquire whether digitalization is good or bad for democracy. Responses remain largely positive but drop: Slightly in Germany by 3% and more notably in the U.S. by 8%.
Next, we move away from general assessments about systemic effects and get personal. More specifically, we ask about personal experiences with digitalization. Over 80% of Americans and Germans state that their personal experience with digitalization has been good.
However positive the personal experience may have been – when mentioning social media, enthusiasm stalls: 49% of Germans and 44% of Americans say social media has not improved the public debate. 31% of Germans and 39% of Americans say it has improved the public debate. 20% of Germans and 17% of Americans don’t know what to think about the impact of social media.
Another hot topic in the age of digitalization is the protection of privacy. Interestingly, Americans and Germans are now aligned in their views. Over 2/3s of Germans and Americans emphasize that privacy protection should be a priority.
Germans and Americans are equally divided with the way their democracies work. This question enquires after satisfaction with the political system. It does not ask about political outcomes.
A slight majority is still satisfied with the way democracy works in Germany and the U.S. A slight minority however is dissatisfied. In Germany, satisfaction with democracy has dropped from 66% in March to 54% in September 2022.
When correlating attitudes towards digitalization and satisfaction with democracy, a pattern emerges: Those considering digitalization as an opportunity are more likely to be satisfied with the way their democracies work.
The effect is most visible in Germany with a 21% gap. 60% of those positive about digitalization say they are satisfied with their democracy. Whereas only 39% of those negative about digitalization are satisfied with democracy in their country. In the U.S. 58% of those positive about digitalization are satisfied with their democracy. Only 46% negative about digitalization are satisfied with their democracy.
62% of Amercians are convinced the U.S. is able to deal with rapid technological change alone. 38% disagree with this claim. A different pictures emerges in Germany: Only 41% believe their country can deal with rapid technological change alone. 59% of Germans disagree.
1. Aim of this data set: Overview of general knowledge, attitudes, assessment when it comes to democracy and digitalization
2. Attitudes and assessment in the U.S. and Germany very similar.
3. Remarkable differences only when it come to knowledge and self confindence. Germans are significantly more familiar with the term digitalization. Americans are clearly more confident that the U.S. can deal with technological change alone.
4. Majority of Americans and Germans see digitalization as an opportunity rather than a threat.
5. Germans and Americans are split when assessing their democracies. Small majority is satisfied. Large minority is dissatisfied.
The sample with a size of n=11,632 was drawn by Dalia Research between 2022-09-02 and 2022-09-22 across all 27 EU Member States, taking into account current population distributions with regard to age (16-70 years), gender and region/country. In order to obtain census representative results, the data were weighted based upon the most recent Eurostat statistics.
Any references to differences between countries in the report pertain only to the seven countries with sufficiently large sample sizes, namely: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
Within the same time frame, an additional sample was drawn in the United States of America with a size of n= 1,109.
Calculated for a sample of this size and considering the design-effect, the margin of error would be 1% at a confidence level of 95%.