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Germans content with national direction ahead of vote: survey

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans are far more satisfied with the direction of their country and less politically polarized than other European nations, a survey showed on Wednesday, underscoring why Angela Merkel is expected to win a new term as chancellor this month.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech during an election rally in Ludwigshafen, Germany, August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

The survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation showed that 59 percent of Germans believe their country is headed in the right direction.

Some 77 percent say their personal economic situation has improved or stayed the same over the past two years, while 80 percent describe themselves as political centerists.

The results contrast with other European countries where dissatisfaction with the economy and political establishment has led to a surge in support for populist parties on the right and left in recent years.

By contrast, German voters seem keen for continuity. Merkel is widely expected to win a record-tying fourth term on Sept. 24, with polls showing her center-right bloc 13-15 percentage points ahead of its closest rival, the Social Democrats (SPD).

“These findings point to a highly content and status quo oriented German society and contrast starkly with the situation elsewhere in Europe,” the authors Catherine de Vries and Isabell Hoffmann said.

In Italy, for example, just 13 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the direction of their country. In France and Britain, satisfaction levels stood at 36 and 31 percent, respectively. The average satisfaction level across the 28 countries in the EU was 36 percent.

Both Germany and France showed sharp increases in satisfaction levels over the past months. In a survey conducted in March, before young centrist Emmanuel Macron was elected president, just 12 percent of French said their country was headed in the right direction. German satisfaction levels stood at 32 percent in March.

Among the big European countries, France was the most politically polarized, with just 51 percent of respondents describing themselves as centrist. Some 24 percent identified as left or extreme left, while 25 percent described themselves as right or extreme right.

In Germany, just 13 percent of respondents described themselves as left or extreme left, and only 7 percent as right or extreme right.

The Bertelsmann survey was conducted in July and based on interviews with 10,755 Europeans in all EU member states.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg