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The voices of Europe produced and recorded by Milton Mayer in cooperation with the University of Chicago under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. And now Milton Mayer. Nobody in Germany seems to know exactly where the village of Alan Spock is. But everybody knows that I want Spock is the location of the Institute fair demo scope the Germany's Public Opinion Research Center Alan Spock. There is actually less than a village. It's a hamlet on the north shore of Lake Constance. Us are as the Germans call it the Balkans a here in 1946. Frau Doktor Elizabeth. No Alan no mind. Established the institute fed Dema scope
to do the kind of public opinion surveys and marketing research that the Gallup Elmo Roper and other organizations do in the United States. Dr. Noel I know him and is the German counterpart of the American career girl and she isn't much more than a girl at that. She was born in Berlin in 1916 educated at the universities of canings bear Munich and Berlin and of all places at the University of Missouri where she spent a year in 1938 studying American public opinion for her German doctor's thesis. Returning home. She worked for Germany's greatest newspaper the frankfurter sidetone from 1939 until its extinction in
1943 and then she had to wait until the overthrow of Hitler before she could undertake the study of German public opinion. DR No I know I'm a what makes you think that you know what the German people are thinking. You seem to be doing opinion prodding by somebody is so nice and based on the questioning me personally if you risk questioning of cross-sections of the general population in the western part of Germany or the Federal Republic you know missed very much as it is. Gun I suppose in the United States public opinion surveys it's the same principle. And Sarah anything remarkable about the establishment or history of your institute I think perhaps that could be considered remarkable that the plains before founding such an
institute had been conceived in the 1930s when these missiles that are known in Germany in the end there was no chance to find out. Public opinion by openly questioning people in that it was possible seven years Lekan to establishing such research institute and my understanding Dr know Nora that under a dictatorship or let us put it this way to the extent that people are afraid afraid openly to speak their minds public opinion surveys are impossible. That's certainly true it would be impossible. Would have been impossible for instance. I didn't already know him to ask people on political matters. It was possible to ask them about market research questions but you could not ask about for instance how do you like Hitler
and I are in agreement with this. There really aren't policy or are you in agreement with the trade union policy and so on. It would have been impossible to get free. And hindered honest opinions. People are very careful to talk in their mind because they are living in the clear consciousness that each uncareful world could put them into prison. A further question on their mind. I'm thinking of of course of a layer that doesn't exist. But where there was no dictatorship and there was no totalitarianism. But where the pressure of public opinion was very great so that there might exist fear in people's minds not of imprisonment but of perhaps
social exile by their by their neighbors. Might it also be difficult to determine public opinion I think this is a good point because even in our own country Judy there may be questions that you have to use all your attention if only you were on the phone the logical art to get honest opinions because as U.S. society is sometimes strongly if you will of a suck it you would then if someone's heading in the opposite point of view will he not be. In the beginning we're going to talk about but if you use good questions and if you use a good interviewer and giving confidence to the respondent. And if you follow the rule that names are not taken down if you follow the rule to talk. This is found in the world. There's no one else present. Then you can be quite sure that you can
literally take up the opportunity to speak out his mind. And now how do you check the accuracy of your surveys that is. I suppose there are internal checks that you can make but there must also be outside checks that are made. I have in mind of course the occasions few in number I suppose in which the American public opinion polls as regards for example forthcoming elections have been proved to be wrong. Of course one of. Continuous interests lies in shaking our results. We do it for instance by not finding out about opinion by just one catch. We are using many Christians on the scene subject in be find out if. The wording of the question and the point of you were dodging the
question is leading to a consistent answer. Then again we have to use the system of pre-election polling to convince the drone public because sounds so unbelievable. And by asking two thousand persons you can make a statement. What grown up citizens of this country. About 37 millions are thinking now to prove this point. We published several times pre-election results and we could demonstrate how our opinion polls very much close to the final election results close was about one or two percentage points. It's one trick I should mention that in market research it's much easier to find out about the quality of our results because for it is our clients have figures about output about
consumption in the can. Compare our figures and their own internal figures in these comparisons are the main basis of confidence in Germany towards measures. Perhaps you know there's a German government for instance puts much research into opinion results. The German government in Bonn is continuously using opinion polls to find out about what population is thinking and not to formulate a policy according to it but in the first place to be informed about public opinion and to explain the policy to public and which is new to the new Under would be a new dangerous unknown power. Yes there are no alarm. What do the German people think.
What about her. It's a larger big question and it's making it very difficult for me to answer you. Where are all the leprosy for example. We should know about at least we tried all our methods and techniques to finding out for instance by repeating each year since nineteen fifty and to measure eschew towards democracy we wanted to know if democracy is well rooted in Germany today and used about 60 questions observing how the Edgewood in Germany is developing towards democracy. Of course we couldn't ask do you like democracy. Why don't you like it and would be very stupid. Why it's Christian. Well people would perhaps feel that they have to
say I like it because it is good. Really except that point of view today and then again what does it mean democracy. It's much too general expression. So we have to explain our point by putting specific questions for instance. We have to ask. What do you think is better for a country to have just one party or to have several parties. Now concerning this question each year we mirror a larger majority for the answer. It's better to have sentiment that is when we started our surveys in 1950. We had about 60 percent telling us several parties it's better for our country. It doesn't sound like a large majority. This to D. We have
75 percent telling us we are endorsing a system of third parties. Does that mean that you know I don't know and that 25 percent of the German people are against a system of several. No it does not because we have a large group of persons being quite an interested in questions of this kind and telling us Norton again that they are not dangerous to use this vote because we analyze this group mainly consisting out of three and you can get it. People are for instance living in villages being entirely concerned his family and the culture of oak and having no connection whatsoever. Political life so they wouldn't make or want to put one party into a one party system into power we have no 12 percent
telling us one party is better in this seem to oppress and remarkable because of the lack of political education. One of our main problems in Iran is that until today in our schools we have no good courses in civil science. What is called in the streets. I think political science or cervix civics. And we have a new tradition in schooling Lexis our tradition was put in. For instance in Greek losses in having a good knowledge of geography tonics on the tension and much of the attention has been devoted to zoom everybody not itch which is needed by a citizen in a complicated democracy.
And now out at the risk of egressing I wonder if you ever found out anything about apathy in Germany. There's a tradition perhaps a legend that the German people were apathetic about politics that they just simply were non political and this was one of the reasons why National Socialism could grow and that perhaps they still are. This is certainly this kind of question arises always with reference to democracy and the possibility of making it work. Have you ever found out whether the Germans are any more or less interested in politics than they formerly were. I think we have to be content at the present time. This is measuring each year a small
step forward towards being interested in questions like us being better informed about it for instance to give you one example. When you first started to ask about group agree or disagree with the government a large percentage of about 40 percent telling us underside. Now today we have a percentage of about 20 percent undecided. That sounds still is quite a bit. But you have to measure the relative. Percentage points in this case. You have to measure the progress and the progress is. Until 20 in the direction of better information and better understanding of the political process. I think one important part about this and that we had several
cases of broadcasting sessions of the Bundestag where people could listen or even see in television how the political process a democratic process is working. So we are very hopeful and especially hopeful because we found that in the election year of 53 degree of information really enlarged in a considerable way. So we think the next election coming up again people make progress in understanding what's happening. Now besides your discovery a president has 75 percent. In contrast with 60 percent picked in 1950 the German people are in favor of a multi-party system. That in itself suggests a trend in the direction
of democracy are our own our own deepening of Democratic roots. What other evidences do you find either for or against the thesis that democracy is more popular in Germany than it was. I would like to call it as a result of the Christian who think that in the present day Germany you one can speak frankly about his opinions. Is it necessary to be careful. Yeah again we paid only about 52 percent in 1951 telling us one can speak frankly into daily and we see what we find 70 percent telling us we can talk about freely our opinions and against progress very urgent.
I think that we should take as evidence that information about our government is continuously growing. For instance we asked people Do you know your representative in ball and do you follow what he's doing there. We ask do you know how the work in the Bundestag is handled and do you know how laws are made in the government process in all these information questions we have a growing percentage of people being banned from it. But again. I think that it's not just a matter of growing information growing it is a key issue as a two party system or several party system.
If I ask for instance. Is it better to hafe for a country to have one strong man. At the top of government and several experts. It lies in him in having handled government very swiftly. Or is it better to have different groups of men in power. For instance here's a government the wonderstruck the parliament and to have them fight out. All the three parties fighting out things and therefore slow process but in the end than. Perhaps a better decision in again with this question we wanted to Meryl. If this appeal of having a strong man has a strong appeal of a dictatorship. Where things are
done not talked about. If this time appeal is still there or if it is finally won out. I have to quote here that now about 60 percent of the population believe in a government of a party in government a party of opposition. And a system of talk not infighting or things in the government process. But we have still 30 percent believing that one strongman and power. And experts as countless could be created for our country. Is this to say Dr. Drew our ironic that. National Socialism or the dictatorship principle
is still strong in the German soul and well I want to ask you anyway if you're found out anything about the life or death of National Socialism during the last few years. Is it still alive and to what extent in spirit I don't mean in party membership. We ask people how they would react to what the new National Socialist Party. We don't believe that we can find out such a question holy really would be. But. We think it's not an interesting to know what we think to be how we would react about it. And there we can only get very very small minorities telling us we would like to have such a party again in power just 5 percent. It's a small group compared with what we have behind us. A
small group of 5 5 percent believe it would be a good idea draggin a National Socialist Party. This group is very unimportant compared to the large groups in the population who are strongly against such a development. But as you yourself say you don't expect such a question related from these people I think. No but it's interesting to see how many at present time believe they would be in agreement with such a party. Now here we have a shick. If the result of this kind are just imagination because there are several small attempts to found parties Lexus you know about it best We had an extreme rightist party working again with arguments of. Having a straw man and handling things efficiently and you know perhaps that parties like this have had no appeal to the population. Never a good moment
for 5 percent again or far 5 percent which is really a fight in our studies. Any other evidence to support or invalidate a supposition that Naziism. I mean the spirit of Naziism is substantially there in Germany but it will be come out of his questions and of. Or can. A measurement be Cara child mole. There's a small minority which I called it of being in agreement with such kind of program. I think it's quite. It's more interesting. To find out if people would recognize.
When a new party isn't the problem of this kind that it would lead the same direction in this direction. I have the pleasure that could much more be done to teach people what kind of a system would lead to the see in the document. For instance we asked people how would you explain that the countries was one straw men at the top. And what was a terrible and terrible things like for instance could attrition cames as a frequently happening how do you explain it. And we're not very happy about the result that there are many people who still believe it's happening because a bade me came on. To Power. They don't understand the principle so we would guess
that at least one third of the population until today does not really understand why such a system is leading to. The loss of freedom and fire away. No no. Where German people stay and the rearmament of their country. We have a small majority in favor of it and a very strong M.I.T. being against it and to give you again a figure about 42 percent of the population are forgotten for the realism and in about 39 to 40 percent are against it. And there's one interesting fact about it. Opinions in this respect are almost assume that since 6 years people don't see any change in this respect we have
you very hard. Actually it's difficult to inference and very difficult to treat and worse the effect of these two attitudes upon the government. The government. Has a line of policy which requires rearmament to secure. The freedon of Germany and to secure the ability to defend our way of life to its east. Therefore public opinion current in this respect have to influence the policy has to be followed. Esdras But of course the government is trying all kind of things to follow it to do again to be in larger majority fairly Ottoman because the government
believes that important to have a large majority of the population behind the policy. In this respect doctor an eye on Iran. Is there anything that public opinion surveys do not find out. I should see if I should see many things which public opinion so peace cannot find out so always are devoted to finding out about groups of people. But to each of us you are to me not groups partner but single individual living men and women. And about individual about the personalities of the persons opinion Soviets cannot find and they are not. And modernise. I'm thinking off soap opera house in Frankfurt.
There is written over the entrance three of us deem them via means through God. The Beautiful. Opinion. So please do not find out about the good so beautiful. Chris thank you very much stark and I want voices of Europe was produced and recorded in Europe by Milton Mayer in cooperation with the University of Chicago under a grant from the educational television and radio center. This program is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program has been introduced by Marvan. This is the end of a radio network.
Voices of Europe
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
An interview about surveying public opinion with Dr. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, a German political scientist.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
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Interviewee: Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth, 1916-2010
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-7-18 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:31
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from