They used to call Ronald Reagan 'The Teflon President' after the non-stick coating on frying pans. Scandals and policy failures never seemed to dent his approval ratings as much as you'd expect. His genial disposition just seemed to disarm people.
I'm puzzled by Angela Merkel's surviving popularity. From a policy perspective, she's got, at best, a mediocre record. First, she's played a major role in the policy that produced the graphs above. What's more, she has broken probably dozens of (express or implied) promises to German voters about how the Eurozone would respond to the financial crisis. She's been wrong in so many ways: sometimes in the form of red lines that she or her surrogates promised wouldn't be crossed (but then were), some were in the form of predictions that turned out to be spectacularly wrong (Wulff will make a great President!), some were in the form of sudden policy flip-flops (shutting down nuclear plants shortly after endorsing them).
Normally, when a politician should be in the doghouse but isn't, it's because goshdarnit, he/she's just so darned lovable! But Merkel's neither lovable nor really hatable, her image is 'colorless and competent'. Yet Germans seem to be able to forgive her almost anything. I have a few theories about this:
- She's still enjoying a first-female-Chancellor honeymoon.
- By being extremely careful about what she does and says, she always builds in enough plausible deniability to avoid being too badly splattered when the shit hits the fan.
- She's so boring that people just can't imagine having strong opinions about her.
- Her colorless competence is actually what protects her, since Germans (1) distrust people who are too flashy or elegant; and (2) conversely tend to associate dullness with solidity and trustworthiness.
- She's insulated by Germany's relatively good recent economic performance, but that will change once Germany enters recession in late 2012, as it may well do.
- Germans believe that, whatever her faults, she's committed to ruthlessly pushing Germany's economic interests, and this is precisely what they want.
Those are my guesses. Feel free to put forward your own in comments. Or you can dismiss my entire thesis, that's fine, too!