Press release

Hertie School researchers offer recommendations to tackle public illiteracy on German foreign and security policy

A lack of awareness about foreign and security issues may jeopardize effective government responses, their research finds.

Berlin, 13 September 2021. A new study from researchers at the Hertie School highlights the danger of widespread illiteracy among the German public concerning foreign and security policy.

In a policy brief by Marina Henke, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for International Security at the Hertie School, and Julian Wucherpfennig, Professor of International Affairs and Security, outlines research showing that the German public’s security risk perceptions are severely skewed. Their brief, “Promote Foreign and Security Policy Knowledge in Germany,” shows that German citizens have vastly overestimated the risk of terrorist attacks on German soil over the past twenty years.

Henke and Wucherpfennig suggest joint action between the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense to overcome the knowledge gap, following their survey of the German electorate.

“Our study reveals an urgent need to address the information asymmetries between the German government actions and the German public perceptions, which may paralyze German domestic political decision-making processes during a security crisis,” says Henke.

Co-author Wucherpfennig adds that, “Promoting public literacy on security and defense policies, as well as fostering awareness and engagement through academic training should be among the priorities of any new German government.”

The policy brief is part of the series, “Addressing Germany’s governance challenges: pathways of reform for the next government coalition”, which will be published by Hertie School faculty and researchers in the lead-up the federal election on 26 September.

“This project diagnoses some of the key challenges that are stifling prosperity in Germany and offers specific and concrete recommendations that could contribute to the agenda of any forthcoming government coalition,” says Mark Hallerberg, Acting President of the Hertie School. “From highlighting the need for more public innovation to fostering higher education mobility, as well as boosting public integrity from politicians and bureaucrats, these briefs bring together the analytical and methodological diversity of the Hertie School’s faculty.

This collection of policy briefs showcases the experience of one of the Hertie School’s five Centres of Competence, combining expertise in economics, law, political science, public management and sociology to create novel approaches to the contemporary governance challenges faced by Germany.

Upcoming briefs will address a host of topics relevant to German governance.

Check out the series and follow the Hertie School for more updates.

The Hertie School in Berlin prepares exceptional students for leadership positions in government, business, and civil society. The school offers master’s programmes, executive education and doctoral programmes, distinguished by interdisciplinary and practice-oriented teaching, as well as outstanding research. Its extensive international network positions it as an ambassador of good governance, characterised by public debate and engagement. The school was founded in 2003 by the Hertie Foundation, which remains its major funder. The Hertie School is accredited by the state and the German Science Council.

Press contact

Jennifer Beckermann, Director Communications