ABSTRACT

German public opinion has been historically opposed to nuclear weapons—both to their use and to their stationing on German territory. In almost every survey in the last 20 years, Germans have been opposed to stationing nuclear weapons on their territory, expressed desire to have them withdrawn, and opposed their hypothetical use. The contribution of this chapter is two-fold. First, it maps the main patterns of public opinion between 2000 and 2023, providing empirical evidence of the unpopularity of nuclear weapons among the German public prior to February 2022, which was to some degree overturned after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Second, it provides an innovative theoretical argument to explain the democratic legitimacy of the continuation of the current nuclear deterrence posture in which nuclear sharing on German territory is a key element, despite the opposition by the general public. This theoretical argument builds on scholarship tackling the dilemma between responsiveness and responsibility, and addresses the fundamental tensions inherent to technocratic policy-making in democratic countries.