Argentinians shredded old documents and let them rain down on the streets. In Greece, people shared loaves of bread in which coins had been hidden. And in many German households you can probably still find leftover marzipan sweets in the shape of pigs and chimney sweeps. No matter what form our New Year’s Eve traditions may assume, they all have one thing in common: They are intended to make the New Year a happy and prosperous one. Our values play an important part in these traditions: They define the criteria and ideals by which we measure the success of the New Year. Which values are deemed more important than others depends strongly on the events with which we are confronted, either personally or via the media. What’s the state of play as we move from 2015 to 2016? The answer is unequivocal: Security is a value which is set to assume even greater importance for the majority of respondents in the future.
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Thousands of refugees on boats or traipsing across borders, the terror campaign led by ISIL, the Germanwings air disaster in which 150 passengers died – these and similar events have rocked Germans to the very core over the last 12 months. Little wonder, then, that one issue takes precedence above all in the minds of Germans when it comes to the subject of future values: Security. A total of 76% of German respondents believe this to be a value which is currently increasing in importance. Only 3% believe the opposite to be true. The other 21% are of the view that the relative importance (or perhaps unimportance) of security will remain stable. Security therefore tops the rankings for growth in importance, leaving all other possible answers trailing in its wake. This has been revealed by the results of the GfK Verein’s most recent study on the topic of changing significance of values, in which more than 1,000 people aged 14+ were invited to assess whether the relevance of 13 predefined concepts or values was currently increasing, decreasing or set to remain stable at the turn of the year.
Staying true to the cliché of hard-working Germans, one in two respondents opined that performance was an aspect which is gaining importance, meaning that it takes second place in the ranking of values with a future. However, work and professional ambition are obviously not the be all, end all in life. Many respondents place social and private aspects among the most important issues: Just under one in two expressed the view that solidarity, owning a home and trust will become more important. In contrast, only a small minority of respondents believe that these values will be less relevant moving forward.
Ranked sixth and seventh respectively, the issues of responsibility and optimism have very similar percentage point shares. In total, 44% of respondents subscribe to the theory that sticking your head above the parapet and assuming responsibility in the face of a multitude of challenges is a concept which will become increasingly important. Meanwhile, 43% of respondents are of the opinion that the population should show courage in striving to meet new targets and taking on new tasks. They believe that it is important to be more optimistic in future. Those who take a positive view of the future are also more open to unconventional ideas and thinking. A total of 39% of Germans believe that their country is in need of this, with the subject of innovation regarded as a concept with potential to become more important. In addition, a total of 38% of respondents believe that competition will play an increasingly significant role. And a third of respondents again identify an increasing importance for the subject of power. However, there is not total consensus in this matter: 16% of respondents are of the opinion that the importance of power is currently dwindling.
Consumers are more divided on the subject of going without certain items. A total of 26% believe that Germans will favor a lifestyle of moderation more often in future. However, nearly as many (23%) believe that the opposite is plausible. There is more consensus when it comes to the issues of luxury and adventure. However, the tallies reveal that the significance of these values is in decline. Around a third of consumers believe that both concepts will suffer a drop in importance in future, while just 19% and 17% respectively are of the view that the importance of more exciting lifestyles and living a life of excess will rise.
A comparison with survey results from the end of 2014 reveals the previous year may still be on the minds of respondents: In this regard, respondents currently see the growth in importance for the subjects of security and solidarity as being even more significant than previously. The issues received a boost of 8 percentage points and 9 percentage points respectively. The attacks in Paris in January and November of last year have surely contributed to a general increase in worry and our overall need to feel safe. Germans have also been pressed into action by the images of desperate refugees. For months now, many have been helping on a daily basis at refugee centers in cities and towns across Germany. In this respect, the question of solidarity has returned to the forefront of respondents’ minds in the most recent study. After a moderate showing at the end of 2014 when it was ranked ninth, this value has soared to third place (49%). Assessments of other values have in comparison shifted far less.
It is common knowledge that the world view of young and old can be quite different. However, does this also apply to the way in which they view changes to the importance of values? Breaking down respondents’ answers by age group reveals that this is in fact the case. Different stages of life clearly influence respondents’ assessments. While all age groups place security at the top of their rankings, from second place down the picture changes, with different priorities taking precedence. The 14-24 age group rates the increase in the importance of performance highest. However, they also place greater importance on the subjects of responsibility and trust than (the majority of) other age groups. Their thirst for adventure continues unabated despite this: 27% of under 25s believe that it is a good time for more excitement and adventure. The 25-34 age group is more cautious in this regard, primarily as they are building their own lives and starting careers: In comparison, they see least often a need for increased security (68%) and place greater importance than other age groups on innovation, power and luxury.
The picture looks a little different for respondents between the ages of 35 and 49. Among this age group, a particularly high proportion of respondents expect the importance of the home to increase. Homes provide the requisite balance to daily challenges and provide the ability to face up to them with renewed courage. This is helpful given that optimism is also a value which this group believes will become more important. In contrast, respondents between the ages of 50 and 64 tend to more often be prepared to go without one thing or another and face up to the competition. Perhaps this is because they must assert themselves over the young whippersnappers in the workplace or more often have their eyes on the lead up to (involuntary) retirement? Responsibility is a value which this age group believes will increase in importance. Just as with the mid-range age groups, the over 65s also have their minds set on their homes. Just over one in two see this as an increasingly relevant topic. This is probably because the special situation with regard to older generations is reflected in their responses: More often than not, they simply wish to spend as long as possible within their own four walls during their later years.
While all the various age groups may have their own particular characteristics, they are all unequivocally united on one issue at present: On the values agenda for Germans in 2016, security is ranked number one for all age groups, young and old.
Data source: GfK Verein, Study „Wertewandel 2015/2016“, (December 2015)
If you have any queries concerning this article or GfK Compact, please contact Claudia Gaspar, GfK Verein.
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