By Craig Kafura and Karen Whisler
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has passed away at the age of 87. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ long-running public opinion survey asked how Americans felt about Kohl during his term in 1982, 1986, and again in 1990. In a 0-100 ‘thermometer’ scale Americans were fairly neutral with regard to Kohl, ranking him with a median score in the 50’s. This put him in line with leaders such as Nelson Mandela and French President Francois Mitterrand, above European Commission president Jacques Delors and former US President Richard Nixon, and below figures like UK PM Margaret Thatcher, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and then-President George H. W. Bush.
Yet Kohl’s West Germany—and after 1990, Germany—were consistently warmly regarded by Americans, both during and following his tenure as Chancellor.
Though Kohl left politics in 2002, his political legacy lives on. Kohl's 1994 cabinet included as minister for the environment and nuclear safety one Dr. Angela Merkel, who now has had a run of political success nearly as long as Kohl’s, serving as Chancellor since 2005. If she wins reelection to her fourth term this fall, she would have the potential to surpass Kohl as the longest-tenured Chancellor in modern German history.