Rivals of German chancellor Angela Merkel have long-marvelled at her seemingly unerring sense of the national mood.
But the German chancellor has a secret weapon - her office conducts opinion polls tirelessly to shape policy, despite her once claiming that she did only what she thought was "right".
The chancellor's office commissioned more than 600 secret opinion polls between 2009 and last year, according to a report in 'Spiegel' magazine.
In one instance, a speech Mrs Merkel made to the Bundestag about climate change in 2009 reportedly repeated almost word-for-word the findings of an opinion poll carried out three weeks earlier.
Mrs Merkel has long been seen as the arch-pragmatist of Europe, reacting to events rather than following ideology. But she has claimed previously that she does not rely on opinion polls. "I'm doing what I think is right and important," she said in 2006. "To judge by polls would be completely wrong."
The existence of the polls emerged under a freedom of information request by an opposition Green Party politician, and Mrs Merkel's government sought to block it for several months.
Spiegel claims to have tracked several key policy decisions and matched them to the findings of the confidential opinion polls, including Mrs Merkel's tough stance during the euro crisis, when she demanded greater austerity in Greece and other southern European economies.
Mrs Merkel does not follow the survey results slavishly, but uses them to make sure she never drifts too far from the mainstream, the magazine claimed. (©Daily Telegraph)