Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, headquarters of the CDU in Berlin
While Adenauer and Erhard co-operated with non-Nazi parties to their right, the CDU has later worked to marginalize its right-wing opposition. The loss of anti-communism as a political theme, secularization and the cultural revolutions in West Germany occurring since the 1960s have challenged the viability of the CDU.
In her 2005 campaign, Angela Merkel was unwilling to express explicitly Christian views while maintaining that her party had never lost its concept of values. Merkel and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert have been keen to clarify that CDU references to the "dominant culture" imply "tolerance and living together". According to party analyst Stephan Eisel, her avoiding the values-issue may have had the opposite effect as she failed to mobilize the party's core constituency.
The CDU applies the principles of Christian democracy and emphasizes the "Christian understanding of humans and their responsibility toward God". However, CDU membership consists of people adhering to a variety of religions as well as non-religious individuals. The CDU's policies derive from political Catholicism, Catholic social teaching and political Protestantism as well as economic liberalism and national conservatism. The party has adopted more liberal economic policies since Helmut Kohl's term in office as the Chancellor of Germany (1982–1998).
As a conservative party, the CDU supports stronger punishments of crimes and involvement on the part of the Bundeswehr in cases of domestic anti-terrorism offensives. In terms of immigrants, the CDU supports initiatives to integrate immigrants through language courses and aims to further control immigration. Dual citizenship should only be allowed in exceptional cases.
In terms of foreign policy, the CDU commits itself to European integration and a strong relation with the United States. In the European Union, the party opposes the entry of Turkey, preferring instead a privileged partnership. In addition to citing various human rights violations, the CDU also believes that Turkey's unwillingness to recognise Cyprus as an independent sovereign state contradicts the European Union policy that its members must recognise the existence of one another.
The CDU has governed in four federal-level and numerous state-level Grand Coalitions with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as well as in state and local-level coalitions with the Alliance '90/The Greens.
The CDU has an official party congress adjudication that prohibits coalitions and any sort of cooperation with either the The Left (Germany) or the Alternative for Germany.