Nationalism was mainly the concern of the educated and business middle classes. There was much popular apathy towards a united Germany.
Romantic ideals of nationalism grew through the works of writers and thinkers, such as Goethe and the Brothers Grimm. But a large proportion of the German population were peasants. Many were illiterate and would not be aware of these cultural influences.
Some nationalist aims were largely intellectual - they did not offer obvious benefits.
Economic benefits of unification would help the middle classes – increased profits and reduced taxes would have little effect on the general population.
Improved social and working conditions in the towns and cities would not help rural workers.
It has been argued that peasants were too involved in the day to day struggle of subsistence living to engage with the nationalist cause.