Support for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel dips further on refugee fears

Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slipped due to her handling of the refugee crisis.
Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slipped due to her handling of the refugee crisis.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative bloc has slipped further due to her handling of the refugee crisis and worries about crime and security after assaults on women at New Year in Cologne, a poll showed on Wednesday (Jan 20).

Dr Merkel's open-door refugee policy, and her insistence that Germany can cope with last year's influx of 1.1 million migrants and more this year, has strained local authorities and split her right-left coalition.

Mass sexual attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities at New Year which have been largely blamed on migrants have deepened public scepticism about Dr Merkel's policy.

She remains far more popular than her main rival, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, however, and her conservative bloc still leads in the polls.

Forsa put Dr Merkel's conservatives down 1 percentage point at 37 per cent, its lowest level since November, and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) up 1 point at 10 per cent, in double figures for the first time in a Forsa survey.

Furthermore, support for Dr Merkel, the conservative bloc's main electoral asset, dropped 4 points to 44 per cent, the poll showed, if a theoretical presidential-style vote were to be held in Germany.

Despite the drop, Dr Merkel is still way ahead of her Social Democrat (SPD) rival Sigmar Gabriel who was up 1 point at 16 per cent. Dr Merkel's conservatives share power with the SPD in a "grand coalition".

"After New Year's Eve in Cologne and the attack on German holidaymakers in Istanbul, many citizens are thinking not only about the refugee crisis but also fighting terror and criminality," said Forsa chief Manfred Guellner.

Dr Merkel is under mounting pressure from some in her conservative party, especially her allies in Bavaria - the entry point for most migrants entering Germany - to change course and shut Germany's borders.

The poll also showed 55 per cent of Germans favour a closing of the border to stem the influx of migrants, many of whom have fled war zones in the Middle East and Africa.

Germany's next federal election is due in 2017 but three closely watched regional elections take place in March.