Europe News

Merkel's popularity slides to four-year low amid refugee crisis

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her popularity slump to its lowest level in nearly four years, reflecting growing concern over the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, a poll showed on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The Deutschlandtrend poll for public broadcaster ARD showed a nine-point plunge in Merkel’s popularity to 54 percent. While some of her European peers might envy that figure, it was her worst rating since December 2011, when the euro zone financial crisis was raging.

The same survey showed that 51 percent of respondents -- up 13 percentage points in the past month -- now say they are scared by the number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany.

More than 200,000 migrants are estimated to have arrived in Germany in September alone -- roughly the same as for the whole of last year -- and the government estimates that 800,000 or more could come over the course of 2015.

Merkel was initially celebrated at home and abroad for her welcoming approach to the refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in the Middle East. But as the flow has continued and German facilities have been stretched to the limit, she has come under increasing criticism.

Her Bavarian allies have accused her of unwittingly encouraging more refugees to come to Germany by taking selfies with them during a visit to a shelter last month and by stating publicly that there was no upper limit to the number that would be accepted.

Since then, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has come out in favor of imposing a ceiling.

The ARD poll pointed to a significant shift in the mood, with 44 percent of Germans now saying that immigration brings more disadvantages than advantages for Germany, a rise of 11 percentage points from the prior month.

As Merkel’s ratings fell, those of conservative Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, the most high-profile critic of her refugee policy, shot up 11 points to 39 percent.

The most popular German politician is Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at 65 percent, followed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on 64 percent.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan