January 14, 2016 / 7:02 PM / 3 years ago

Support for Merkel's party falls in poll after Cologne assaults

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session of the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives has fallen two percentage points in one of the first opinion polls to be published since mass sexual assaults on women, blamed on migrants, in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

The poll for public broadcaster ARD also showed a narrow majority of Germans to be skeptical that the country can manage its huge influx of migrants.

Roughly 1.1 million entered Germany last year, far more than any other European country. Merkel has resisted pressure to take drastic measures to stem the flow, such as closing German borders, telling people the country is strong enough to cope.

The survey, conducted on Jan. 12-13, showed support for Merkel’s conservative bloc, comprised of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), falling two points to 37 percent.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has stepped up its criticism of Merkel’s refugee policies since the Cologne attacks, rose one point to 10 percent.

Police have registered 652 criminal complaints related to the events in Cologne, 331 of which are sexual in nature. Only five people are currently being held by police, and those are for non-sexual crimes of theft, causing bodily injury and resisting arrest.

Prosecutors announced on Thursday they were offering cash rewards of 10,000 euros for information leading to the arrest of further suspects.

Asked whether they agreed with Merkel’s optimistic “we can do this” mantra, 51 percent of the survey’s respondents expressed doubts about Germany’s ability to manage the crisis, while 44 percent backed the chancellor’s stance.

The poll showed that Germans were roughly evenly divided on whether the migrant influx scared them, with 48 percent saying it did and 50 percent saying it was not a source of concern.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; editing by Andrew Roche

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