Merkel’s approval ratings plunge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, arrives for a joint news conference in Berlin Thursday, July 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)©AP

Angela Merkel’s approval ratings have plunged in the wake of two Islamist terror attacks in the southern German state of Bavaria last month that reignited criticism of her refugee policy.

The ARD-Deutschlandtrend poll showed the chancellor’s approval rating had dropped 12 percentage points to 47 per cent — the second lowest level since the start of the current parliament in 2013.

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A month earlier, 59 per cent of Germans were satisfied with her work, an increase of 9 percentage points on June and her best rating since September 2015.

The poll also shows widespread frustration with the chancellor’s refugee policy, with just 34 per cent of respondents saying that they were satisfied or very satisfied with her approach to the issue, the lowest result since ARD started asking the question in October 2015.

Ms Merkel won praise internationally for her decision last summer to throw open Germany’s borders to the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who were then surging through Europe, having often made dangerous journeys from countries such as Syria and Iraq.

However, since then, there have been creeping doubts about the country’s ability to absorb so many foreigners. Those concerns have risen sharply since last month, when a young Afghan attacked passengers on a train in Würzburg, wounding five, and a Syrian blew himself up in Ansbach, injuring 15. Both attacks were claimed by the militant group Islamic State.

The chancellor has insisted that she will stick with her policy of open borders despite the two terror attacks. She earned widespread criticism in conservative circles last week after a Berlin press conference where she repeated her catchphrase “we can do this”, referring to the historic task of integrating many tens of thousands of immigrants.

The survey shows Germans are yet to be convinced that they “can do this” and does not bode well for Ms Merkel, coming just over a year before Germany’s general election.

Perhaps most troubling for the chancellor, the poll shows a steep rise in the popularity of one of her fiercest critics — Horst Seehofer, prime minister of Bavaria, saw his approval rating rise 11 percentage points to 44 per cent.

Mr Seehofer, who is leader of the CSU, sister party of Ms Merkel’s CDU, has frequently called for a cap on immigration and the reintroduction of border controls. Ms Merkel has rejected these demands.

The poll also found that Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a social democrat, is the country’s most popular politician, with an approval rating of 71 per cent. Wolfgang Schaeuble, finance minister, is second with 60 per cent. Ms Merkel is in sixth place.

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