Angela Merkel rating drops over refugee crisis, says poll

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity has dropped abruptly over her handling of Europe’s refugee crisis, a poll for ARD television network has shown.

Merkel, who was criticised for being slow to condemn violent protests against refugees in an east German town last month, saw her approval ratings slip four points from the previous month to 63% in the Infratest Dimap survey.

Though she remains very popular at home, it was a steep one-month drop in a survey that normally moves by just a point or two each month. It was the lowest support rating for Merkel since December 2012.

Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a leading Social Democrat (SPD), remained the most popular politician with an approval rating of 72%, while support for finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was at 69%.

More than half of those surveyed were unhappy with how Merkel had acted in the refugee crisis, which she has described as a bigger challenge for Europe than the Greek debt crisis.

Germany, with relatively liberal asylum laws and generous benefits, is the EU’s biggest recipient of people fleeing war in the Middle East and economic migrants from south-eastern Europe.

A record 104,460 asylum seekers entered the country in August, and it expects about 800,000 people to file for asylum this year — four times last year’s level.

Despite the influx, 37% of those surveyed were in favour of Germany continuing to take a similar number in the future, while 22% believed their country should accept more. Some 33% wanted fewer refugees.

The poll of 1,001 voters was conducted on August 31 and September 1.

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