Support for Merkel's bloc slips to lowest since June 2014 over refugee crisis

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 14, 2015 3:50 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives has dropped to 38 percent, its lowest level since June 2014, as a dispute in her bloc over how to deal with a record inflow of refugees takes its toll, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Merkel and Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian sister party, have often been at odds over how Germany should react to an influx of refugees.

Germany, a favored destination for refugees fleeing war in the Middle East, expects a record 800,000 to a million asylum seekers to arrive this year.

While Merkel has favored an open-door policy and insisted that Germany can cope, Seehofer -- premier of Bavaria, the first point of entry for many migrants -- has taken a hardline stance and his state has threatened to take the government to court if it does not try to limit the flow of asylum seekers.

The Forsa poll, conducted for broadcaster RTL and magazine Stern, showed support for the conservatives slipped by one percentage point to 38 percent.

The Green party garnered 10 percent, one percentage point more than last week, and backing for the other parties held steady. Support for the Social Democrats (SPD), junior coalition partner to Merkel's conservatives, remained at 25 percent while the far-left Linke party remained at 9 percent.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which backs a tough line on immigration, was unchanged at 7 percent nationally. In Bavaria, which shares a border with Austria and has borne the brunt of the influx, the AfD got 9 percent. In eastern Germany, support for the AfD was at 13 percent.

The proportion of non-voters and undecided voters rose by one percentage point to 34 percent.

"The dispute between Seehofer and Merkel is irritating some conservative supporters but they're not moving over to other parties, they're just declaring themselves to be undecided," Forsa chief Manfred Guellner was quoted as saying.

Merkel's own popularity has taken a knock due to the refugee crisis, though she remains one of Germany's most popular post-war chancellors.

The next federal election is due to take place in 2017.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)