BERLIN (Reuters) - Most Germans consider Edward Snowden a hero for revealing secret U.S. monitoring of its allies' communications, including Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, but are less sure about the idea of giving him asylum, according to a new poll.
Six out of 10 people polled for public broadcaster ARD said they admired the former U.S. spy agency contractor, against 14 percent who thought of him as a criminal.
But only 46 percent were in favor of offering Snowden political asylum in Germany, with 48 percent against.
The 30-year-old American's disclosure that the National Security Agency (NSA) engaged in wholesale bugging of phones and email in Germany have put the U.S.-German alliance under severe stress.
The revelations have struck a raw nerve in Germany, where privacy is sacrosanct and memories linger of snooping by the Nazis and East German secret police.
German lawmakers investigating the issue want to take evidence from Snowden, who has found temporary refuge in Russia.
But Berlin has made it clear Snowden will not get asylum in Germany because he is not considered the victim of political persecution. German lawmakers say they are more likely to hear what he has to say in Moscow.
Merkel has complained to Washington but stresses Germany's gratitude for American support in the Cold War and the vital importance of the alliance. She is unlikely to agree to asylum for a man branded a traitor by many in the United States.
The ARD survey showed a rapid decline in German confidence in the United States as a trustworthy ally and in U.S. President Barack Obama, who was once wildly popular in Germany.
Only 35 percent considered the United States a reliable ally, 14 points down from a poll in July.
Obama's own approval rating among Germans has fallen more than 30 points in a year, the poll said, with just over half unhappy with his performance.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)