In what has seemed like an interminable summer for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the latest opinion poll shows that support for Merkel has plunged by 12 percentage points to 47%. Issues about terrorism, migration and the Mounting concerns about terrorism, migration and the volatile relationship with Turkey are fast eroding support among German voters for Europe’s long-dominant leader.
A poll released late Thursday showed Ms. Merkel’s approval rating plummeting 12 points in the space of a month and confidence in her handling of refugee policy at a new low.
It was conducted Monday and Tuesday, following a wave of violence in southern Germany in late July that included two terrorist acts by migrants, allegedly linked to Islamic State, that injured 20 people.
“Of course we can do it. The country won’t collapse,” said Karl-Georg Wellmann, a lawmaker with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats, referring to the chancellor’s slogan regarding the recent wave of around a million migrants.
“But people don’t want to hear this anymore,” he said. “They want to hear that we have things under control.”
The poll conducted by Infratest Dimap found Ms. Merkel’s approval rating at 47%, down from 59% a month before. Nearly two thirds said they disapproved of her refugee policy, the highest level since the pollster started asking the question last fall. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
In addition to terrorism fears, recent polls register deep discomfort with Ms. Merkel’s bid to keep working closely with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants and refugees trekking to Europe, especially in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on domestic opponents after last month’s failed military coup.
Germans follow events in Turkey closely, in part because of worries that tensions there could spill over into Germany’s large Turkish community.
In the latest poll, 88% said the German government should be more assertive in confronting Turkey.
“The German people clearly believe that Germany should be tougher towards Mr. Erdogan,” said Oskar Niedermayer, professor of political science at Berlin’s Free University. “If Mr. Erdogan moves even more towards dictatorship than he is already doing,” and possibly calls the migration deal with the European Union into question, “this would of course be a very difficult situation for Ms. Merkel,” he said.
Ms. Merkel has resumed her summer vacation, having interrupted it for a news conference in Berlin and to attend a memorial service for the victims of the July 22 shooting rampage in Munich, in which a teenage gunman killed nine victims and himself.
While some Germans praised her typically understated reaction, others criticised her as out of touch. She’s due back to work in time to chair a cabinet meeting on Aug. 17.
She will face a crucial autumn, one year before general elections in September 2017. Abroad, she will need to manage a delicate balance with Mr. Erdogan, trying to prevent a new influx of refugees while responding to growing criticism across Europe of Turkey’s slide toward authoritarianism.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern this past week dismissed the EU’s membership talks with Turkey, which Ms. Merkel has publicly supported, as “diplomatic fiction.”
She also will need a strategy for negotiations with London on the U.K.’s exit from the EU, with influential voices in the German business community demanding a friendly policy to maintain economic ties, while others in Germany want the U.K. to pay a steep price for turning its back on the EU.
To add to all the current issues beleaguering the Chancellor in what seems as an interminable summer – the populist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials AfD – is swiftly rising in popularity among the German electorate, creating another major cause for concern.