BERLIN (Reuters) - One in three Germans feels deceived by Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding a row over spying on Germans, but almost half are not very interested in the whole affair, a poll showed on Wednesday.
Allegations that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, helped the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spy on European companies and officials have caused rifts in Merkel’s coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) and are showing signs of hurting Merkel.
Last week, media reports alleged that Merkel’s aides had lied to the public before the 2013 election about the prospects of a no-spy deal with the United States. No such deal has never materialized.
This week’s Forsa poll showed that 52 percent of voters think the spying row is either important or very important while 48 percent of voters are hardly interested in it.
It also showed more than half of German voters would still back Merkel in a direct vote against her SPD rival, Sigmar Gabriel, although that number slipped 1 percentage point to 56 percent. Support for Gabriel inched up 1 percentage point but he still trails Merkel by 42 points.
The coalition partners have toned down their rhetoric after a week of sniping within Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’, when Gabriel tried to put any blame at the chancellor’s door and Bavarian conservatives dismissed his comments as unacceptable.
The poll put Merkel’s conservatives down one point at 40 percent, their lowest level so far this year, but the SPD were also down one point at 22 percent. The main winner was the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), up 2 points to 6 percent.
Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging espionage in Germany by the United States, including allegations that it bugged Merkel’s mobile phone, caused outrage in Germany when they emerged two years ago.
Merkel argues the BND must work with the NSA to fight terrorism, but privacy is a sensitive subject in Germany, after decades of pervasive snooping by the Gestapo and then by the Stasi secret police in East Germany.
The newspaper Die Welt reported that the NSA, irritated by the affair, is considering scaling back its information exchange with Germany and relying more on other European allies such as France and Scandinavian countries. It cited no sources.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown, Larry King