September 26, 2015 / 3:11 PM / in 2 years

Support for Merkel falls over handling of refugee crisis

Migrant children reach out for gifts donated by the local community for the Bayram festivities at an improvised temporary shelter in a sports hall in Hanau, Germany, September 24, 2015.Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity has dropped sharply over her handling of the refugee crisis, two polls showed on Saturday, indicating a shift in the mood in Europe's most populous country towards the record influx of new arrivals.

Merkel has been accused by her allies in Bavaria - the entry point to Germany for most migrants - and some eastern EU neighbors of fuelling the influx of people by effectively giving refugees from Syria a green light to come to Germany.

Berlin expects at least 800,000 economic migrants and war refugees this year alone. While some Germans warmly welcome people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa, others are concerned about how easily they can be integrated.

In a survey published in Der Spiegel magazine and conducted by pollster TNS Forschung, Merkel's support dropped five points to 63 percent compared to the previous ranking three months ago.

For the first time in Merkel's third term in office, a leading member of her junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, topped the list of popular politicians. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier got 67 percent approval.

Merkel's Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer, who has said she was wrong to let Syrian refugees stuck in Hungary come to Germany, saw his approval rating jump 6 points to 44 percent.

Another poll for ZDF television showed Merkel's popularity fell to 1.9 from 2.4 two weeks earlier, with support being measured on a scale between -5 and 5.

While roughly three out of four Germans still say Merkel is doing a good job all in all, her refugee and asylum policies are being viewed more critically, the ZDF Politbarometer showed.

Half of those polled were content with Merkel's refugee policy while nearly as many, 43 percent, disagreed with the chancellor's approach, the survey said.

Merkel, who has governed Germany since 2005, is expected to seek a fourth term in 2017.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Dominic Evans

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