Poll by public broadcaster ARD finds 81% of people do not believe the government is handling the challenge well
Popular support for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has tumbled to its lowest level for four-and-a-half years, a poll showed on Wednesday, with a large majority of voters sceptical that her government has the refugee crisis under control.
The survey for public broadcaster ARD also showed a drop in support for Merkels conservatives, while backing for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AFD) party rose to its highest ever point in the poll.
Merkel has come under increasing pressure to reduce the number of migrants after Germany took in 1.1 million people in 2015. Public unease has also grown following a slew of sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Years Eve.
The survey, conducted on 1-2 February, showed just 46% of Germans supported her, the lowest proportion since August 2011. In April 2015, before the migrant crisis, she enjoyed 75% backing.
The poll also found 81% did not believe the government was handling the refugee crisis well.
The finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, a senior member in Merkels cabinet and respected veteran in her centre-right bloc, on Wednesday defended Merkels decision to open German borders.
I think we have done the right thing, Schaeuble said in a speech in the northern city of Hamburg, adding that Germany also had a special responsibility in light of its Nazi past and role during the second world war.
He said the fact the government managed to hold out despite growing pressure would turn out to be a strong asset for Germany.
Backing for Merkels conservative bloc, comprising her Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), also fell four points to 35 points.
The results highlight the challenge the grand coalition parties the CDU, CSU and Social Democrats (SPD) face to convince voters they can master the refugee crisis before three state elections scheduled in March.
Meanwhile, the AFDs popularity rose three points to 12%. Its leader suggested at the weekend that police be given powers to use firearms against illegal immigrants.
Responding to popular pressure, the government agreed last week to tighten asylum rules. On Wednesday, the cabinet backed plans to declare Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia safe countries, which would end their citizens chances of being granted asylum.
The poll showed the public supported efforts to restrict immigration, with 88% of those questioned in favour of cutting benefits for refugees who did not integrate and 78% approving of declaring north African countries safe.