Angela Merkel.jpg
Photograph: EPA/HENNING KAISER

Angela Merkel said Saturday that she has no regrets about her welcoming policy toward refugees, even as a new poll showed that fewer than half of Germans surveyed would trust her with a fourth term as chancellor.

Only 44 per cent of those questioned said Merkel is the right leader to tackle the range of issues facing the country, the survey released Saturday by TNS Emnid on behalf of the Funke media group found.

Merkel's leadership both at home and in Europe has been tested by financial crises, the rise of the far-right and Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union.

But she has said the refugee crisis represents her biggest challenge since she was sworn in as the nation's first female leader in 2005.

When asked in an interview with Bild newspaper published on Saturday whether she would handle the mass migrant influx the same way today as she did one year ago, Merkel replied: "Yes, I would."

Merkel's open-door policy, which brought around 1.1 million migrants to the country last year, created deep divisions among the electorate.

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (Afd) has since soared in the polls, as anti-foreigner sentiment grows. The mood towards the new arrivals further soured after a spate of recent attacks, some of them carried out by migrants.

The AfD is expected to do well in a elections Sunday in Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The chancellor said last week that she will decide "in due course" whether to seek another term in next year's national elections.

Despite the slumping poll numbers, Merkel still comes out ahead of potential challengers for the job.

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they thought Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, of the centre-left Social Democrats, could handle the range of issues facing Germany.

Horst Seehofer, the powerful conservative premier of the state of Bavaria who has recently had a testy relationship with Merkel, received 28 per cent.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, once considered a strong contender to succeed Merkel, stood at 15 per cent.

In the interview with Bild, Merkel defended a controversial EU-Turkey deal that has helped stem migration flows through the Balkans, but which has come under increased scrutiny because of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's slide towards authoritarianism.

She called the deal "the key to countering migrant-smuggling across the Aegean Sea and stabilizing the situation in Greece."

She also rejected the portrayal of her migrant policy as allowing anybody into the country, saying she only opened the border at the height of the influx in September last year, when tens of thousands walked on foot to Germany from Hungary.

It was never about "opening the border for all, but for those who had travelled far, and who were in great humanitarian need after walking to us from Hungary."

The pollster surveyed 1,006 Germans on August 31 and September 1.

More on this story

Half of Germans oppose a fourth term for Angela Merkel

Half of Germans do not want Angela Merkel to serve another term as chancellor, a survey published Sunday has found.

Latest news

Plane crashes at airport in Melbourne

A five-passenger charter plane has crashed into a building next to Essendon Airport in Melbourne, with witnesses reporting explosions, fire and black smoke, police said Tuesday.

Air France pilots give green light to lower cost subsidiary

Members of Air France's main pilots union on Monday voted to accept the creation of a new lower cost subsidiary that the flag carrier hopes will help it compete on long-haul routes.

US Army General McMaster tapped as Trump's national security advisor

Army Lieutenant General HR McMaster will be the new White House national security advisor, US President Donald Trump told reporters Monday.

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."