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Merkel’s Popularity Grows, Steinbrueck Drops in Opinion Poll

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity rose while backing for her Social Democrat challenger Peer Steinbrueck dropped eight months before federal elections, a poll showed.

Asked whom they would prefer as head of Germany’s next government, 65 percent of respondents named Merkel, a jump of 11 percentage points from a month ago, while 25 percent favored Steinbrueck, a drop of 11 points, ZDF television said, citing a Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll.

Support for Steinbrueck in his party slumped to 63 percent from 79 percent, ZDF said. Among the Greens, the SPD’s prospective coalition partner, support for Steinbrueck stood at 47 percent compared with 43 percent for Merkel, the poll showed.

The likelihood of Steinbrueck ousting Merkel’s government in an alliance with the Greens has decreased after the former finance minister, who’s been among the top earners in the lower house of parliament thanks to paid speeches, said the German chancellor isn’t paid enough.

In a +5 to -5 ranking of Germany’s top 10 politicians, Merkel rose to 2.4 from 2.1 in December, followed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who moved to 1.5 from 1.4 and SPD parliamentary leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who held at 1.0.

Asked which party they would vote for if elections were held next Sunday, 42 percent named Merkel’s Christian Union bloc, 28 percent favored the SPD, 13 percent backed the Greens, 6 percent preferred the Left Party and 4 percent sided with the Free Democrats, followed by 3 percent for the Pirate Party.

SPD Slips

Compared with a month ago, the CDU rose 2 points, the SPD dropped two points and the Left slipped one point while the other parties remained unchanged.

German voters cast ballots for parties and don’t directly elect the chancellor, meaning the party vote, not the popularity contest, is what will determine the winner of elections that will probably be held in the second half of September.

With four parties in parliament, Merkel could form grand coalition with the SPD -- like her first 2005-2009 government -- or rule with the Greens. Steinbrueck would have to form an alliance with the Greens and the Left Party, the successor to the former ruling East German communists, in order to become chancellor, the poll showed.

FG Wahlen interviewed 1,358 people between Jan. 8 and Jan. 10. The poll had a margin of error of as much as 3 points.

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