Angel Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose welcoming of refugees has hurt her popularity, arrives at an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Popular support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dropped, with nearly two-thirds of those surveyed saying she should not seek re-election in 2017, according to a Tuesday poll by INSA for Cicero magazine. Support for the German leader has steadily dipped over the past several months as citizens have grown increasingly critical of her party’s policies concerning an influx of refugees.

Around 64 percent of those who responded to the INSA poll said Merkel should not run for re-election, compared to 48 percent who said the same in a poll published by Bild newspaper in November. Criticism toward the chancellor was strongest among those with lower incomes and education levels, the INSA poll found. The margin of error of the survey was not immediately clear.

More than 1 million people sought asylum in Europe in 2015, with the vast majority of them looking to settle in Germany. The Northern European country has attracted refugees through its strong job market as well as the outspoken welcome of leaders like Merkel.

“The right to political asylum has no limits on the number of asylum seekers,” she told local newspapers in September, adding, “As a strong, economically healthy country we have the strength to do what is necessary.”

While Germans initially welcomed refugees — with many meeting them at train stations carrying water, toys and candy — many citizens have grown increasingly fearful of the swelling asylum population, particularly after a series of sexual assaults New Year’s Eve in Cologne, allegedly perpetrated by refugees.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union performed poorly in state elections in March, as the nation saw the rise of the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party. Alternative for Germany has capitalized on fear of immigrants and Euroskepticism to boost support, while Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, has refused to back down from her dedication to refugees.

Sometimes, I also despair. Some things go too slow. There are many conflicting interests in Europe,” Merkel told state broadcaster ARD in February, speaking on the refugee crisis in Europe. “But it is my damn duty to do everything I can so that Europe finds a collective way.”