A new survey released on Friday has tempered fears that the increasing popularity of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party could upset mainstream German politics in the 2017 general election. According to the poll feature on public broadcaster ARD's "Deutschlandtrend" segment, the traditional center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) should have nothing to worry about when it comes to the chancellor's seat.
Nationwide support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU sits comfortably at 37 percent, a boost of two percent since the beginning of the month. Grand coalition partners the SPD came in significantly lower at 23 points, but still comfortably in second place. The AfD, on the other hand, has seen its popularity take a slight dip down two points to just about 10 percent, a loss of two points since the start of February.
That a new set of increased asylum restrictions was making its way through parliament on Thursday and Friday probably did not hurt the two biggest party's popularity in the polls.
Opposition parties the Greens, the Left, and the Free Democrats (FDP) received 11, 8 and 6 percent of the tally, respectively.
The AfD, running on a nationalist platform that includes distancing Germany from the European Union, has capitalized on opposition to Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy to boost its numbers. Already having garnered the 5 percent minimum support to join several state parliaments, the party jumped to a surprising 17 percent in Saxony-Anhalt just a few weeks ahead of regional elections there, placing it ahead of the SPD.
AfD looks to Berlin
Upcoming votes in Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate could provide important momentum for the AfD to join the federal parliament, or Bundestag, next year. Originally founded as a party opposed to the euro currency, support for the right-wingers has surged since it ousted its leader in the summer and adopted a stricter policy towards the country's refugee crisis, prompting allegations of xenophobia from opponents.
The ARD survey also delved into what Germans thought lay at the heart of a recent string of anti-xenophobic incidents in the eastern state of Saxony, which included an arson attack on a planned refugee home and a mob trying to stop a bus bringing 20 refugees to the village of Clausnitz.
What caused these acts of violence? According to "Deutschlandtrend," opinion was sharply divided between Germans from the former East and West. Some 29 percent of western Germans blamed economic troubles in Saxony for the events, while 33 percent of easterners blamed the government of Chancellor Merkel and her refugee policy.