BERLIN (AP) -- A new poll shows Germans widely approve of Chancellor Angela Merkel's crisis management following a bailout deal for Cyprus, suggesting it remains a key asset for the leader as she prepares to seek a third term in elections in September.
The poll for ARD television published Friday also showed Merkel's popularity riding high and that of center-left challenger Peer Steinbrueck, who had a gaffe-strewn start to his campaign, sinking further. But, although Merkel's conservative bloc is easily the biggest single party, it gave neither Merkel's current center-right coalition nor the combination of Steinbrueck's Social Democrats and the Greens a parliamentary majority.
Merkel's hard-nosed handling of the debt crisis has long been popular at home, though many in the nations that have been bailed out resent the austerity and reform policies attached to the deals.
The poll of 1,002 people, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, found 65 percent agreed that Merkel has "acted correctly and decisively in the euro crisis." Only 33 percent thought that the German government thinks too little about the well-being of people in crisis-hit countries as it works to rescue the euro.
Fifty percent said it was right that investors and bank depositors in Cyprus had to contribute to the bailout for the small island nation. Merkel's government was insistent that large depositors should help pay, but was criticized by Germany's opposition for initially accepting a short-lived plan that would have involved a levy on small deposits as well.
The survey found that 68 percent were satisfied with Merkel's work, unchanged from last month, and that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was close behind, with 63 percent. But Steinbrueck's rating was down four points to 32 percent.
Still, the survey pointed to one risk for Merkel: it found that 75 percent of respondents believed the worst of the euro crisis is still to come. Germany's economy so far has been relatively unscathed by the crisis, even as several countries suffer recessions.
A new group calling itself Alternative for Germany, which advocates scrapping the euro in its current form, plans to launch itself as a party on April 14 and run in the Sept. 22 elections. It's unclear whether it will be able to make any impact; another party, the Free Voters, has failed to make any inroads with a more moderate platform of opposition to the current bailout policies.
The ARD poll gave a margin of error of plus or minus up to 3.1 points.
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