German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. Picture: Michael Sohn

Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity has sunk to its lowest level this year in the wake of criticism over her handling of the migration crisis.

Merkel’s approval rating dropped 3 percentage points over the past week to 49 percent, according to a survey that was published on Wednesday and conducted by pollsters Forsa for the German weekly Stern and the private TV group RTL.

The poll showed support among voters for Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian-based associate party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), falling 1 percentage point over the past week to 40 percent.

“The fact that the CDU-CSU lost 1 percentage point is due to the criticism of Angela Merkel over her refugee policy by Bavarian Premier (and CSU leader) Horst Seehofer,” Forsa chief Manfred Guellner said, adding that the CDU-CSU was being punished by voters for dissension in its ranks.

Merkel has recently backed away from her original open-arms approach to the refugees to call for a more orderly process for dealing with the large numbers of asylum seekers entering Germany, which could hit 1 million this year.

But while Merkel’s support among CDU voters came in at 89 percent, her popularity among CSU voters was significantly lower at 74 percent.

The Forsa poll also showed Germany’s right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as having failed to capitalise on concerns in part of the nation’s electorate about the stream of refugees.

The AfD remained stuck at 4-percent support - below the 5 percent of the vote it would need in an election to enter parliament.

The poll showed that the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) are benefiting from the dissension in the CDU-CSU by picking up 1 percentage over the last week to reach the key 5-percent threshold.

The FDP, which was Merkel’s coalition partner in her previous government, crashed out of the Bundestag in the 2013 election.

While Merkel’s current coalition partner, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), held steady at 24 percent, the two opposition parties - the environmentalist Greens and hard-left Die Linke (The Left) - each remained at 10 percent, Forsa said.

DPA