Large majority of Germans see SPD backing Merkel coalition: poll

BERLIN (Reuters) - Roughly three out of four Germans expect grassroots members of the Social Democrats (SPD) to approve a new coalition government with Angela Merkel's conservatives in a party vote over the coming weeks, according to a poll published on Friday. The survey, by the Electoral Research Group (FGW) for public broadcaster ZDF, was taken between Tuesday and Thursday, meaning it included reactions to the "grand coalition" policy blueprint agreed between the rival parties in the early morning hours of Wednesday. Some 73 percent of those polled said they expected the vote of over 474,000 SPD members to enable Merkel to form her government by Christmas and start her third term. Her landslide election victory in September left her without a majority, forcing her into long coalition talks with the center-left. If the SPD postal ballot rejects the deal, just over half of those surveyed said they would prefer a new election. The result is due on December 14. Almost a quarter said that if the SPD says 'no', Merkel should talk to the Greens, while a fifth said they preferred an SPD coalition with the hardline Left and Greens. The left-of-center parties have a slim majority in the Bundestag lower house, but an alliance with the Left was ruled out by the SPD before the election. In the coalition deal, Merkel agreed to SPD demands for a minimum wage and rises in pensions and public spending, in exchange for no increases in tax or public debt and continuity in her euro zone debt crisis policies. Just over half of those polled liked the coalition deal, including a nearly identical proportion of conservative and SPD supporters. The vast majority welcomed the 8.50 euros per hour minimum wage and 90 percent approved allowing people with 45 years of pension contributions to retire early at 63. (Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Noah Barkin)