German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during an election campaign rally of the Social Democrats on May 6, 2022 ahead the weekend s state elections in Schleswig-Holstein. AFP
The Social Democrats saw their vote share diminish to around 16 percent from 27.3 percent in the last election in 2017, exit polls by national broadcasters showed.
They were overtaken by the Greens, who were in second place with between 17-19 percent, after the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who were comfortably in the lead with 41-42 percent, the polls showed.
The CDU's Daniel Guenther was therefore poised for a second term as the state premier.
The northern state bordering Denmark is one of the smallest in Germany's 16 regions, but both the CDU and the SPD were hoping for momentum to carry them into next Sunday's regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
A far bigger prize, NRW is Germany's most populous state, and currently in the hands of the CDU, although surveys show the SPD running neck and neck.
A win in NRW would give a major boost to Scholz, who has been under fire domestically over what critics deem to be a stuttering response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Some 65 percent of Germans said they did not find Scholz to be a strong leader, a poll commissioned by Der Spiegel in mid-April found.