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Brazilian President Rousseff's Popularity Falls To New Low

03/18/2015 08:52 am ET
ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Brian Winter

SAO PAULO, March 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's popularity fell to a new low in a poll released on Wednesday, weakening her even further at a time when she is facing public calls for her impeachment and trying to push austerity measures through Congress.

Sixty-two percent of respondents rated the leftist leader's government as "bad" or "terrible" in the nationwide poll by Datafolha. That's up from 44 percent last month and single digits just two years ago, when the economy was still growing.

Just 13 percent of respondents rated Rousseff's leftist government as "great" or "good." The remainder, about 24 percent, described her government as "OK."

It was the worst popularity rating for a Brazilian leader since 1992, shortly before President Fernando Collor was impeached for corruption.

Many Brazilians are upset by rising inflation and unemployment, as memories of last decade's economic boom seem ever more distant. Prosecutors say that more than $1 billion was misappropriated from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA in a corruption case that is still unfolding.

Roughly 1 million people demonstrated against Rousseff in dozens of Brazilian cities on Sunday, with some protesters calling for her impeachment.

Opposition leaders have said impeachment is unlikely since Rousseff has not been personally accused of wrongdoing in the Petrobras scandal. However, the opposition has asked the Supreme Court to further investigate her role in the scheme.

The Datafolha poll showed Rousseff's popularity had fallen in all income groups, including her working class base.

An increasingly hostile Congress has pushed back against Rousseff's efforts to cut spending and hike taxes. Investors have said such measures are necessary to keep Brazil from losing its investment-grade credit rating as a likely recession this year saps revenues.

Apart from Collor, other Brazilian leaders have recovered from similar declines in their popularity.

Fifty-six percent of Brazilians gave President Fernando Henrique Cardoso bad marks in September 1999, following a currency devaluation, and while he remained unpopular he was able to push through some reforms before leaving office in 2002.

Datafolha surveyed 2,842 Brazilians across 172 municipalities between Monday and Tuesday. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points. (Reporting by Brian Winter; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and W Simon)

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