SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Dissatisfaction with the economy and the political class has led the proportion of Chileans who think their country is still making progress to plummet to just 15 percent, the lowest level since the CEP polling firm began surveying in 2000.
The CEP poll published on Friday showed that optimism about progress in the South American country has slumped from 47 percent since center-left President Michelle Bachelet started her second term in March 2014.
The increasingly negative perspective echoes a fall in Bachelet's approval rating, which is 22 percent, according to the poll - also the lowest level for any president in the last 15 years.
Other polls have found a similar rapid decline in support for Bachelet.
Although Chile is regularly praised by external observers for its stable political system, orthodox economic policies, and success in lifting many out of poverty, internally a series of money-in-politics scandals in the government and opposition parties and slowing economic growth have weighed on the popularity of Bachelet's administration.
The poll suggests that perceptions of rising crime, driven by lurid media reports and whipped up by the right-wing opposition, are also a factor - even though statistics show crime has actually fallen.
Crime was named as the biggest problem the government had to deal with in the poll, with the proportion of respondents citing it as a concern shooting up to 60 percent from 46 percent in April.
Chileans have also become disillusioned with the pace of Bachelet's ambitious reform program, much of which has become caught up in political wrangling and slowed by economic worries. More than 60 percent of those polled said Bachelet was governing worse than they had expected and they had no confidence in her.
Constitutionally, Bachelet cannot run for another term in the next election due in 2017, and other possible candidates are beginning to jockey for position.
Among the best evaluated in the CEP poll were two former presidents - Sebastian Pinera, a conservative, and centre-left Ricardo Lagos; left-wing politician and two times presidential candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami and veteran socialist politician Isabel Allende. She is the daughter of Salvador Allende, the president who was deposed by the military 42 years ago on Sept. 11, 1973.
The CEP poll interviewed 1,420 people during August. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Grant McCool)