By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's approval levels slipped under 20 percent for the first time last month amid a fierce political dispute over his ouster and a grueling economic crisis, according to a leading survey seen by Reuters.
Socialist-run Venezuela's struggling state-led economic model and a fall in the price of oil, its biggest export, have led to acute shortages of everything from medicines to milk, galloping three-digit inflation, and a profound recession.
Some 19.5 percent of Venezuelans said they approved of Maduro in October, down from around 22 percent in September, the survey by pollster Datanalisis seen on Thursday showed.
Approximately 78.5 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of the former bus driver and union leader, according to the poll, which is not public.
Though low presidential approval ratings are common in Latin America, support for the late leader Hugo Chavez rarely dropped below 50 percent and often exceeded that level.
The opposition is seeking to remove his successor Maduro, whom it accuses of causing the biggest economic disaster in Venezuela.
But its push for a recall referendum against him took a potentially fatal hit last month when the country's electoral board suspended the next phase of the vote on fraud allegations.
Slamming the planned recall referendum as a veiled coup, Maduro has vowed to stay in power until the end of his term in early 2019.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)