President Hugo Chavez's approval ratings remain in the 50 percent range, but a majority of Venezuelans disapprove of the government's performance on key issues such as crime, corruption and the economy, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The survey by the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis said Chavez's popularity stood at about 49 percent in late July, similar to his 50 percent rating the previous month. The poll consulted 1,300 Venezuelans and had a margin of error of nearly three percentage points.
Chavez has scaled back his televised appearances recently while undergoing cancer treatment. He had a tumor removed from his pelvic region in June and says chemotherapy aims to prevent any reappearance of cancerous cells.
The 57-year-old president's popularity hasn't been affected by his illness, said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalisis.
Leon said, however, that for the first time in the monthly poll, Venezuelans evaluated the government's performance negatively in a majority of areas.
"That could have to do with the fact that Chavez isn't as present as he was before, and so people may perceive that the country is a bit paralyzed," Leon told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The monthly survey asked Venezuelans' views about the government's performance in 14 areas. While nearly 53 percent evaluated the government's social programs for the poor positively, for other areas those disapproving outnumbered those with favorable views.
A large majority were dissatisfied with the government's performance in areas including jobs, housing, "your economic situation," "personal security," and "ending corruption."
Chavez, who has been in office since 1999, plans to run for re-election in late 2012.
The survey said nearly 33 percent of those polled said they would vote for an opposition candidate if the presidential election were held immediately, while 31 percent would support Chavez. Others said they didn't know, didn't answer or wouldn't vote for any candidate.
Chavez said Wednesday that he expects his cancer treatment to conclude later this year.
"I should be finishing this whole process at the end of October, November," Chavez said, addressing a televised rally of supporters by telephone.
As for next year's election, he said, "we're going to give the counterrevolutionary opposition a beautiful knockout."