France's Hollande approval rating hit by weak economy

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 11, 2012 6:55 AM
France's Hollande approval rating hit by weak economy

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande's approval rating has dipped to 46 percent three months after winning office, pollster Ifop said on Saturday, suggesting a weak economy had cut short the Socialist leader's honeymoon period.

The survey showed Hollande - who won office on May 6 with nearly 52 percent of votes - had not benefited from the post-electoral bounce enjoyed by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. Sarkozy's approval rating climbed to 65 percent in the weeks after his victory.

However, Hollande took office amid gloomier economic prospects, with unemployment at a 13-year high of 10 percent and France expected to slip into recession this year.

The Ifop poll, published in right-leaning newspaper Le Figaro, said that 51 percent of those questioned thought France was changing for the worse, with just 17 percent convinced it was changing for the better.

In 2007 after the election of Sarkozy, 45 percent of those questioned said France was changing for the better.

"In this very pessimistic climate and with regard to the very small room for manoeuvre which exists, the confidence ratings for Hollande and his government are consistently below 50 percent," said Jerome Fourquet of Ifop.

Hollande has insisted his government will meet France's deficit targets of 4.6 percent of GDP this year, obliging him to unveil a 7.2 billion euro package of tax rises, mostly on wealthy households and large corporations.

To meet next year's 3 percent target, he will need to find some 33 billion euros in tax rises and savings.

Nonetheless, the survey of 1,004 people showed that 57 percent of those questioned thought Hollande was fulfilling his campaign promises. His decision to cut his own salary and those of his cabinet by nearly one third was backed by 82 percent of voters.

The government's decision to partially undo Sarkozy's rise in the retirement age for those who started work early in life - returning it to 60 from 62 - won approval from 71 percent of those polled. Sixty-seven percent welcomed his announcement of a higher wealth tax on rich households.

(Reporting By Daniel Flynn)