Rousseff remains popular despite Brazil's sluggish economy

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 14, 2012 2:23 PM
Rousseff remains popular despite Brazil's sluggish economy

By Anna Irrera

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - President Dilma Rousseff continues to enjoy high approval ratings as Brazilians remain mostly unaffected by the country's recent economic slowdown, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

Rousseff's center-left government was described as "excellent" or "good" by 62 percent of those surveyed in a poll by Datafolha, a research institute associated with the Folha de S. Paulo, one of the country's biggest newspapers. The rating declined only two points from a Datafolha poll in April and the drop remains within the poll's margin of error.

The high ratings for Rousseff come despite the fact that Brazil's economy, which had grown by as much as 7.5 percent as recently as 2010, slowed to a near halt for the past year. A weekly Central Bank survey released on Monday predicted Latin America's largest economy will grow by less than 1.81 percent this year.

But voters' wallets, analysts say, remain unaffected, in part because of tax breaks, lower interest rates and other government measures to spur consumer demand.

"The approval remains high because the population still hasn't perceived the effects of the economic crisis," said Mauro Francisco Paulino, Datafolha's director. In particular, he added, the slowdown has yet to erode the purchasing power of low-income Brazilians, the largest part of the electorate and the main base of support for Rousseff's Workers' Party.

Recent surveys by other pollsters gauged similar support, also linked to consumer confidence. The results are comparable to those enjoyed by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Rousseff's mentor and predecessor, whose two terms in office were marked by sustained economic growth.

UNTARNISHED BY TRIAL

The Datafolha poll suggests that Rousseff, who took office in January 2011, remains untarnished by a high-profile corruption trial involving dozens of former colleagues, aides and associates from the Lula administration. The case, now before Brazil's Supreme Court, brought da Silva's administration to its knees.

According to the poll, just as many people supported Rousseff regardless of whether they are following or are even aware of the scandal, known as the "mensalão," Portuguese slang describing alleged monthly payments to legislators in exchange for Congressional support.

Only seven percent of those polled described Rousseff's government as "awful" or "bad," with most of the disapproval coming from voters with college educations or higher. The government's approval ratings were also lower around big cities.

Thirty percent of those surveyed described the Rousseff government as "OK."

(Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Paulo Prada)