PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande would tie with conservative Nicolas Sarkozy if the two faced off in an election today, a survey showed on Sunday, in the latest evidence of the Socialist leader's sliding popularity.
Hollande ousted Sarkozy from power by 51.6 percent of the vote to 48.4 percent in May's election, due in large part to anger that Sarkozy had failed to bring down unemployment and as his pushy manner grated on many voters.
A survey by pollster Ifop published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche found that Sarkozy would beat Hollande by 1.5 points in round one of a presidential election held today and the two would then tie at 50 percent each in a runoff.
The poll stood in contrast with a similar one held six months after Sarkozy's 2007 election win which confirmed him as the winner over the Socialists' then candidate Segolene Royal.
Hollande's approval ratings have tumbled since he took power from above 60 percent to as low as 41 percent, the fastest drop of any recent president, as jobless claims have continued to rise, hitting a 13-year high above 10 percent.
The Socialist has set himself a two-year deadline to turn around the stalled economy and reverse the rise in unemployment, but his ratings suggest many French are losing faith he can deliver on the vision they voted for.
Sarkozy has told an aide he fears the new government will leave the economy in such "disastrous shape" that he will have no choice but to seek re-election in a new battle against Hollande in 2017, a paper reported this month.
The rivals' deep dislike for each other was on show when they traded barbs in an election debate in early May. Days later, Hollande was criticized for failing to give Sarkozy an adequately courteous send-off following the handover of power.
(Reporting by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Alison Williams)