Paradox of French president: Friendly yet disliked

AP News
Posted: Mar 13, 2013 7:06 AM

DIJON, France (AP) — French President Francois Hollande is turning on his self-effacing charm to try to win back support from voters deeply disappointed in him. It's a hard sell.

Waging war in Mali gave Hollande a temporary boost in popularity, but record-high unemployment matters more, as he discovered this week on a trip to reconnect with the electorate in Burgundy.

Hollande kissed children, chatted with parents, tasted regional culinary specialties. He took the train and sat amid other passengers. He bought his own newspapers. Voters found him friendly and accessible — but remained frustrated at his handling of the economy.

According to some polling agencies, Hollande has the worst approval ratings of any French president since 1981, with less than a third of respondents saying they trust him to solve the country's problems.