Popularity Contests

Editorial

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – President Lula da Silva has enjoyed a level of popularity and approval in Brazil bordering on iconic. With ratings ranging from 46 percent at one point in 2004, to consistently around 80 percent in recent years, few politicians have a more positive image.

Stone Korshak, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Rio Times.

It’s not just in Brazil either, Lula has a shine around the world even recent media darling U.S. President Barak Obama found alluring, referring to him at a recent G20 Summit as “my man” – in a good way it would seem.

In Latin America, MercoPress reported Lula (and Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe) holding over 70 percent approval as the best leaders in 2009. On the other extreme, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Honduras Manuel Zelaya, received below 30 percent.

Popularity contests are always insider affairs though, as everything is relative even in today’s quasi-global village. In a April 2010 Radio France International and France 24 “world leaders barometer”, Obama and the Dalai Lama are the world’s two most popular leaders.

Obama won 77 percent approval, and the Tibetan spiritual leader came into second place at 75 percent, followed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at 62 percent. The internet information age and and recent scandals aside, Pope Benedict XVI was the seventh most popular leader, with 36 percent support.

Brazil's popular President Lula da Silva and Argentina’s less popular Cristina Kirchner, image by MercoPress.

The most unpopular leaders according to the French survey, were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The survey was carried out on the internet and covered over 6,000 adults in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States.

In other regions of the world though, naturally the approval ratings are much different. A poll published by Asia Times in 2010 reported that when respondents were asked to name the world leader they admired most, Obama’s standing was less than 1 percent.

In this poll the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cited most often (20 percent), followed by last year’s top pick, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (13 percent), and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (12 percent).

Dilma Rousseff and José Serra, photo by Agência Brasil.

Much of the disillusionment with Obama (in that part of the world) appears related to his failure to make progress on a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, although ongoing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could also be a factor.

Back in Brazil we await the October 31st run-off elections for the next president between Dilma Rousseff and José Serra. The most recent public opinion poll conducted by Datafolha shows Rousseff leading with 48 percent and Serra at 41 percent.

This is much closer then The Rio Times run-off election poll currently shows, a 64 to 36 percentage lead by Rousseff. But with another 2 weeks in this election round to go, it’s clear things can change quickly, especially popularity.

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