By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – An opinion poll carried out by Datafolha has shown an eight-point drop in approval for Brazilian President Rousseff, the first major fall in popularity suffered by the president since taking office. The proportion of people answering “good” or “excellent” slumped from 65 percent in March this year – the highest so far recorded for Rousseff – to 57 percent at the beginning of June.
Some 3,758 people from across Brazil took part in the survey, and the president fell in the estimation of every group – among both men and women and all areas of the country, age bracket, income levels and education backgrounds.
The biggest change in opinion was reflected among top-earners, where approval dropped 24 points, and those with further education (16 points), as well as with those from the President’s native South region and 25- to 34-year-olds (both 13 points).
The survey also showed growing pessimism for the country’s economy, rising concern over inflation, and more people worrying about unemployment in the future, as well as a slump in support for former President Lula (PT) and the government as a whole.
However, despite the reported drop in popularity for Rousseff, whose popularity has at times even rivaled that of her much-admired predecessor, she remains favored to win a second term in office at the president elections next year, with the results pointing to the president getting around 51 percent of the vote if held today.
This would be just enough to scrape a win in a first round of voting. However, this has dropped from 58 percent, and analysts believe minor parties could cause an upset and cause a second round of voting next year.
President Rousseff was out of the country on a visit to Portugal when the survey made news in Brazil, but her close allies in government were quick to play down its significance, labeling it a “blip” and something that would be corrected when the economy was back on track.
“The survey shows a normal swing [in opinion],” said Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante. “The president remains on the best level of popular support and voting intention when you compare her with any other president after two-and-a-half years in office.”
Mercadante said the result was due to the recent hike in food prices, particularly the cost of tomatoes, which was an issue that had been “completely overcome.”
Others, including the president’s special adviser, Marco Aurélio Garcia, were even more dismissive of the survey, questioning its “relevance.”
However, those in opposition tried to capitalize on the results, particularly rival presidential candidate Aécio Neves (PSDB), who said the figures showed the current government’s “growing fragility due to various wrong decisions, especially on the economy.”
Maria do Socorro Sousa Braga, a political scientist at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in São Paulo, also believes the drop in President Rousseff’s popularity is economic, but closer to home. “[Her] popularity is falling due to the increase in the cost of living. It might also be linked to the fright people had over the rumored end of the Bolsa Família days before the survey,” Ms. Braga tells The Rio Times.
“People are also starting to worry about inflation, and this will have an important impact on the 2014 elections. However, this drop does not necessarily mean defeat for the president. There is still time to recover and the opposition does not yet have an alternative, consistent program to what is currently being implemented.”
Voters in Brazil will go to the polls on October 5, 2014. If no candidate receives fifty percent of the vote in the first round, a runoff election will be held on October 26th.