Hollande's approval rating inches up to 22 percent: poll
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande's approval rating rose in December for the first time in months, a poll showed on Sunday, but most voters still doubt he can revive a struggling economy.
Hollande's score rose by two percentage points, to 22 percent, from a month earlier, his first uptick since August, the survey by pollster Ifop and published in the JDD weekly newspaper showed. More left-wingers approved of his leadership.
The Socialist leader's popularity has improved slightly since hitting a post-World War Two record low of 15 percent in one November poll. Another survey showed his score inching up to 24 percent in December.
But with unemployment stuck near 11 percent, the improvement is minor. Hollande's ratings remain far below those of former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy at the same period in his 2007-2012 presidency.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose score rose by two points to 24 percent in the poll, stood by a pledge made on live TV this week to start reducing unemployment by year's end. The French statistics office, however, says joblessness will continue to rise, to 11.0 percent by mid-2014.
The government has begun reforms of the pension system, labor rules and job training, but results have yet to show, and many voters are worried about tax increases imposed as part of a deficit-cutting drive.
Hollande's unpopularity bodes ill for the performance of his Socialist Party during municipal elections due next March and European parliament elections in May, with the far-right National Front party gaining ground.
Three months before municipal elections in 2008, Sarkozy's approval rating was at 52 percent, and his center-right UMP party still suffered many local defeats.
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur)
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