* Vox Populi poll shows Rousseff with 51 percent
* Suggests frontrunner may have stemmed bleeding
* Pool of undecided voters shrinking
(Writes through, adds quote)
By Todd Benson
SAO PAULO, Oct 19 Ruling party candidate Dilma
Rousseff widened her lead ahead of Brazil's presidential runoff
election, a poll showed on Tuesday, suggesting her campaign may
be steadying after a recent slide in support.
The survey by polling firm Vox Populi showed Rousseff with
51 percent of voter percent ahead of the Oct. 31 vote compared
to 39 percent for centrist opposition challenger Jose Serra,
according to iG, an Internet group that commissioned the poll.
Rousseff, the handpicked would-be successor of President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had 48 percent support of voters to
Serra's 40 percent in the last Vox Populi poll, which was
released 10 days after the Oct. 3 first-round vote.
Support for Rousseff has been consistently higher in Vox
But it is still a welcome boost for her campaign after
other polls indicated Serra, the former Sao Paulo state
governor, had been gaining ground since Rousseff failed to win
a first-round majority in the Oct. 3 election.
One poll last week showed him only four percentage points
behind the left-leaning Rousseff, a statistical dead heat,
while other recent surveys showed her with a lead of up to
Full coverage of election: [ID:nBRAZIL]
Election Top News page: link.reuters.com/dux43p
Graphic on opinion polls: r.reuters.com/vet88p
Special report on Rousseff: link.reuters.com/fab25p
Political risks in Brazil: [ID:nRISKBR]
Amaury de Souza, a political consultant in Rio de Janeiro,
said the poll suggested Serra was losing his recent momentum.
"I don't think anything's over. This is a very competitive
race and whoever wins will win by a relatively small
percentage," he said.
The poll showed that 4 percent of voters were undecided,
down from 6 percent in the previous survey, leaving a shallower
pool of wavering voters whose support is particularly crucial
to Serra's chances of overtaking Rousseff.
Blank and null ballots made up 6 percent of votes in the
poll, which surveyed 3,000 people between Oct. 15-17 and has a
margin of error of 1.8 percentage points. With blank votes
thrown out, as they are on election day, Rousseff's support
rose to 57 percent versus 43 percent for Serra.
Rousseff, a 62-year-old former chief of staff to Lula, took
47 percent of the votes in the first round to Serra's 33
UPHILL STRUGGLE FOR SERRA
But Rousseff's once-smooth campaign has been shaken
recently by corruption allegations involving a former aide and
attacks by religious leaders over her past views on abortion,
which may have cost her outright victory in the first round.
That has forced the former leftist militant to take a more
aggressive tone against Serra and distracted her from her
central message -- that she is the best person to continue
Lula's legacy of buoyant economic growth and development.
The 68-year-old Serra, running for the PSDB party, has been
re-energized by his first-round survival and rise in polls. But
he was dealt a setback on Sunday when the potentially
influential Green Party opted to stay neutral in the runoff.
Serra probably needs to win a large proportion of the
around 20 million voters who supported third-placed candidate
Marina Silva of the Green Party in the first round to have any
chance of beating Rousseff.
Rousseff, the Workers' Party candidate, would be Brazil's
first woman elected president and is expected to broadly
continue Lula's policies. She wants to boost investment in
Brazil's decrepit infrastructure and raise government
efficiency but is unlikely to push the major structural reforms
many economists say is needed to maintain strong growth.
Serra is also unlikely to change Lula's broad economic
policies, although his rise in the polls has prompted some
selling of Brazil's soaring currency -- Serra has argued that
the country's high interest rates must be brought down.
(Additional reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Paul