* Sharpest drop for a Brazilian leader in over 20 years
* Rousseff's approval rating slumps to 30 pct from 57 pct
* Eight of 10 Brazilians say they're in favor of protests
By Silvio Cascione and Todd Benson
SAO PAULO, June 29 President Dilma Rousseff's
approval rating sank by 27 percentage points in the last three
weeks, a poll showed on Saturday in the strongest evidence yet
that the recent wave of street protests sweeping Brazil poses a
serious threat to her likely re-election bid next year.
The share of people who consider Rousseff's administration
"great" or "good" plummeted to 30 percent from 57 percent in
early June, according to a Datafolha opinion poll published in
local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.
The drop was the sharpest for a Brazilian leader since 1990,
when Fernando Collor outraged the population by freezing all
savings accounts in a desperate attempt to stop hyperinflation.
Two years later, Collor resigned the presidency as Congress
moved to impeach him over corruption allegations.
Voting intentions on Rousseff in next year's election also
slumped, dropping to 30 percent from 54 percent in a similar
survey conducted in December, Datafolha added later on Saturday.
Former environment minister Marina Silva and Minas Gerais
Senator Aecio Neves appeared as her strongest adversaries, with
23 and 17 percent of the voting intentions respectively.
Until recently, Rousseff had enjoyed some of the highest
approval ratings of any leader in the Western world, largely
thanks to record-low unemployment. But her popularity started to
slip in early June as rising consumer prices began to eat away
at Brazilians' purchasing power, a sure recipe for trouble in a
country with a long history of runaway inflation.
Then came the nationwide street demonstrations of the past
few weeks, which have sent shockwaves through Brazil's political
establishment. While the protests have not been directed at a
single leader or party, widespread discontent with a ruling
class that is seen as self-serving and corrupt is eroding the
popularity of politicians at all levels, including Rousseff.
The Datafolha poll was the first taken since more than a
million Brazilians poured on to the streets in recent weeks to
protest against a litany of grievances, from corruption and poor
public services to outrage at billions of dollars in taxpayer
money being spent to host the 2014 soccer World Cup.
The president's approval rating fell sharply in all regions
of the country, the poll showed. In the Northeast, birthplace of
her popular predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and a
stronghold of the ruling Workers' Party (PT), the share of
people who view the administration favorably sank to 40 percent
from 64 percent in a poll on June 8.
The poll also asked Brazilians if they were in favor of the
protests, the largest to hit Brazil in two decades. Eighty-one
percent of respondents said they support the demonstrations.
Asked if the protests had resulted in positive changes, 65
percent said yes.
The unrest has prompted a flurry of promises to improve
public services and other measures aimed at quelling the
protests. In the past week alone, Brazil's Congress voted on a
battery of bills promoting issues popular with the protesters,
and the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of a lower house
representative convicted of corruption.
Rousseff shocked Brazil on Monday by proposing a constituent
assembly to overhaul the country's political system, but
withdrew the plan a day later after it ran up against widespread
opposition, even from within her own party.
She is now seeking congressional support for a non-binding
plebiscite to ask Brazilians how they would like to see the
political system changed. In the Datafolha poll, 68 percent of
respondents said they backed the idea of a plebiscite.
The drop in Rousseff's popularity comes at a delicate moment
for Brazil's economy, which barely expanded last year and relies
on an ambitious agenda of infrastructure projects to return to
sustained growth in coming years.
The approval rating of Rousseff's economic team, led by
Finance Minister Guido Mantega and central bank president
Alexandre Tombini, dropped to 27 percent from 49 percent.
The Datafolha poll, which was conducted on June 27-28,
surveyed 4,717 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus
2 percentage points.