ROME Most Italians are against technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti running for a second term in parliamentary elections expected in February, a poll showed on Monday.
Approval ratings for the premier hit almost their lowest level since Monti was appointed 13 months ago to lead a government charged with pulling Italy from the brink of a financial crisis.
Monti is under international pressure to stand so he can continue a program of reforms and austerity meant to defuse a debt crisis dangerous to the euro zone.
But the tax hikes and cuts to spending imposed by the government have provoked widespread protests in Italy.
Just 24 percent of respondents said Monti should put himself forward as a candidate while 61 percent were against the idea, the survey by the SWG polling institute showed.
The result shows an apparent disconnect between voters and leaders as center-right politicians stepped up calls over the weekend for Monti to run for a second term at the head of a conservative coalition.
Center-right voters were the most strongly opposed to a Monti run with 82 percent against the idea, compared with 58 percent of center-left voters and 34 percent of centrists.
In December, 35 percent of respondents to the SWG poll said they had either "a lot of" or "enough" faith in Monti, down from a high of 71 percent when the economics professor was appointed.
Currently the center-left Democratic Party has the biggest portion of electoral support with 31 percent of voters, the poll showed, followed by the populist 5-Star Movement at 19 percent and Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party at 16.5 percent.
The Democratic Party has consistently opposed a Monti run.
(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Andrew Heavens)