October 25, 2010 / 8:27 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-New Brazil poll shows Rousseff keeps lead

 *Rousseff maintains lead ahead of runoff vote
 *Only a major scandal likely to stop her winning
 *Other recent polls showed her widening lead
  (Adds details from poll)
 By Hugo Bachega
 SAO PAULO, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian ruling party
candidate Dilma Rousseff maintained her comfortable lead over
opposition challenger Jose Serra ahead of a presidential runoff
vote on Sunday, according to an opinion poll.
 Rousseff had 49 percent of voter support compared to
Serra's 38 percent in the survey by polling firm Vox Populi,
which was published on Monday by Website iG. The last Vox
Populi poll on Oct. 19 showed Rousseff with 51 backing versus
39 percent for Serra.
 The poll follows three surveys last week that showed
Rousseff pulling away from Serra as the campaign shifted from
social issues and back to the economic gains under her
political mentor, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
 That followed a difficult few weeks for Rousseff in which
Serra narrowed the gap as he capitalized on doubts among voters
over Rousseff's views on abortion and her alleged involvement
in scandals.
 Rousseff would have a 14-percentage-point lead of 57
percent versus 43 for Serra once blank and void ballots are
excluded, as they are on election day, the poll showed.
 Last week a survey by Datafolha, Brazil's most respected
polling firm, showed Rousseff's lead at 12 percentage points
when those ballots were taken out.
 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]
 Rousseff's lead suggests that only a surprise such as a
major scandal directly linking her to corruption could stop her
from becoming the first woman to lead Brazil.
 The new poll showed Rousseff with greater support than
Serra among religious voters, including evangelical Christians,
whose last-minute doubts about Rousseff's religious values were
crucial in keeping her from winning outright in the election's
first round on Oct. 3.
 A scuffle last week in Rio de Janeiro between Serra backers
and Rousseff supporters, in which Serra was struck on the head
by an object, appeared to have had little effect on the
standing of either candidate.
 Serra's camp has tried to portray the incident as showing
the left-leaning ruling Workers' Party is aggressive and lacks
 Vox Populi spoke with 3,000 people on Saturday and Sunday
for the poll, which has a margin of error of 1.8 percentage
points. Six percent of voters plan to submit blank votes, while
7 percent did not respond or said they were undecided.
 Polls before the first round of the election on Oct. 3
overestimated Rousseff's lead, failing to fully predict a large
swing to third-placed candidate Marina Silva that deprived
Rousseff of the majority of votes needed for outright victory.
 But analysts say that the dwindling number of undecided
voters means there are fewer wild cards in the race that could
help Serra, who failed to win the endorsement of Silva's Green
Party for the second round.
 The former Sao Paulo state governor has two more televised
debates, one on Monday and another on Friday, to mount a
last-minute attack against Rousseff. But he has failed to make
much of a mark in previous debates.
 Rousseff, a 62-year-old career civil servant running in her
first election, appears to have successfully shifted the
campaign back to her strong suit -- the huge economic strides
and improved living standards that Brazil has achieved during
Lula's eight years in power.
 The candidate is expected to broadly continue Lula's mix of
market-friendly policies and social programs while expanding
the role of the state in some key areas of Latin America's
largest economy.
(Reporting by Hugo Bachega, Writing by Stuart Grudgings and
Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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