September 6, 2011 / 6:39 PM / 8 years ago

Sarkozy's approval rating hits 12-month high

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (C) looks on prior to the family photo during the "Friends of Libya" conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris September 1, 2011. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s approval rating has crept up to a 12-month high, although he remains unpopular with a large majority as a presidential election looms, the latest poll showed Tuesday.

Sarkozy’s approval rating has nudged higher from a low of 30 percent in April to reach 37 percent at the start of September, according to an IFOP poll for the weekly magazine Paris-Match.

Although the improvement brought his approval rating to its highest level since September 2010, 63 percent of those polled did not approve of Sarkozy’s performance.

The French leader, who is widely expected to seek a second term, has been trailing leading Socialist Party rivals in the polls with lawmaker Francois Hollande winning the best scores in most surveys.

However, Sarkozy’s popularity ratings have edged higher over the summer as pictures of him at the beach with his pregnant wife Carla Bruni painted a stark contrast with coverage of his erstwhile main rival on the left, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was fighting sex assault charges in New York.

The IFOP poll suggested that Sarkozy’s high-profile role helping Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi is paying political dividends at home with the number of people approving of his foreign policies on the rise.

The poll, based on interviews with 1,100 people of voting age on September 1 and 2, found 72 percent of those questioned said the president is defending French interests abroad well, up from 69 percent in July.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas

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