World News

Brazil's Lula to leave with record-high popularity

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is more popular than ever as he prepares to step down, but Brazilians are warier about the prospects for his successor Dilma Rousseff, a poll showed on Thursday.

Lula’s government had the approval of 80 percent of respondents in a December survey by polling firm Ibope, beating the previous high of 77 percent marked in September. Lula’s personal approval rating -- which has long been the envy of other world leaders -- touched a dizzying new high of 87 percent.

The country’s first working class president, Lula has presided over eight years of sustained prosperity that has transformed Brazil from an economic also-ran into an emerging market giant. His popularity helped propel his former chief of staff Rousseff to the presidency in October elections.

The Ibope poll showed that many Brazilians are reserving judgment on former leftist militant Rousseff, whose government begins with her inauguration on January 1. Asked whether they believed her government would be a good one, 62 percent of respondents agreed, 19 percent said it would be normal and 9 percent said it would be bad.

The nationwide Ibope poll, commissioned by Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries, covered 2,002 people between December 4 and December 9.

Despite the government’s overall high popularity, the survey highlighted weak areas. A majority of respondents -- 54 percent -- disapproved of the government’s policies on health and 51 percent were unhappy with its tax policy.

Reporting by Stuart Grudgings