Poll shows jump in approval for Brazil's Bolsonaro amid pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during an inauguration ceremony of the new Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello (not pictured) at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The approval rating of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has jumped, with the right-wing leader enjoying growing popularity even as Brazil suffers the world’s second highest COVID-19 death-toll, a poll showed on Thursday.

The number of Brazilians that rate his government as great or good has risen to 40% from 29% in December, while those that view it as bad or terrible has dropped to 29% from 38% in the previous poll, the survey by CNI/Ibope said.

While Bolsonaro has been criticized by health experts for minimizing the severity of the coronavirus and opposing lockdowns in order to keep the economy going, 50% of those polled said they approved of his way of governing the country, compared with 41% in December.

The Ibope poll, commissioned by industry lobby CNI, is in line with other recent surveys that show the president’s popularity rising thanks in large part to emergency payments made to low-income and informal sector workers who have lost livelihoods during the pandemic.

Those that do not approve of Bolsonaro’s government has dropped to 41% now from 53% in December, the poll said.

The main reason for his improved numbers is the 322 billion reais ($58 billion) in payments his government has made during the pandemic, representing a gain of 13 points above his core ideological support base, said Leonardo Barreto of the Vector Análise political risk consultancy in Brasilia.

“But that popularity can vanish as quickly as it arrived” when the payments end at the end of the year and if Bolsonaro fails to improve economic conditions next year, he said.

Despite Brazil’s slump brought on by the pandemic, public confidence in Bolsonaro has also risen, with 46% of those polled saying they trust him, compared with 41% in December.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Cynthia Osterman