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Brazil leader Rousseff's popularity undented by Petrobras scandal

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s approval rating has not suffered from a widening corruption scandal involving state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and many Brazilians continue to trust her, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a meeting with leaders of the Allied Base of parties in the Senate and House of Representatives at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

The number of Brazilians that approve of her government has increased to 40 percent from 38 percent in September, according to polling firm Ibope in its first survey since Rousseff was narrowly reelected in October.

Her personal approval has risen to 52 percent from 48 percent, Ibope said. Both improvements are within the poll’s margin of error.

Prosecutors have indicted nearly 40 people, including two former Petrobras directors and executives of Brazil’s biggest engineering companies, on charges of bribery, money laundering and racketeering in an alleged kickback scheme that skimmed billions of dollars off contracts with the oil firm.

Rousseff has denied knowledge of the scheme that funneled money to her Workers’ Party and political allies dating back to when she was chair of the Petrobras board from 2003 to 2014.

The Ibope poll showed that the corruption scandal is the foremost news story on the mind of Brazilians.

Yet the survey also showed that the proportion of Brazilians that trust Rousseff has grown to 51 percent from 45 percent in the last Ibope poll on the president in September.

“Her improved approval rating is marginal, but it does show her government is alive, that it is strong and still has political capital to burn,” said André César, an independent political analyst based in Brasilia.

“The scandal is not associated directly with Rousseff, as long as it doesn’t impact people’s pockets, their jobs, their lives,” he said.

Rousseff begins her second term on Jan. 1 facing the challenge of adopting unpopular economic measures to balance Brazil’s overdrawn accounts and revive a flagging economy.

Ibope interviewed 2,002 respondents Dec. 5-8. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by W Simon