Mexico president's rating at one-year high with election in sight: poll

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s approval rating has risen to its highest level in a year with barely six months to go before legislative elections, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico November 11, 2020. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

The face-to-face survey of 1,000 Mexicans between Nov. 12-18 by polling firm Buendia & Laredo showed Lopez Obrador had the support of 64%, bolstered by his social spending programs. Just 25% disapproved of him, according to the poll.

The rating was up from the 59% he scored in the pollster’s prior August telephone survey, reaching the highest level since November 2019 - well before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 100,000 people in Mexico.

Lopez Obrador is gearing up for mid-term elections due on June 6, 2021, which will determine whether he can retain control of the lower house of Congress.

Failure to hold the lower house could do significant damage to his efforts to roll back the last government’s liberalization of the energy market. He argues that has been a rip-off for taxpayers, sparking conflict with foreign investors in Mexico.

Easily the most popular of the president’s policies cited by respondents were welfare spending schemes which target the elderly, students and poorer rural areas, the survey showed.

“The social programs are his anchor,” said Jorge Buendia, head of the polling firm.

Lopez Obrador’s popularity stands in defiance of his overall record on the economy and security, where he has fallen short of the goals he set himself upon taking office two years ago.

Mexico’s economy slipped into recession months before the pandemic even began, while murders hit record levels last year. This year they are on track to hit another record.

While Mexicans still support his handling of the pandemic, they are becoming more skeptical about it, the poll showed.

Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Grant McCool