Bolsonaro reduces Lula's advantage for Brazil election -Datafolha

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BRASILIA, March 24 (Reuters) - Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has gained ground on favorite Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ahead of the October election, but is still trailing the leftist leader by 17 percentage points, a new poll said on Thursday.

Pollster Datafolha said former President Lula would get 43% of the votes compared with 26% for Bolsonaro in a first-round vote if the election were held today.

Datafolha said the government's Auxilio Brasil social welfare program started in December helped Bolsonaro gain 4 points since the previous poll, while Lula is down 5 points.

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If the two men, who have yet to formally declare their candidacies, face off in a second-round run-off, Lula would win with 55% of the votes versus 34% for Bolsonaro, a 21-point gap that has fallen from 29 points three months ago.

Lula's advantage is in line with other recent polls that showed Bolsonaro advancing.

Still, Datafolha said accelerating inflation and high fuel costs driven up by the Ukraine war may still have an impact on voter intentions seven months from the election.

Bolsonaro improved his numbers by toning down his anti-vaccine and skeptical comments about the gravity of COVID-19, Datafolha said, and he may have benefited from the relief Brazilians are feeling with the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Statistically tied in third place are former Justice Minister Sergio Moro, a judge who jailed Lula on corruption charges that were later were dropped, and former Ceara Governor Ciro Gomes, both down a point to 8% and 6% respectively.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria has dropped from 4% to 2%.

Datafolha polled 2,556 voters in 181 cities across Brazil between March 22-23. The poll has a margin of errors of 2 percentage points up or down.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Marguerita Choy

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