UPDATE 1-Brazil leader's popularity hits high despite stalled economy

Anthony Boadle
Reuters Middle East

* Rousseff's approval rating up to record 78 pct - poll

* Government's approval rating unchanged at 62 pct

* President not hurt by political corruption scandals

(Adds pollster comments)

BRASILIA, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma

Rousseff's approval rating is at an all-time high, despite a

stalled economy and political scandals that have tarnished the

reputation of her ruling Workers' Party, an opinion poll

published on Friday showed.

Rousseff's personal approval rating rose slightly to 78

percent, from 77 percent three months ago, according to the

CNI/Ibope poll. Approval of her left-of-center government was

unchanged at 62 percent, the poll showed.

The once-booming Brazilian economy almost ground to halt in

Rousseff's first year as president in 2011 and recovery has been

disappointing this year, despite a slew of tax breaks and other

incentives adopted by Rousseff's economic team.

Third-quarter growth of 0.6 percent was half that expected

by economists and surprised even the government, while

investment declined for a fifth straight quarter, prompting

calls from business leaders for a change in policy.

Pollsters say the slowdown has not affected most Brazilians,

who continue to consume more and have a positive view of the

government's efforts to reduce interest rates to historic lows,

while keeping inflation in reasonable check.

"The crisis has not reached the people yet and their view of

the economy is still satisfactory, or even positive," said CNI's

head of research, Renato da Fonseca.

"There is still good news on the economy," Fonseca said,

pointing to a popular step by Rousseff to try to lower some of

the world's highest energy costs next year.

Data published on Friday showed that the economy could be

beginning to respond to Rousseff's policies. A central bank

economic-activity index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.36 percent

in October after slumping in September, helped by the first

annual increase in industrial output in more than a year.

But the world's No. 6 economy is still expected to grow just

1.0 percent this year, a far cry from the 7.5-percent expansion

seen in 2010.

The economy's sluggish response to Rousseff's policies has

made her politically vulnerable for the first time in her two

years as president, and she needs to restore solid growth to

keep alive her re-election prospects in 2014.

Rousseff has successfully shielded herself from the fallout

from Brazil's biggest political corruption scandal that led to

the conviction of top members of the Workers' Party by the

Supreme Court last month.

The politicians sentenced to jail terms for running a

vote-buying scheme in Congress during the government of her

predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, including his

former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, are not linked to Rousseff's


Rousseff, who gained a reputation for not tolerating

corruption by firing six ministers in her first year in office,

moved quickly to dismiss officials implicated in another scandal

that broke last month - an influence-peddling ring centered on

Lula's former private secretary.

Brazilians have not associated the corruption cases with

Rousseff, even the latest scandal which involved officials in

her government but who were appointed on Lula's watch.

"We are seeing that it hasn't undermined confidence in the

president and her way of governing," Fonseca said.

The quarterly poll of 2,000 people by Ibope and CNI, the

country's largest industry lobby, was conducted between Dec. 6

and Dec. 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2

percentage points.

(Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by

Todd Benson and David Brunnstrom)

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