RIO DE JANEIRO Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's approval rating fell for the first time since her term began in January 2011 as concern about inflation and sluggish economic growth grew, the Datafolha polling agency said on Saturday.
Brazilians rating Rousseff's presidency as "good" or "excellent" fell to 57 percent from 65 percent in the previous poll. The Datafolha survey was published in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.
The decline was seen in all age and income groups and in all regions of Brazil, Datafolha said.
While Rousseff, a member of Brazil's Workers' Party, remains the favourite to win presidential elections in October 2014, Datafolha said her weakening popularity reflects Brazilians' dissatisfaction with the performance of their economy and rising concern that consumer prices and unemployment will rise.
The percentage of Brazilians who expect the inflation rate to rise from current levels rose to 51 percent from 45 percent, the poll said.
Inflation rose to 6.5 percent in the 12 months ended May 30, Brazil's IBGE statistics agency said on Friday. It is now at the top of the government's own inflation targeting range of 4.5 percent plus or minus two percentage points.
Economic growth in the first quarter came in below expectations, with gross domestic product rising only 0.6 percent compared with the fourth quarter. Annual GDP growth in 2012 was 1.4 percent.
The risk of inflation limits the ability of Rousseff to promote the expansionist economic policies that have won her many supporters. It also prompted the central bank to raise interest rates to 8 percent from 7.5 percent last week, a move that could hurt already sluggish growth.
On Thursday, Standard & Poor's downgraded its outlook for Brazil's foreign currency debt rating to "negative" from "stable". S&P said deteriorating budget fundamentals and slow growth under Rousseff's left-leaning government, could undermine the country's ability to pay its debt and jeopardize its BBB long-term rating.
Economic difficulties and policy doubts come as Rousseff also faces growing resentment from members of her ruling coalition in Congress.
Despite a strong coalition majority in both houses of Congress, legislators have overridden Rousseff's line item vetoes of a controversial royalty provisions in a major oil law and resisted voting in favor of high-profile legislation written by the executive aimed at improving the country's clogged and inefficient ports.
Despite the declines in popularity, Datafolha said Rousseff remains the favourite among the most likely candidates in an October 2014 presidential election.
According to the Datafolha, she is the favorite of 51 percent of those polled, followed by Marina Silva, a former Brazilian environment minister with 16 percent, and Aecio Neves, a former governor of Minas Gerais state with 14 percent. Neves is the leader of Brazil's main opposition party, the PSDB.
The Datafolha poll was conducted on June 6 and 7 and surveyed 3,758 people. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
Later this month, the Ibope public opinion research group plans to release another poll measuring Rousseff's popularity. The Ibope poll is commissioned by National Industrial Confederation, or CNI, Brazil's largest industrial lobby group.
(Reporting by Sabrina Lorenzi; Additional reporting by Jeb Blount; Writing by Jeb Blount; Editing by Eric Walsh)