MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s presidential front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto has stopped a recent slide in support, though his leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is still gaining on him, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
The latest voter survey for the July 1 election by Consulta Mitofsky showed support for Pena Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), at 35.8 percent, up 0.2 points from a poll published by the firm a week earlier.
Backing for 2006 runner-up Lopez Obrador, who has gathered strength from a series of recent youth-led protests against the PRI candidate, rose 2.3 points to 24.0 percent.
Josefina Vazquez Mota, candidate of President Felipe Calderon’s conservative National Action Party (PAN), climbed 0.4 points to 20.8 percent, Mitofsky said.
Stripping out undecided voters, Pena Nieto had support of 43.6 percent, a lead of more than 14 points over Lopez Obrador.
Campaigning in the central town of Puruandiro on Tuesday, Lopez Obrador was in buoyant mood, telling supporters at a rally he was overtaking Pena Nieto in the home stretch.
The 58-year-old led for most of the 2006 campaign only to lose by less than a percentage point after the PAN ran negative ads about Lopez Obrador being a “danger to Mexico”.
“Remember what they did in 2006? About how I was a danger to Mexico again and again in the radio and television,” he told the crowd. “They’ve started with this, they’re really nervous. It’s not going to work this time though, they can fool the people once, but you can’t always fool them, the people have woken up.”
After his defeat in 2006, the former mayor of Mexico City cried foul and staged massive protests that brought central areas of the capital to a standstill for weeks.
Declaring himself the rightful president, Lopez Obrador eventually alienated many supporters and had been stuck in third for weeks until the campaign began officially on March 30.
Lately, however, mass demonstrations have whipped up support for the fiery orator as he seeks to catch Pena Nieto.
Student marches have attempted to awaken negative memories of the PRI’s long rule in Mexico, which was blighted by frequent allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.
The PRI governed the country between 1929 and 2000, when it was defeated by Calderon’s PAN predecessor as president, Vicente Fox. Presidents can only serve a single term in Mexico.
Support for the PRI has increased due to the PAN government’s failure to halt drug-related violence that has claimed more than 55,000 lives since the end of 2006.
The administration has also struggled to create enough jobs to cater for Mexico’s growing population, and Fox recently urged voters to get behind the likely winner of the contest - sparking an angry response from the PAN. [ID:nL1E8H33YR]
One of the dynamos of anti-PRI youth opposition has been the movement “Yosoy132” (“I am 132”) which took its name from the 131 people that identified themselves as students taking part in a May 11 university protest against Pena Nieto, 45.
After he was heckled and booed at Mexico City’s Ibero-American University that day, some of Pena Nieto’s supporters cast doubt on whether the protesters were actually students, prompting them to come forward in a video posted online.
The Ibero students attacked Pena Nieto over his record as governor of the State of Mexico between 2005 and 2011.
The event sparked a rush of online activism that culminated in protest marches in Mexico City a week later which thousands joined. More protests followed in other parts of the country.
The survey polled 1,000 eligible voters between June 1 and June 3 and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Cynthia Osterman