The Miami Herald
Tue, Mar. 02, 2004
Fox's popularity on the decline

The economy and a high-profile first lady contribute to Mexicans' growing dissatisfaction with the job their president is doing, a poll indicates.

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - Concerns about the economy and his failure to pass promised reforms have led to a drop in President Vicente Fox's popularity, according to newspaper polls published Monday.

Fox owes his troubles in part to the high profile of first lady Marta Sahagún de Fox, who has consistently toyed with the idea of running for her husband's seat in 2006, Mexican novelist and cultural expert Carlos Fuentes wrote Monday.

The surveys, which appeared in the daily newspapers Reforma and El Universal, show that 55 percent of Mexicans approve of the job Fox is doing, 3 percentage points less than at the end of 2003.

In the Reforma poll, respondents gave Fox a rating of 6.3 on a scale of 0 to 10, and in the El Universal survey, 6.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

The poll also showed that 25 percent of Mexicans believe the economy has worsened in the past year, while 19 percent believe it has improved.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents believe Fox has governed the country honestly, while 18 percent believe the opposite.

Fox's approval rating is the second-lowest in a series of 13 polls Reforma has conducted every three months since Fox took office in December 2000, the newspaper noted.

His lowest rating of 47 percent came in February 2002.

The Reforma poll was based on personal interviews with 1,510 adults from Feb. 14-16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

In the El Universal poll, 53 percent of respondents said they believed that Mexico's problems have exceeded Fox's capabilities, while 26 percent believe he has everything under control.

The El Universal poll was based on personal interviews with 1,000 adults from Feb. 19-24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

With his election in July 2000, Fox became the first candidate in 71 years to unseat the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Initially buoyed by voters' expectations for change, the president has slipped gradually after failing to pass promised fiscal and labor reforms and as problems with the United States' economy have trickled southward.

An additional factor contributing to the people's doubts is Sahagún, Fuentes insisted in an article published Monday in the Reforma newspaper.

Sahagún's refusal to rule out running for president may lead some to believe that Fox is trying to use his wife to skirt a constitutional prohibition against his own reelection to a second six-year term, Fuentes said.

''Marta Sahagún de Fox . . . could run for a senator's seat, governorship or mayorship,'' Fuentes wrote.

``What the country probably wouldn't stand for is an attempt to prolong the same presidency.

''The simple fact of trying -- because I don't think she would achieve it -- hurts Mexico's president; it makes him a suspect'' of trying to extend his own rule, Fuentes wrote.