Sarkozy poll ratings fall on economy worries

( Reuters ) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suffered a seven-point drop in his approval ratings, mainly because of worries over the economy, according to an opinion poll published in the newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday.

The poll, carried out by the CSA polling institute, showed the percentage of those expressing confidence in Sarkozy fell to 48 percent in January from 55 percent in December, while those expressing no confidence rose by seven points to 45 percent.

It was the first time the survey had shown Sarkozy's approval ratings below 50 percent since his election in May.

"On the one hand, the state of the economy is not what has been hoped for and the worries are about 2008," Stephane Rozes, director general of CSA, told the newspaper.

"Consumer confidence, which is at its lowest point since May 2006, according to (the statistics office) INSEE, shows that. At a time when French people are doing their accounts and worrying about price rises, the question of purchasing power has been revived."

The survey of 1,010 people was published after data from INSEE on Friday showed a surprise drop in consumer confidence, clouding the outlook for economic growth in 2008.

Economy Minister Christine Lagarde told French radio on Saturday that inflation would pick up in 2008 because of high oil and farm prices, which were unlikely to ease this year.

Rozes said heavy media exposure of Sarkozy's private life, particularly his relationship with Italian singer and former model Carla Bruni, appeared to have turned many older voters off and posed a potential threat to his popularity.

A separate poll by the LH2 institute for the newspaper Liberation showed Sarkozy's approval rating was down two points to 54 percent and his negative rating up five points to 44 percent.

The survey of 1,003 people, found 60 percent believed Sarkozy projected a positive image of France abroad but 63 percent believed he showed off his private life too much and only 34 percent believed he had implemented measures to improve purchasing power.A third poll in the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche showed Sarkozy's centre right UMP party neck-and-neck with the opposition Socialists ahead of municipal elections on March 9 and 16.

This poll, by the Ifop institute, showed 33 percent support for the UMP and 32 percent for the Socialists. It found 64 percent of those questioned intended to vote on local issues.

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