OCTOBER 16, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo’s public approval rating continues to rise despite a prolonged opposition campaign to unseat her, according to a survey released yesterday.

The independent Social Weather Stations’ quarterly opinion poll, conducted from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2, found 37 percent of respondents were "satisfied" with her performance, up slightly from 34 percent in its last survey, in June.

Malacañang attributed yesterday the improvement in the President’s ratings to the favorable effects of her economic reform programs.

Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor also appealed to opposition leaders to lessen their offensives on Mrs. Arroyo to enable her to concentrate more on strengthening the economy.

"As the gains are being slowly experienced by the people and seen by the people, I’m very sure the President will further regain the trust and confidence of the people," Defensor told reporters.

The number of people dissatisfied with Mrs. Arroyo’s performance stood at 48 percent, the same level as in June, giving her a net approval rating of minus 11 percent.

The survey of 1,200 people nationwide had a margin of error of three percent. The reasons respondents were satisfied or dissatisfied with Mrs. Arroyo were not stated.

Mrs. Arroyo’s approval score in the Visayas grew to 45 percent in September from 43 percent last June, while her disapproval rating dropped to 39 percent from 41 percent.

Public approval saw some improvement in Metro Manila, now at 23 percent compared to 20 last June, as well as across the rest of Luzon, from 34 percent to 38 percent.

Dissatisfaction in Metro Manila dropped from 67 to 64 percent, but it was unchanged across the rest of Luzon from 47 percent in June to 48 percent now.

In Mindanao, public approval remained almost unchanged from 37 percent in June to 38 percent. Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, went up by two percentage points from 44 percent in June.

SWS partly attributed the rise of Mrs. Arroyo’s rating to improving public opinion in rural areas, where those satisfied grew from 34 percent in June to 42 percent in September while those dissatisfied fell from 46 percent to 43 percent.

That brought her net approval rating in rural areas from minus 12 percent to minus one percent "or a change to a neutral score from a previously unfavorable one." The rest were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

In urban areas, on the other hand, the number of those satisfied were unchanged at 35 percent.

Those who had negative sentiments remained almost unchanged from 50 percent to 51 percent, making her urban net score a clearly unfavorable -17 (correctly rounded), compared to minus 15 in June.

"Thus the unfavorable national sentiment about the President is presently accounted for by strongly negative feelings in urban areas outbalancing neutral feelings in rural areas," SWS explained in a statement.

Mrs. Arroyo’s satisfaction rating saw improvement among society’s classes, from 33 to 35 percent among the middle-to-upper ABC classes, 36 to 39 percent among the D class and 29 to 34 percent among the very poor E class.

"For the administration, we welcome this but it’s just part of our work. But of course we will continue to be guided by the surveys and the trust and confidence of the people," Defensor said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo will continue implementing her agenda of economic and political reforms "and do what is necessary for the progress of our country" regardless of the surveys.

He said the improving impression of the public on the President’s performance indicates that what she "is doing is correct."

Defensor, however, said much remains to be done for the economy as he called for more cooperation from all sectors, particularly the opposition.

"The President is not the enemy of the opposition, poverty, crime and other problems are. Her term will end in 2010 and she is geared to getting people jobs and delivering the basic services," Defensor said.

"It’s about time they also give her breathing space after all they also have their own political fights in their districts they can take on," he said. — With Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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