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Monti’s Popularity Rises Even as Government’s Rating Slumps

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s approval rating rose this month amid optimism on the outlook of the euro-debt crisis while confidence in his government fell to a record low, a poll showed.

Monti’s rating increased three percentage points to 52 percent from the previous survey in July, Rome-based IPR Marketing said today in a survey for newspaper la Repubblica. Confidence in his government declined to 37 percent, the lowest since taking power in November.

“On one hand, voters rewarded Monti as an individual for his experience and will to save Italy,” IPR said. “On the other hand, the negative judgments on the effects of the government measures and on the increase of social conflicts and unemployment meant a negative opinion on the government team as a whole.”

Italian bond yields fell to a seven-month low last week after the European Central Bank said it was willing to buy unlimited amounts of bonds of euro-area nations in distress. The ECB will work in conjunction with bond buying by the euro-region bailout funds, a plan Monti helped champion.

Still, at home the Monti’s government is facing fallout from a recession that the premier last week admitted was aggravated by his government’s austerity policies. Last month joblessness remained close to a 13-year high as firms including Fiat SpA and Alcoa Inc. scaled back activity or signaled they may reduce production in the country.

After passing tax increases and spending cuts in December to reduce Italy’s deficit, Monti’s cabinet approved on March 23 an overhaul of the labor code easing the rules on firing workers during difficult economic times without the risk of a court ordering their reinstatement.

Monti, who took over on Nov. 16 from former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, is the most popular member of his government, according to the IPR poll. He is followed by Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who enjoys the support of 50 percent of Italians. International Cooperation Minister Andrea Riccardi and Economic Development Minister Corrado Passera both got 46 percent while Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli’s popularity was 38 percent, IPR said.

In an interview with newspaper Il Giornale published today, Berlusconi said that if he were to lead the next government, he would retract Monti’s property tax on primary residences. Berlusconi’s government cancelled a previous levy on first homes in 2008.

Today’s poll of 1,000 people was conducted Sept. 13-14 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percent, IPR said.

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