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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Growing discontent over rising prices in Brazil has dragged down President Dilma Rousseff's approval rating from record highs, pollsters said on Wednesday, adding that her popularity could deteriorate further if inflation is not tamed.
The CNI/Ibope opinion poll was taken before the start of a current wave of nationwide protests against inflation and other ills including corruption and poor public services.
Rousseff's approval rating fell 8 percentage points to 55 percent, according to the poll, the third in two weeks to show inflation hurting the popularity of the leftist president, who is expected to run for re-election next year.
"If the government cannot revert the inflationary trend and the economy fails to recover then very clearly" her popularity will continue to suffer, said Renato da Fonseca, executive manager of research at the National Industries Confederation (CNI).
The drop in Rousseff's popularity comes at a delicate moment in Brazil. A rise in transportation fares across several major cities in recent weeks, which is likely to push inflation even higher this month, sparked street protests that grew into massive nationwide demonstrations against the poor quality of transportation, education, health and other grievances.
Da Fonseca said that it was still too early to measure the impact of the protests on Rousseff's approval ratings.
Public sentiment about Rouseff's government in areas like education, health and public security remained largely stable in June from March, the poll showed.
The disapproval of her administration's handling of inflation, however, rose 10 percentage points to 57 percent, the biggest jump among the nine areas analyzed in the survey.
Annual inflation through mid-June is expected to pierce the ceiling of the official target of 6.5 percent even as Latin America's largest economy fails to recovery from two years of subpar growth.
Overall disapproval of her administration rose from 7 percent three months ago to 13 percent, its highest since Rousseff took office in January 2011.
Although her popularity remains very high, Rousseff trails her predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who at the same period during his second term enjoyed an approval rating of 68 percent, the poll showed.
In recent speeches, Rousseff has emphasized her government's commitment to fight inflation at all costs to protect Brazilians' purchasing power.
Rousseff said on Tuesday that she is listening closely to the grievances of protesters, acknowledging the need to better public services.
The CNI/Ibope poll, which was conducted between June 8 and 11, interviewed 2,002 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
(Reporting by Alonso Soto and Carl Patchen, editing by Reese Ewing and Chizu Nomiyama)