Lula approval dips in Brazil after Israel-Gaza remarks

Brazil's President Lula meets Spain's Prime Minister Sanchez at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Approval of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's performance has slipped after his remarks last month likening Israel's war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two, a new Genial/Quaest poll showed on Wednesday.

Approval of his way of governing dropped to 51% in February from 54% in December, at its lowest level since April 2023. Of those polled, 46% said he was doing a bad job, up from 43% in the previous survey.

Quaest's first poll this year showed that approval of Lula dipped especially among evangelical Christian voters, already a stronghold of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, after his remarks about the war in Gaza.

Lula denounced Israel's military action in the enclave as a "genocide" against Palestinians and compared it to "when Hitler decided to kill the Jews."

Israel described the comments as a serious anti-Semitic attack and has demanded an apology, saying Lula is unwelcome there until he retracts his remarks; Brazilian sources have said that would not happen.

Lula's approval among evangelical Christians - who make up nearly a third of Brazil's population - dropped to 35% from 41%, while their disapproval of his government jumped to 62% from 56%.

"The reaction to Lula's remarks about Gaza seems to give a good clue to explain it," Quaest pollster Felipe Nunes said. "About 60% of Brazilians believe he exaggerated in his comparison, but among evangelicals that number is even bigger: 69%."

"The remarks were so poorly received that the president did not obtain majority support even within his own political base," Nunes noted.

Genial/Quaest interviewed 2,000 people of voting age between Feb. 25 and 27. The poll has a 2.2 percentage point error margin.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Marguerita Choy)