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Poll Finds Growing Negativity Among Chilean Public

FILE - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's popularity has fallen as corruption scandals and natural disasters have thwarted her reform plans.

The percentage of Chileans who believe the country is stagnating reached a 14-year high, a poll showed Tuesday, as corruption cases that have shaken the political and business elite rankled the electorate.

Twenty-nine percent of Chileans surveyed in a March CERC-Mori poll said the country was progressing, and 54 percent said it was stagnating. This was the most negative outlook since April 2001.

The percentage who thought the country was going in the wrong direction rose to 56 percent from 47 percent just over a year ago, the poll showed. Those who thought corruption was a major issue shot up to 26 percent from 4 percent over the last two months.

The poll will make sobering reading for center-left President Michelle Bachelet, whose popularity has plunged as corruption scandals and natural disasters have sidelined her ambitious reform agenda.

Her son resigned as head of her charity after being accused of using his connections to secure a $10 million bank loan for his wife's company.

Meanwhile, the right-wing opposition and key business leaders are facing a probe into campaign financing.

Chile is traditionally perceived as one of the least corrupt of Latin American countries, but the cases have eroded people's trust in politicians.

Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they either did not know whom they would vote for or would vote for no party if the election were held this week, the highest level of disaffection since the survey began in 1989.

Bachelet began her second term as president in March 2014. The next election will be held in 2017.

The CERC-Mori poll conducted 1,200 face-to-face interviews March 13-30. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.