Two polls released Monday showed a steep slump in approval ratings for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after a wave of protests decrying his administration's handling of the case of 43 missing teaching students.
Lackluster economic growth two years into his six-year term has also affected Peña Nieto's approval, the polls found.
The data showing voter sentiment in Mexico came as thousands more demonstrators took the main Paseo de la Reforma boulevard in Mexico City and confronted federal police in riot gear on Monday night. Staff from Mexico's National Human Rights Commission at one point stood in an arm-in-arm link to protect demonstrators from the police.
Díganme cuántos— Compa Darío Ramírez (@Dariormrs) December 2, 2014
There was no word on arrests as of 10pm Monday. Mexico City's police department has come under criticism from human rights observers for abritrary detentions and abuse of force against demonstrators.
The national newspaper Reforma said Peña Nieto's approval rating dropped to 39 points, the lowest mark for a sitting Mexican president since the dramatic contraction of Mexico's economy under former president Ernesto Zedillo in 1995 — almost 20 years ago.
Up to 58 percent of 1,200 people polled by Reforma between November 20 and 23 said they disapproved of the president's performance. The figure was higher for a select group of 924 "leaders" in politics, academia, and public life, who said they disapproved of the president's performance by a margin of 79 percent, compared to 21 percent who said they approved of Peña Nieto's work.
In El Universal, another large Mexican daily, a poll also released on Monday found 41 percent of respondents approved of Peña Nieto, compared to 50 percent who did not. In August, Peña Nieto's approval rating was 46 percent, according to El Universal.
Overall, 52 percent of respondents said Mexico was "on the wrong track," compared to 28 percent who said the opposite, El Universal said. Mexico's GDP has been slumping along for most of the year. The economy grew by 0.5 percent in the third trimester of 2014, Forbes reported, which will likely prompt federal finance authorities to downwardly revise growth expectations for the end of the year.
El Universal interviewed 1,000 people in Mexico between November 8 and 12, in a study with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 points. Reforma said its poll carried a margin of error of +/- 3.1 points.
Peña Nieto was elected with just 38 percent of the vote in July 2012 in presidential elections that do not include a second round. He took office December 1 of that year.
In recent weeks, as the case of the missing Ayotzinapa Normal School students has shocked and saddened the country, Peña Nieto has also come under fire for an alleged conflict of interest linked to a mansion belonging to his wife, actress Angelica Rivera.