Mexican presidential frontrunner Enrique Pena Nieto has extended the big lead he holds over his nearest rival in the campaign for the July 1 election after the first televised debate last Sunday, a poll showed on Friday.
The first voter survey by pollster Consulta Mitofsky since the debate showed support for Pena Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, at 38.5 percent, up 0.5 percentage points from a previous poll published on May 1.
That gave him a lead of 17.5 points over Josefina Vazquez Mota of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN. She fell one point to 21 percent, her lowest level of support since the presidential campaign began at the end of March.
Two points behind her at 19 percent was leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The survey polled 1,000 eligible Mexican voters from Monday to Wednesday and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Pena Nieto’s debating skills had been discussed as a potential weak spot before the debate and he came under sustained fire from Vazquez Mota and Lopez Obrador, who accused him of corruption, lies and being a pawn of the media.
However, the 45-year-old Pena Nieto, who has led polls to succeed Calderon for more than two years, counterattacked in the debate, and analysts said he held his own.
The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years until it was ousted in 2000 by the PAN, whose support has faded because of its failure to create enough jobs and contain rampant drug-related violence that has killed 50,000 people in the past five years.
However, plenty of Mexican voters still have doubts about the prospect of the PRI’s return.
Allegations of corruption and authoritarianism dogged the party during the latter years of its rule, and Pena Nieto was booed and mocked by students at his appearance at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City on Friday.
The same day, newspaper Reforma reported that Pena Nieto had paid leading broadcasters to make favorable comments about his administration when he was governor of the State of Mexico, a populous region next to the capital, between 2005 and last year.
Pena Nieto denied the charge on Mexican radio, saying his government had only made legitimate use of advertising space available on the airwaves to promote its work.