Rome

Berlusconi up in polls despite Mussolini remarks

Signing Balotelli boosts popularity

Berlusconi up in polls despite Mussolini remarks

(see related) Rome, February 1 - Former premier Silvio Berlusconi's poll numbers were unscathed by comments he made defending Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and signing Italy forward Mario Balotelli to his soccer club Milan boosted his standing by nearly a point, the latest SWG poll said Friday. According to the independent group, nearly one in two Italians indicated they agreed with Berlusconi's statement - made during a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony on Sunday - that Mussolini "did well" in many ways, despite his "worst fault" of enacting the anti-Jewish racial laws of 1938. When asked by pollsters if Fascism had produced both good and bad results, 47% responded in the affirmative. "The number has been unchanged for more than 15 years," said SWG president Roberto Weber. In the days following his remarks, Berlusconi, who is seeking his fourth term in office, saw support grow for the centre right by 1.2%, giving his coalition a projected 27.8% of the vote - only five points behind the leader centre-left coalition headed by Pier Luigi Bersani. Signing the charismatic Balotelli to the Milan roster played a roll in his popularity boost, SWG said. Weber said: "It gave a 0.3% boost to the People of Freedom (PdL) party," which was founded by Berlusconi and makes up the majority of the centre-right bloc.

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