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BRASILIA, July 3 (Reuters) - The World Cup has improved the mood of Brazilians, brightened their country's economic outlook and given President Dilma Rousseff a lift in popularity as she prepares to seek re-election in October, a new poll published late Wednesday showed.
Support for the leftist president has risen to 38 percent from 34 percent a month ago, the survey of eligible voters by Brazilian polling firm Datafolha said.
Support for her main challenger Aecio Neves has risen one percentage point to 20 percent from the previous Datafolha poll in June, while another rival Eduardo Campos advanced two percentage points to 9 percent, the survey showed.
Rousseff's popularity has been hurt by high inflation in a stagnant economy and her support among voters had been falling steadily from 47 percent in November, according to Datafolha polls.
Criticism over Brazil's hosting of the World Cup also bit into Rousseff's poll numbers over the past year, with many Brazilians concerned over excessive spending on stadiums and potential for embarrassing organizational problems.
But the World Cup, which many international commentators cite as one of the most exciting in recent decades, has gone more smoothly than many expected and anti-World Cup protests have all but fizzled out. Public opinion has since shifted, according to the poll, with 63 percent of those surveyed in favor of hosting the event - up from 51 percent a month earlier.
Those polled who say the nation's hosting of the Cup has made them proud as Brazilians rose from 45 percent to 60 percent.
The poll also showed Brazilians taking a rosier view of the economy, with 30 percent saying they are optimistic the economy will improve, up from 26 percent in July. Fewer Brazilians now think inflation will continue rising, 58 percent polled compared with 64 percent a month earlier, while 43 percent see unemployment rising, down from 48 percent.
The new poll confirmed, however, that Brazil is heading for a tough presidential race that will likely go to a second-round vote three weeks later between Rousseff and Neves, of the centrist PSDB party.
Rousseff is still favored to win an expected run-off, though Neves has narrowed her lead to 7 percentage points in July from 8 points last month, Datafolha said.
"While the World Cup is leading to a small rebound in Rousseff's approval ratings, it is occurring hand in hand with stable or even tightening second-round simulations," the Eurasia risk analysis consultancy said in a note to clients.
Rousseff's odds of winning re-election still stand at 70 percent, according to Eurasia, as long as unemployment remains low and real wage gains made under Workers' Party rule are maintained.
The poll of 2,857 eligible voters was done on Tuesday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of two percentage points either way. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Asher Levine; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Andrew Hay)