BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives held a narrow opinion poll lead on Friday over the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), whose support has surged in recent weeks.
The Ipsos poll put the conservative bloc at 32 percent while the SPD, enjoying a revival in fortunes since nominating former European Parliament President Martin Schulz as its candidate to replace Merkel, was at 30 percent.
Several recent polls have shown the SPD, the junior partner in Merkel's ruling coalition and lagging the conservatives for years, ahead.
Oskar Niedermayer, politics professor at Berlin's Free University, said the SPD was in a "hype period" ahead of September's national election.
While he said every poll that showed the party close to or ahead of the conservatives was giving it a boost, "we'll only really be able to talk about the trend stabilising if the situation remains the same in two months' time."
The Ipsos poll put the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) third with 12 percent, comfortably above the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.
In the survey of 1,045 people carried out from Feb. 17 to 20, the far-left Linke reached 10 percent while the Greens had 7 percent and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) at 5 percent.
Volker Kauder, the conservatives' parliamentary floor leader, said his bloc was calm about the SPD's surge, arguing Schulz was already making mistakes and expected the polls to change.
The SPD wants to offer an alternative to the generally unpopular 'grand coalition' between Germany's biggest parties and has held exploratory talks with the environmentalist Greens and the far-left Linke.
Sahra Wagenknecht, who heads the Linke party in parliament, told German magazine Der Spiegel that she was open to joining forces with the SPD.
"If the SPD really wants to pursue a more social policy, we certainly won't let it fail," she said.
Schulz has taken aim at job insecurity and old-age poverty, promising to defend pensions, reduce temporary work contracts and revise some of the 'Agenda 2010' labour reforms enacted by the last SPD-led government.
(Additional reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Paul Carrel and John Stonestreet)