BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have dropped 2 percentage points but are still a whisker ahead of their Social Democrat (SPD) rivals, a DeutschlandTrend poll released on Thursday showed, less than seven months before an election.
Merkel wants to win a fourth term in the Sept. 24 vote but the race has heated up since the SPD switched leaders at the end of January and chose former European Parliament president Martin Schulz to run against her.
The Infratest dimap survey for broadcaster ARD put the SPD on 31 percent, up 3 points from the previous survey and the conservatives on 32 percent. Given possible statistical error, the two blocks are in effect neck and neck.
The poll also showed popular support for Merkel up 5 points at 60 percent, her highest level since September 2015 and ahead of her SPD rival Schulz who was down 3 points at 52 percent.
So far, Schulz has focused on tackling social justice and says he wants to revise labour market reforms introduced by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, more than a decade ago.
Schulz wants to end the SPD's "grand coalition" with Merkel's conservative parliamentary bloc and form a leftist alliance with the Greens and possibly with the radical Left.
With the SPD gaining around 10 points since the start of February due to the "Schulz effect", most polls show only a narrow gap between the two biggest parties and coalition arithmetic could be complicated.
The DeutschlandTrend poll put the right-wing AfD down 1 point on 11 percent, and the Greens and radical Left both unchanged at 8 percent. The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) were stable on 6 percent, over the 5 percent threshold needed to enter the Bundestag lower house.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Alison Williams)