MADRID (Reuters) - Support for the center Ciudadanos party surged while backing for anti-austerity party Podemos dropped sharply in October, according to the latest poll published by El Pais on Sunday, just two months before a general election on Dec. 20.
Ciudadanos (Citizens) would take 21.5 percent of the vote if the election were held tomorrow, according to a poll of 1,200 people by Metroscopia, up from 16.1 percent a month earlier, bringing its support close to that of the two main parties.
The Socialists (PSOE) and the ruling People's Party (PP) would gain 23.5 percent and 23.4 percent respectively, leaving Ciudadanos, led by 35-year-old Albert Rivera and only running with a national agenda since January, as potential king maker.
Podemos (We Can), led by political scientist Pablo Iglesias, would take 14.1 percent of the vote, according to the poll taken Oct. 7 an 8, after 18.6 percent in September and a long way from its height in January with 28.2 percent.
A deep and prolonged economic crisis, massive unemployment and a slew of corruption scandals has prompted many Spaniards to turn away from the two traditional left and right parties and seek an alternative.
However, support for Podemos has shrunk since the start of the year, especially after the Greek crisis, in which fellow anti-austerity party Syriza was forced to accept unpopular measures or a potential expulsion from the euro zone.
Ciudadanos's rise, with its message of transparency and free-market policies, was also reflected in a poll of voting intentions in the traditionally PP region of Valencia, published on Friday.
According to an analysis on Sunday in El Mundo, in the recent regional election in Catalonia, some 30 percent of Spaniards which voted for the PP in 2012 migrated to Ciudadanos in the polls Sept 27.
(Reporting by Paul Day; editing by Ralph Boulton)