MADRID (Reuters) - Spaniards fed up with high unemployment and a sluggish economy would elect the center-right Popular Party (PP) with a lead of more than 14 percentage points over the governing Socialists, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.
The Metroscopia survey published in the daily El Pais found 44.7 percent of 1,001 respondents polled last week would vote for the PP as opposed to 30.4 percent for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist party.
The gap was 13.8 points in a poll by the same organization a month ago and more than 10 points in local elections held on May 22, when the Socialists suffered their worst such defeat since Spain returned to democracy in 1978.
The Socialists beat the PP by 3.6 points when parliamentary elections were last held in March 2008 after overseeing the euro zone's fastest-growing economy in 2007.
But since then a decade-long housing bubble has burst and Spanish unemployment has soared to more than twice the European average. The Socialists' rating has meanwhile plunged 13.3 points and the PP have advanced by 4.6.
Metroscopia added that 50 percent of those polled thought Zapatero should call elections before the current parliamentary term is due to expire in March 2012, while 42 percent thought that would make matters worse.
The PP have stepped up demands since their landslide victory in the May polls for Zapatero's government to resign, but have stopped short of calling for a no-confidence vote.
Zapatero made it clear in the state of the nation debate in parliament last week that he intended to stay on to complete reforms designed to trim a wide deficit and convince bond markets Spain's public finances and financial system are solid.
Key to staying in power will be passing the 2012 budget in September, for which the minority Socialists are expected to garner the support of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).
Zapatero has said, however, that he will not lead the Socialists into the next elections and has designated Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba as his successor.
Rubalcaba's ratings in the Metroscopia poll were mixed. Respondents thought PP leader Mariano Rajoy was better equipped to deal with the crisis, while they said Rubalcaba inspired more confidence.
(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Michael Roddy)