ROME (Reuters) - Italy's centre-left Democratic Party would win the largest share of the vote, with 27 percent, if elections were held now while former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right party would get less than 20 percent, a poll showed on Monday.
The survey for La Repubblica newspaper also showed a surge of support for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which has surpassed all smaller parties to become Italy's third-largest political movement, with 14.5 percent.
National elections are due to be held next spring and Prime Minister Mario Monti, who leads a government of un-elected technocrats, has said he wants to return to academia and does not intend to run for office.
But many leading business, banking and academic leaders, however, favor a second Monti government and one small party, the Union of the Centre (UDC), has explicitly called on Monti to run for office.
The poll, taken by the Demos institute, showed a major slide for Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) group, which fell to 19.8 percent from 25.5 percent.
While it lost two-and-a-half points over the past year, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD)was still leading the pack with 27 percent.
PD leader Pierluigi Bersani told a political rally at the weekend that his party was ready to govern Italy next year.
The top gainer was the Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment group headed by comedian Beppe Grillo that has capitalized on the increasing distaste with traditional parties and discontent with economic stagnation and austerity.
The surge to 14.5 percent from the 3.5 percent a year ago by the Five Star Movement, which won several mayoral races in local elections last May, has eroded the positions of nearly all other parties.
The Northern League, a former Berlusconi ally which has been caught up in a corruption scandal, fell to 5.5 percent from 9.8 percent a year ago.
The personal popularity of Monti, whose government has enacted a series of spending cuts, rose to 55.5 percent from 51.7 percent last May, the Demos poll showed.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Jon Boyle)