Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party remained the front-runner in South Korea's presidential race for the 12th consecutive week, a poll showed Monday.
The former opposition leader gained 34.4 percent last week, down 2.2 percentage points from the previous week, according to the survey by Realmeter.
The decline was possibly due to voter backlash over increased mudslinging among the party's four contenders, the pollster said. Moon's approval rating fell in the capital area and the central Chungcheong and southeastern Gyeongsang provinces as well as among voters in their 20s, 40s and 50s. Still, he posted his personal high of 43.1 percent in the liberal Jeolla provinces in the southwest, up 6 percentage points from the previous week.
In second place, South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung of the same party rose 1.5 percentage points to 17.1 percent, while Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor centrist People's Party came third with 12.6 percent.
An rose for the third straight week to narrow his gap with Moon to the 10-percent range.
Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party came fourth with 10.2 percent.
In fifth place, South Gyeongsang Gov. Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party gained 9.5 percent to rank top among conservative contenders. He was followed by his party's Rep. Kim Jin-tae, a loyalist of ousted President Park Geun-hye, at 5 percent.
With the May 9 presidential election less than 50 days away, all four major parties are set to nominate their candidates by the middle of next week.
The survey was conducted from Monday to Friday on 2,553 adults nationwide and had a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. (Yonhap)