This composite file photo shows former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (L) and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, two leading candidates for the next presidential election. (Yonhap)
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl saw his support rating reach a fresh record high in the latest poll of potential presidential candidates released Thursday, amid signs of his imminent political debut.
In the Realmeter survey on 2,013 voters nationwide conducted from Monday to Tuesday, 35.1 percent picked Yoon as their most favored candidate for next year's presidential election, up 4.6 percentage points from last month.
It is the highest support that Yoon has received in Realmeter's monthly poll, outnumbering the previous high of 34.4 percent tallied in March.
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, affiliated with the ruling Democratic Party (DP), came in second with 23.1 percent, losing 2.4 percentage points of support compared to last month.
The gap between the two leading candidates more than doubled on-month to 12 percentage points from 5.2 percentage points last month.
Former DP chief Lee Nak-yon and five-term conservative lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo placed third and fourth with 9.7 percent and 4.6 percent in approval, respectively.
Realmeter said the latest poll reflected recent activities by Yoon, a political darling of conservatives, which apparently signaled his upcoming leap toward politics.
Last week, news of Yoon's contact with several members of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) made headlines, fueling expectations he will break his silence and share plans for his political debut. He was also seen at the Seoul National Cemetery, a must-visit place for political newcomers to pay tribute to fallen patriots and national heroes.
The former top prosecutor had enjoyed a comfortable lead since his resignation in March but experienced a downward trend in recent weeks in various polls.
The Realmeter survey also showed that in a hypothetical head-to-head race between Yoon and Lee, the Gyeonggi chief, the former overwhelmed the latter 51.2 percent to 33.7 percent.
Yoon's recent moves, combined with heavy publicity stemming from the surprise ascent of young politician Lee Jun-seok in the PPP's ongoing leadership race, drove up the support rating for the main opposition party to a record high of 40.1 percent.
The figure marks the highest public opinion rating the biggest conservative party has garnered since it took a debilitating blow from a far-reaching corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye in 2016, according to the survey. Park, once a head of the party, was later impeached over corruption charges.
The DP, meanwhile, was lagging far behind with 28.6 percent, followed by the minor opposition People Party, the Open Democratic Party and the Justice Party, at 7.8 percent, 6.4 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.
The poll, commissioned by internet news outlet OhmyNews, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. (Yonhap)