ROME (AFP) - Thirty percent of Italians are in favour of Prime Minister Mario Monti running in the upcoming general election but only three to five percent would actually vote for him, a poll published on Sunday showed. Another eight to 10 percent of respondents said they would “seriously consider” voting for him if he was in the running, according to the poll carried out last week by the Ispo institute for the Corriere della Sera daily. “In the past, some leaders have been able to build a vast following even starting with limited support,” said Renato Mannheimer, head of the polling group. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they were against the idea of Monti running - a possibility that Monti himself has so far declined to comment on.

Monti’s supporters tended to be middle-aged and with higher education, while opponents tended to be younger and more likely to be from southern Italy.

The poll had 800 respondents and a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Monti, who replaced Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 at the head of a technocratic cabinet charged with saving Italy from bankruptcy, has come under growing domestic and international pressure to run in February’s elections.

Monti is credited with putting Italy’s public finances in order, restoring its credibility on the markets and launching long-delayed structural reforms, but unemployment has risen to record highs and the economy has remained mired in recession.

The current favourite in the polls is Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the main centre-left Democratic Party.