PARIS (Reuters) - A third of French voters want Emmanuel Macron, who resigned from government on Tuesday, to run in next year's presidential election, more than twice as many as those who would like President Francois Hollande to seek re-election, a poll showed.
Neither has yet said they would be candidate but both the deeply unpopular Socialist president and his former protege are widely expected to throw their hats in the ring.
Macron, a 38-year old former investment banker, quit his economy minister post on Tuesday to devote himself to the political party he recently set up, saying he needed to be free "to transform France" next year.
Some 34 percent of voters want the outspoken politician who has criticized left-wing totems such as the 35 hour-workweek to make a presidential bid, an Elabe poll for BFM TV showed.
That may not seem much, but that compares with a mere 15 percent supporting an Hollande candidacy in a poll carried out by the same pollster last month, and is also higher than polls testing conservative ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's appeal to voters.
"Even if a majority don't support a Macron candidacy, he is in a better place than Hollande," Elabe's director of political studies Yves-Marie Cann said.
A poll by Ifop pollsters, also carried out after Macron's resignation, showed 47 percent of voters would like him to run in the election, also more than twice as many as in previous polls testing Hollande's candidacy.
The problem for Macron, who says his new party leans neither left nor right but has been a minister in a Socialist government for two years, is that both polls show that support for his candidacy is much higher among right-wing voters than left-wing ones.
"Would they (right-wing supporters) vote for him? Nothing is less sure," Ifop's Frederic Dabi said.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alison Williams)