By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is pulling ahead of his likely rival, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, and could win outright in the first-round of Brazil's October election, a new poll shows.
If the election were held today, Lula would win 42% of the votes against 28% for Bolsonaro, the survey by PoderData published late on Thursday said. In the previous poll one month ago, Lula had 40% and Bolsonaro 30%.
Voter support for Lula is now almost the same as the total support for all other candidates, which is at 45%, indicating that he could win the election in the first round by getting more than 50% of the valid votes cast.
PoderData, the poll division of the digital journal Poder360, polled 3,000 voters by telephone in 511 cities between Jan. 16-18. The survey has a margin of error of 2 percentage points up or down.
Neither Lula nor Bolsonaro have formally declared their candidacy, but financial markets are already reacting to the prospect of the Workers Party (PT) leader returning to power.
On Wednesday, Lula touted moderate former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin as his possible running mate, helping boost the real currency to its strongest level against the dollar since November.
Analysts said the choice of Alckmin would signal fiscal responsibility by an eventual PT government.
Lula, 76, governed Brazil from 2003-2010 and his government's social programs pulled millions of Brazilians from poverty. He spent time in jail on corruption charges that were later annulled, allowing him to run for office again.
If the election went to a second-round run-off, Lula would defeat Bolsonaro by 54%-32% of the votes, PoderData said.
Male voters tend to favor Bolsonaro, but 48% of women polled said they would vote for Lula, who does best among younger voters and in poorer Northeastern Brazil. Bolsonaro does best in the North of Brazil, which in includes the Amazon region.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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