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Merkel's conservatives, Social Democrats neck-and-neck in poll

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) are neck-and-neck in the latest Emnid poll with seven months to go before a federal election.

The poll in Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed the SPD, which has surged in recent weeks since nominating former European Parliament President Martin Schulz as its candidate, dropping by one percentage point compared with the same poll last week to 32 percent.

Merkel’s conservative bloc was also at 32 percent, unchanged from a week earlier.

The poll also showed only 36 percent of those surveyed think Schulz will replace Merkel as chancellor after the Sept. 24 election while 50 percent of Germans do not believe he will.

The SPD, the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, had lagged the conservatives for years in opinion polls, but several recent polls showed the SPD ahead.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany was in third place in the Emnid poll with 9 percent while the far-left Linke was on 8 percent. The Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) were both at 7 percent.

The survey of 1,880 people was carried out from Feb. 16-22.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Greg Mahlich and G Crosse