Some 17-18 percent of voters told Harris Interactive polling they would vote for Zemmour in the first round, compared with 15-16 percent for Le Pen.
This would mean he would advance to a second-round with President Emmanuel Macron, who was credited with 24-27 percent of voter intentions in the first round, set to be held on April 10th.
The online poll of 1,310 people, carried out on October 4th and published in Challenges magazine, implied Macron would win a run-off vote against Zemmour by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Analysts stress the election remains highly unpredictable and forecasting is rendered more difficult by France’s two-round system, which sees the two highest-placed winners in the first round proceed to the run-off.
But the poll will add momentum to Zemmour’s radical anti-immigration and anti-Islam campaign, even though he is still yet to officially declare his intention to run.
For the last four years, polls have consistently suggested Macron and Le Pen would meet in the run-off on April 24th – a repeat of the last election in 2017.
“A candidate has never been known to experience such a change in voter intentions in so short a space of time as we’ve seen with Eric Zemmour,” pollster Antoine Gautier from Harris Interactive commented on the results of the survey.
Zemmour was seen as winning only 7 percent when the group tested his popularity with voters for the first time on September 8th.
Le Pen’s low-key grassroots campaigning in September has been overshadowed by a media blitz by Zemmour that has seen him feature daily on France’s biggest TV and radio shows.
The acid-tongued media pundit, who has several convictions for racist hate speech, views France as slipping towards a civil war because of immigration and the number of Muslims in France.