KIEV (Reuters) - Comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series, has strengthened his lead in Ukraine's presidential election race, according to an opinion poll published on Monday.
But support for the 41-year-old remains far below the level needed to secure outright victory in the March 31 ballot, and most voters still do not expect him to become president, the KIIS survey showed.
The poll by the Kiev-based research body showed Zelenskiy on 20.7 percent of votes, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko second on 11 percent and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko third on 8.1 percent.
Another survey, conducted by three research bodies including Razumkov centre and KIIS, showed that 21.6 people were ready to support Zelenskiy versus 12.9 percent for Tymoshenko and 12.7 for Poroshenko.
Thirty-nine candidates have registered for the election. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the votes cast, the top two will face each other in a run-off on April 21.
KIIS said it interviewed 2,004 voters in all regions, except annexed Crimea, from March 14-22.
The joint survey interviewed 15,000 voters in all regions, apart from Crimea, from March 5-14.
KIIS said 22.6 percent of those it questioned favoured Zelenskiy to win, 16.5 percent expected Poroshenko to be re-elected and 12.1 percent saw Tymoshenko as the winner.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by William Maclean and Ed Osmond)