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A rifle owner takes a walk through his hunting camp west of Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
A rifle owner takes a walk through his hunting camp west of Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

NDP support slumps amid gun divisions Add to ...

A new poll suggests support for the NDP has dropped to its lowest level this year amid internal divisions over the long-gun registry.

The Harris-Decima survey conducted for The Canadian Press put the Conservatives at 33 per cent support, three points ahead of the Liberals.

The NDP trailed well behind at just 14 per cent - down six points since April and only three points ahead of the Green party.

The poll indicates New Democrats' biggest losses have occurred among urban and female voters and British Columbians.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg says the results suggest the NDP is paying for its failure to take a clear stand on the gun registry.

The telephone poll of 2,023 Canadians was conducted Sept. 9 to 19 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times in 20. The margin of error is greater for regional and demographic sub-samples.

Mr. Gregg said the NDP has lost nearly a third of its popular support since April, when the party peaked at 20 per cent. The last time the party sank as low as 14 per cent was last December.

"It really does look like it's a disproportionately urban, female phenomenon, which really does point to the gun registry," Mr. Gregg said.

In central Canada, the NDP is now effectively tied with the Greens, which Mr. Gregg said seems to be displacing the NDP as the traditional party of protest.

New Democrats hold in their hands the fate of a Tory private member's bill aimed at scrapping the gun registry. The bill, which faces a crucial vote Wednesday, passed second reading last spring with the support of all Tory MPs plus 12 New Democrats and eight Liberals.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has ordered all his MPs to vote against the bill this time.

NDP Leader Jack Layton has refused to follow suit, despite tremendous pressure from political opponents, police chiefs, medical and women's groups. However, over the last couple of weeks, Mr. Layton has persuaded six anti-registry New Democrats to switch sides - likely just enough to kill the Tory bill.

The registry tends to be most popular among women and city dwellers. And the poll suggests that's precisely where the NDP has lost ground.

The party was down eight points since April among women - 10 points among urban women. It was also down 10 points among respondents in Toronto's 416 area code.

In British Columbia, where the NDP had been vying with the Tories for supremacy only six months ago, the party dropped to 20 per cent. That's well behind the Tories at 37 per cent and the Liberals at 27.

In Ontario, Liberals and Tories were statistically tied, with 37 and 35 per cent respectively. The NDP trailed at 14 per cent, effectively in a dead heat for last place with the Greens, who scored 12 per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois maintained a commanding lead with 38 per cent to the Liberals' 25 and the Tories' 14. The Greens scored 12 per cent, three points ahead of the NDP.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals and Conservatives were locked in a dead heat, with 34 and 33 per cent respectively. The NDP was at 23 and the Greens at eight.

The Conservatives remained solidly ahead in Alberta, with 61 per cent to the Liberals' 21, the NDP's eight and the Greens' seven.

In Manitoba-Saskatchewan, the Tories stood at 42 per cent compared to 24 per cent for the Liberals, 23 for the NDP and eight for the Greens.

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